The Football Outsiders 2017 Almanac is out, and SB Nation football writers recently had the opportunity to ask various FO writers some questions. Mike Tanier answered my questions about the New York Giants, and below is what we discussed.
Ed: Does the data indicate regression or improvement from the Giants’ defense in 2017?
MT: Regression. FO Editor in Chief Aaron Schatz prepared a table in the Giants chapter that outlines just how unusual the rapid improvement of the Giants defense was from 2015 to 2016 (even when you account for the the free agent signings) and demonstrates that much of that improvement is probably unsustainable. The Giants will have a fine defense, but not the 2nd best (according to DVOA) in the NFL.
Ed: I have said often that Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall will have a huge impact on the offense schematically, but might not put up great individual numbers. Agree or disagree?
MT: There will be an “only so many balls to go around” issue when it comes to individual stats, for sure. One thing to note from our research is that the Giants used the 3WR-1RB-1TE personnel group far more than any other team. If they continue to use this as their almost exclusive personnel package, it will benefit them to actually have one good tight end.
Ed: Olivier Vernon is a terrific all-around defensive end, but not a great “pure” pass rusher. Where does FO put him if you were to “tier” defensive ends?
MT: I don’t know if we really have a tier system as such for defensive ends or pure edge rushers. He made 47 plays against the run last year, with an 81 percent Stop Rate (which means they were meaningful plays, not clean-up tackles), to go with nine sacks and 66 hurries. So the numbers back up the “terrific all-around defensive end” part.
Ed: Eli Manning and the Giants say he can still make all the throws. Do the numbers indicate regression in his arm strength?
MT: It’s actually tricky to find a decline in arm strength in the statistics. Even if you look at, say, passes of 30-plus air yards, you get small sample sizes that can be misleading and which include things like floaty 32-yard touch passes while excluding, say, 18-yard sideline outs that require the ball to be rifled in.
The disturbing trend in Eli’s numbers, not surprisingly, involves interceptions. We calculate that he had 26 “adjusted” interceptions last year if easy interceptions dropped by defenders are factored in. Adjusted Interceptions take out things like Hail Mary interceptions, so they are a two-way street, but they work mostly one way for Eli. He’s turnover prone, obviously, but the numbers suggest that he has the potential to be even more turnover prone if defenders do a better job holding on to his gimmies.
Ed: Should the Giants be optimistic that with Paul Perkins replacing Rashad Jennings they will have a more effective ground game?
MT: Jennings is a great individual who had little left to offer last year except experience. Perkins has the potential to be more dynamic. Giants observers should always be worried about lack of depth at running back -- this team always ends up giving Orleans Darkwa a bunch of carries by midseason -- and the fact that the running game in this system, like the Packers running game, too quickly becomes an afterthought.
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