The Giants have had a relatively easy time moving the football on the defenses of the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and Washington Redskins. The degree of difficulty has increased each week, from Dallas’ depleted defense, to having to deal with Cam Jordan and Nick Fairley with New Orleans, to Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy of Washington.
The single biggest objective of the Giants’ offense is to not turn the ball over. So far, they have struggled to maintain possession and the need to change that narrative is so obvious it should go without saying.
Stats At A Glance
Total Yards Per Game - 396.7
Passing Yards Per Game - 297.7
Rush Yards Per Game - 99.0
Points Per Game - 21.0
Total Yards Per Game - 295.0
Passing Yards Per Game - 211.0
Rush Yards Per Game - 84.0
Points Per Game - 13.3
Protect Eli Manning
There’s good news and bad news for the New York Giants when it comes to keeping their franchise quarterback upright.
The good news: Their offensive line played well against a pretty good Washington pass rush. The trio of Kerrigan, Smith Murphy might not be the flashiest edge rushers, but they can get after the quarterback from a variety of angles. Despite that, the Giants’ offensive line was largely stout, particularly second-year tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Their play wasn’t pretty at times, but it was effective at creating a pocket for Manning and giving him the time to work.
The bad news? They’re taking a quantum leap in competition to the upper echelon of NFL defenses. In fact, the Vikings boast a front 7 that can compete with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Their defense boasts a league-leading 15 sacks through the first three games, with three players with at least sacks — Everson Griffen (4.0), Sophomor Danielle (pronounced Da-Neil) Hunter (3.0), and former Giant Linval Joseph (3.0).
While the Giants are well aware of Joseph’s uncommon blend of quickness and power, he will be matched up on the Giants’ interior offensive line, which is easily their strength. They will need to try to control him — as a pocket passer Manning is more susceptible to pressure in his face than off the edge — but of the Vikings’ defensive threats, he is the one the Giants are best equipped to deal with.
Of greater concern are Hunter and Griffen. Hunter is a physical specimen of a defensive end and finished his rookie season second on the Vikings in sacks despite not becoming a starter until Week 6. The real threat is Griffen, who has tallied double-digit sacks in the last two seasons since becoming a full-time starter. SB Nation’s Stephen White did a terrific breakdown of Griffens’ three-sack performance against the Panthers, A performance made even more impressive by the fact that he was sick.
The Giants’ tackles will not only need to bring their A-games, but Ben McAdoo, MIke Sullivan and Manning will need to come up with a game plan to neutralize that rush as much as possible. It will likely feature tempo to wear them out, screens to slow them down, and quick passes to get the Giants’ exceptionally quick receivers.
... Which brings me to my next point
Feed The Beasts
If there’s one thing that the Giants’ loss to the Redskins drove home, it is that the Giants’ dangerous trio of receivers — Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard — need to be the focus of the offense.
Put simply, there isn’t a defensive back in the league who can cover Beckham one-on-one, and he can shake double teams with relative ease. Defenses have to devote resources to trying to keep Beckham from gashing them and turning a quick strike into a huge play. Few, if any, defenses have the depth to really deal with the combination of Shepard and Cruz, regardless of which one happens to be the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver for a particular play.
The Giants’ receiving corps is unconventional in that they don’t have an archetypal “X” receiver in the mold of Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, or Demaryius Thomas, who is able to physically bully defensive backs. But their collection of quick, precise, and reliable receivers might just be the best in the league through the first three weeks.
NYG's Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard & Victor Cruz have combined for 708 yds this yr, most among WR trios (all 3 on pace for 1,000 yds) pic.twitter.com/wKMjOmmpWg— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 28, 2016
Eli throwing to his starting receivers is obviously the strength of the offense. Just look at the breakdown from Week 3.
Eli Manning completed 15 on 21 targets for 264 yds, 17.6 avg, 1 TD, 0 INT to OBJ, Shep & Cruz. Otherwise, 10-17 for 86 yds, 8.6 avg, 2 INT.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 26, 2016
Against a vicious Vikings defense, the Giants will need to lean on that strength if they want to win.
Try to maintain balance
It might fly in the face of my previous point, but the Giants need to be committed to running the ball.
As Ed mentioned in his weekly Kudos & Wet Willies, the Giants completely abandoned the run at the end of the game last Sunday. Despite averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per carry, Eli only handed the ball off 21 times all game, and threw the ball on 20 straight snaps to end the game.
The Vikings are a very tough defense to run on. Their impressive defensive front only gives up 84 yards per game on the ground (good for seventh in the league).. But despite the apparent futility of running the ball, it’s something the offense still needs to do. Without even the pretense of balance, the Minnesota pass rushers will be able to pin their ears back and rush Manning relentlessly. They also won’t pay heed to play-action, one of the best ways to create separation and catch-and-run opportunities for the Giants’ small-ish receivers.
The Giants HAVE improved their run game since 2015, largely thanks to the development of Ereck Flowers and improvement by John Jerry. The Giants have found success running from the shotgun or with Manning under center, using both zone blocking or man blocking schemes while spreading the defense out with their formation and personnel groupings.
They’ve found particular success using trap blocks to supplement their lack of blocking from the H-Back position, using a pulling guard to overwhelm linebackers and dig defenders out of holes. It’s a play they can run ambidextrously, with either Justin Pugh or John Jerry pulling to the opposite side.
The down side is that the number of running plays the Giants can consistently run successfully is relatively limited. Playing so many snaps out of the shotgun is part of that, but also a pulling guard is their best way of opening holes. In addition to simply winning their battles at the line of scrimmage, the Giants need to continue to add wrinkles and avoid tell-tale tendencies if they want to have some semblance of success running the ball.