The 2016 training camp has been an exciting one for the New York Giants. A new head coach has brought a breath of fresh air to go with changes all around the organization. A promising draft and free agency spending spree have -- at least on paper -- reinvigorated the roster and given fans reasons to be excited.
The excitement has only grown since the start of camp, with the rebuilt defensive line, bolstered secondary and young receiving corps all receiving glowing reviews.
But the Giants' running game has, somewhat at least, been lost in the reporting shuffle.
To be fair, with the additions of Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon to Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins, the Giants were hoping to smother an offense's ability to run the ball. So having difficulty rushing the ball in practice could well be a win for the team. However, rediscovering a consistent rushing attack is one of the Giants' goals for the upcoming season. Though the Giants managed to rank 18th in the league thanks to a late-season push by Rashad Jennings, their paltry five rushing touchdowns were the second-fewest in the NFL.
"I think the run game, overall, is an emphasis." offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said after practice on Wednesday. "No doubt about it."
That, of course, is easier said than done. There is a lot that goes in to a successful running game, far more than the average fan might be aware of, or even able to see on TV. But it all starts up front, and that's the purview of new offensive line coach Mike Solari.
"We've spent a lot of time in the offseason identifying what schemes work well with our personnel." Sullivan said "What are things we can do differently? What things are we doing that we are wasting our time? Coach Solari, Coach Wells, have done a great job working with the offensive line."
Finding out which of their running plays and blocking schemes work best is an excellent starting point. Bruce Lee once said "Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it." There is some clamor over whether the Giants should be a "man blocking" or "zone blocking" team. The reality will likely fall somewhere in the middle. The Green Bay Packers didn't rediscover their running game until they added some man blocking concepts back into their zone blocking system.
Likewise, the Giants had running plays that used both man blocking and zone blocking that were effective. Identifying which plays work best with their personnel, regardless of blocking scheme.
I noticed during my film study of Andre Williams that often the missed blocks were subtle, and not on the offensive line. Blocking from the tight ends and wide receivers was inconsistent as well. It's a notion that Sullivan backed up with his remarks on the running game.
"It starts there (the offensive line)," Sullivan said, "but it's also the receivers blocking downfield, the track of the back, the footwork of the ballhandler, the quarterback, all that comes into play." He also mentioned that while the team hadn't done much tackling to the ground -- McAdoo said the team would be starting with "thud" tempo -- the coaches are pleased with the progress they have seen from the offensive line with regards to their first step and aiming points.
"The bottom line is, we have to be able to run the football." Sullivan said "That's going to compliment our pass game, play-action and so forth. And it's going to take a lot of pressure off the line. There isn't a lineman in the world who wants to pass set 60, 70, snaps a game. It'll give us the balance we need when it gets nice and cold, and windy, and nasty around here like we all love it."