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Giants at Buccaneers, Week 4: When The Giants Have The Ball

Can the Giants build on last week’s fourth quarter?

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The best offensive performance of the year -- not saying much -- wasn’t enough to get the New York Giants a win against the Philadelphia Eagles. But, thanks to a few plays at the end of the game, there was some hope the offense could click a little more going forward. This week the Giants travel down to Tampa Bay to take on a Buccaneers defense that’s been hot and cold through two games this season. It’s tough to get a read on which team will show up, which could be said about both teams this on Sunday.

By The Numbers

Giants’ Offense

Rushing Yards: 48.7 yards per game (32nd), 3.1 yards per carry (29th)

Passing Yards: 257.3 yards per game (eighth), 7.1 yards per attempt (12th)

Total Yards: 306 per game (20th), 27.82 yards per drive (22nd)

Points: 12.3 points per game (31st), 1.12 points per drive (31st)

Buccaneers Defense (2 games)

Rushing Yards: 72.5 yards per game (fourth), 2.7 yards per carry (second)

Passing Yards: 329.5 yards per game (31st), 8.6 yards per attempt (29th)

Total Yards: 402 yards per game (30th), 41.37 yards per drive (31st)

Points: 20.5 points per game (11th), 2.16 points per drive (26th)

Short and Sweet

It took three quarters to get going, but there were signs of life from the Giants offense against the Eagles. After scoring 13 points across the previous 11 quarters, the Giants scored 24 in the fourth quarter, including three straight touchdown drives -- two concluding with passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and one to Sterling Shepard.

There wasn’t too much in the way of creativity to get there, though. Beckham’s two touchdowns were mostly about him doing things only Beckham can do and Shepard’s touchdown was finally a success on one of the many slants the Giants ran on Sunday. Last year only six quarterbacks threw more slant routes than Eli Manning and he was fifth in DVOA among all quarterbacks on that route in 2016, per Football Outsiders. It’s the one true staple of the Giants’ offense, other than having Odell Beckham do Odell Beckham things -- though many times even that involves taking a slant to the house.

What the Giants focused on against the Eagles was getting the ball out quickly. Per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Manning had the second-lowest average time to throw in Week 3 at just 2.01 seconds. He also threw some of the shortest passes of the week, deeper than only the average passes of Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, and Mike Glennon.

Short and quick is a great way to counteract the defensive line of the Eagles, but it’s not always going to lead to an efficient offense that can create big plays. It might have to be how the Giants attack the Buccaneers, though, as they have a defensive line that has wreaked havoc so far this season. Tampa Bay has only played two games, but they’ve created pressure on 36.6 percent of opponent’s drop backs this season, which is the third-highest rate in the league per Football Outsiders.

Injuries All Over The Defense

Tampa Bay appears to be coming into this game pretty beat up. Linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David did not practice for the Buccaneers on Wednesday and neither is expected to play against the Giants on Sunday. Those are two big pieces in the middle of the Tampa Bay defense that ranked 13th in defensive DVOA last season. In 2016, David tied for second and Alexander tied for fifth among all defensive players in Defeats, which are defined as a tackle that results in a loss of yardage, a play that results in a turnover, and any tackle or tipped pass on third or fourth down. Those two linebackers were among the league’s best in stopping opposing offenses last season. Losing one would be a hit, but both completely changes the upside of the defense.

Safety T.J. Ward also didn’t practice on Wednesday, though his status is still unknown heading into the game. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy re-injured his ankle in Week 3, though finished the game. He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but will likely be able to go against the Giants. McCoy is a force in the middle of the defensive line and he already has 7.5 pressures through two games. That would have tied for the league lead through the first two weeks of the season.

The Bucs will be getting one player back from injury this week, cornerback Brent Grimes. Grimes was out with a shoulder injury as Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen burned through the Tampa Bay secondary last week. The 34-year-old corner has experienced up and downs in his career, but has been one of the better parts of the secondary since coming to Tampa Bay. Among 82 cornerbacks targeted at least 40 times last season, Grimes ranked 32nd in yards allowed per pass and 48th in Success Rate.

Creating Holes In The Run Game

While the Giants’ passing game picked up a bit late during the fourth quarter against the Eagles, the same could not be said for the run game. Running backs had 17 carries for just 49 yards against the Eagles. During the game there was a lot of talk about LeGarrette Blount running all over the Giants and how he could have been signed during free agency. But unless you could also guarantee Blount was bringing the Eagles’ offensive line with him, he would be of no help to the run game at all.

Blount and the other Eagles killed the Giants because the blocking up front was well executed. So far this season, the offensive line of the Giants has struggled creating any open space in the run game. Holes like this do not exist for this team:

That hole was made even as center Jason Kelce tripped on his pull. No offense to Blount, but hitting that hole doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. Paul Perkins could run through that hole if Paul Perkins ever got that hole. Instead, he’s getting looks like this:

Even when there are openings, it’s quickly derailed by something in the protection. A few times what should have been a big play on the ground was thwarted by a lack of power from a pulling guard. The defender was easily able to shed the block to make the tackle.

Perkins is the only running back this season with at least 20 carries who has not seen a single 8-man box on defense, per Next Gen Stats. That’s not because defenders aren’t scared of Perkins, but because there’s no reason to put in an extra defender against the run when it’s likely that defender won’t be needed to beat the offensive line. Perkins only has one forced missed tackle this season because he barely been given time to force one. Perkins was slightly below average in broken tackles last season on 15 percent of his touches, but his jump cut typically forces a bad angle before a tackle is even attempted by defenders. Still there’s no reason to believe he suddenly does not possess that ability anymore and can only force a broken tackle on 3.4 percent of his touches.

All of this is going to be important against a Tampa defense that has been stout against the run through their first two games. Last week, Dalvin Cook needed 27 carries to get 97 yards on the ground and the week prior Tampa held Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to 20 yards on 16 carries.