So here it is, a New York Giants offensive preview that doesn’t feature Eli Manning. Without making this into the giant shrug emoji it could be, let’s try to look at some actual aspects of what the Giants could look like on offense Sunday. Here it goes.
By the numbers
Rushing: 91.3 yards per game (26th), 4.0 yards per carry (t-16th)
Passing: 204.6 yards per game (23rd), 6.1 yards per attempt (t-29th)
Total Yards: 295.9 yards per game (28th), 25.51 yards per drive (29th)
Points: 15.6 points per game (31st), 1.25 points per drive (21st)
Rushing: 108.5 yards per game (13th), 4.1 yards per carry (t-17th)
Passing: 244.8 yards per game (27th), 7.8 yards per attempt (28th)
Total Yards: 353.4 yards per game (24th), 34.72 yards per drive (28th)
Points: 23.7 points per game (t-19th), 2.23 points per drive (30th)
A new quarterback
OK. Geno Smith. Let’s get this out of the way now. This is the starting quarterback for the game. It’s a real thing that’s happening.
There’s an argument that could be made that Smith never really got a fair shake during his tenure with the New York Jets. He was thrust into play his rookie season where Jeremy Kerley was his No .1 option and David Nelson was his No. 2. I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember who David Nelson is or have any recollection of him playing for the 2013 Jets team. Smith was 43rd of 45 quarterbacks in Football Outsiders’ DYAR in 2013 and 40th in DVOA. He improved in his second season, but just to 32nd of 44 in DYAR and 31st in DVOA.
The problem is, if you want to make the supporting cast or terrible franchise argument for Smith, he’s not being put in any better of a situation with the 2017 Giants.
He’s likely to have Sterling Shepard back and Evan Engram is better than anyone he threw to with the Jets, but that’s about it. Smith was a below average quarterback in his time with the Jets and it’s hard to imagine he’ll suddenly improve into some type of competent passer.
Smith got his one start against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7 last season. He threw just eight passes before he got hurt and placed on injured reserve. Four of those were completions that went for 95 yards, but one of them was a 69-yard touchdown to Quincy Enunwa that traveled about seven yards in the air. Smith also took two sacks in the game that looked like trouble with his internal clock.
Offensive line woes
There’s a few statistics that would paint the Giants’ offensive line as not terrible. Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders has the Giants with the seventh-lowest pressure rate allowed on offense. Then there was the stat going around that Ereck Flowers had gone the longest among left tackles without allowing a sack. But what people who follow those types of numbers closely -- at least the smart ones -- will tell you is that those can be heavily influenced by the quarterback.
In the case of the Giants, there’s a good chance Eli Manning had more to do with that pressure rate than the offensive line. We’re going to a chance to do some A/B testing on this line with Eli and without. It doesn’t help this line is already at its weakest point. Continuity is the best thing for an offensive line, even bad ones, but that’s something the Giants have not seen this season. Only one player will start at the position he started on the line in Week 1 and that’s Flowers. The only other starter is John Jerry, who has moved from right to left guard.
The current lineup was abused by the Washington pass rush on Thanksgiving night with Ryan Kerrigan having his way with both Flowers and Chad Wheeler. Things aren’t going to be much easier against the Raiders on Sunday…
Stopping Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack hasn’t gotten the sacks this season -- he has just 6.5, 27th in the league -- but don’t let that fool you into thinking he hasn’t been a menace against the pass. Mack in seventh among defenders in individual pressures and he’s the only part of the Raiders defense worth scheming around. Even when teams do that, it doesn’t help all that much.
Mack has little problem fighting through a double-team, especially if it’s with a running back designed to give help.
And if the double team is two layers of protection with a chipping tight end, then a tackle, Mack can still get to the quarterback if the ball isn’t out quickly enough. Rarely does he lose leverage, which allows him to manipulate the protection.
There’s other times when the Raiders will work to scheme him open. Take this play from earlier in the year against Washington. Oakland is in nicked with two linebackers in the box behind the four defensive linemen. On Mack’s side, the Raiders send the linebacker and a defensive back off the edge. That set up an early three-on-two situation with the tight end barely getting a hand of Mack before his route. With the linebacker going to the interior and the corner on the outside edge, the tackle and guard are in conflict of which players to take. They end up taking the two players who aren’t Mack and allow him a free path to the quarterback. Kirk Cousins gets the ball away, but without pressure he probably waits a little longer for his receiver to create more separation in the middle of the field.
Earlier in the season, Tennessee tried to stop Mack with a tight end-fullback-running back triple team in three layers and he still almost got to the quarterback.
Kick up the play-action
One way the Giants can help slow down the pass rush and take advantage of the rest of Oakland’s terrible defense is by going heavy on play-action. The Raiders have been bad against the run -- 21st in DVOA -- and awful against the pass -- 32nd in DVOA. Play-action combines the two, and it’s no surprise the Raiders have also have problems stopping it in 2017. Per Sports Info Solutions charting, Oakland has allowed 8.5 yards per pass on play-action passes this season, which is the fifth-highest figure in the league (they’ve also allowed 7.0 yards per pass on non-play-action plays, which is the sixth-highest mark).
Play-action, though, is something the Giants have been hesitant to rely on this season. They have run play-action on just 17 percent of pass attempts, which is the sixth-lowest rate in the league. They’ve averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt on play-action passes, which ranks only 21st, but it’s still much better than the 5.4 yards averaged on passes without it, which is the second-worst figure in the league above only Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.
Adding in more play-action would be an easy way to manipulate the defense and create open reads for a new quarterback, but it would also be a drastic shift from what the offense has looked like so far this season. The coaching staff has basically admitted that offense hasn’t worked to this point so maybe they could do a little bit to change too.