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Giants vs. Eagles: Giants need to trust the pass against Eagles’ secondary

Giants should be able to pick on Philly defensive backs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

In Week 6, the Giants offense put up 13 points against the Philadelphia Eagles defense during a 34-13 loss. Given the status of the Eagles’ defense heading into the Week 12 game, the Giants should be able to have 13 points after their second drive. There are a few things they’ll have to do for that to happen on Sunday.

Numbers that matter

Forget the run

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team with a secondary that has turned opposing offenses into the equivalent of the Los Angeles Rams’ passing attack by Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, the Giants entered with a run-heavy game plan. Saquon Barkley ran 27 times and Eli Manning threw 18 passes. That worked against Tampa Bay — though the lack of an aggressive kill shot early did leave an opening for the Buccaneers to creep back into the game — but it’s not the way the Giants should attack the Eagles, a team that features a secondary so banged up we can argue whether it actually features a secondary.

There’s a chance the Eagles are without their top five (5) cornerbacks on Sunday. To put that in some perspective, the Giants have five cornerbacks currently on their active roster. If the Giants aren’t throwing deep and often, the process of game planning throughout the week needs to be questioned.

This was a problem even in the first matchup of the season, even when the Eagles were healthy at cornerback, but susceptible to big plays. Jalen Mills had been picked on all season, but it took the Giants until late in the third quarter when the game was already out of hand for the Giants to go deep against him.

Philadelphia is 32nd in big play rate and that’s one of the places the Giants have excelled on offense — they’re fifth. Testing this secondary should lead to a lot of yards and a lot of points, way more than if the Giants try to get Barkley going on the ground.

Foregoing the run doesn’t have to exclude Barkley from the game plan, part of what makes Barkley a special player. The Eagles are 24th against running backs in the passing game, which is exactly the type of mismatch the Giants should try to exploit. Over the past few weeks, the Giants have slowly unleashed Barkley on routes that should have been a part of the offense in Week 1. There was the angle route late in the game against the 49ers and the wheel route last week against the Buccaneers, which was wide open but resulted in the only incompletion of the day. These are the types of routes that should be worked into the offense early in the game along with more shots to the wide receivers.

The Giants took a deep shot to Odell Beckham on the fourth play from scrimmage that resulted in a 41-yard gain, but they didn’t go back downfield until the third quarter.

On Beckham’s four targets, he was worth 6.84 Expected Points Added, per nflscrapR. On Barkley’s 27 rushing attempts, he was worth 5.53.

Keep Eli clean

All of this can be possible by making throws easier with a clean pocket. Eli Manning was sacked four times on 22 drop backs, which comes out to an 18 percent sack rate. That’s obviously not great, but one was from Manning falling down on his own and when he wasn’t sacked, he wasn’t under pressure often. The Giants are still 27th in adjusted sack rate on offense, per Football Outsiders, but on a play-to-play basis, the offensive line has improved over the past few weeks with the addition of Jamon Brown.

The Eagles pass rush also hasn’t been as dangerous as it was last season. While they still have a deep rotation of edge rushers, Philadelphia is justed 20th in adjusted sack rate, though they’re 11th in defensive pressure rate.

Figure out third down

The Giants have one of the strangest third down splits I’ve ever seen. Let’s take in this graph, then follow along together for an attempted explanation:

The best way to convert on third down is to not face one at all. In that part, the Giants have apparently down very well. They have the fifth-highest rate of their first downs that come on first or second down. Typically that’s the sign of a good offense and while that’s partly true here, it’s also partly because if the Giants do have to face a third down, they can’t convert — just 26th in third down success rate.

Also, if they face a third down, it’s probably a long one. The Giants are 31st in average third down distance, face the seventh-highest rate of third and longs, and the third lowest rates of third and shorts.

This is another reason to avoid runs and passes behind the line of scrimmage early in the game. It decreases the chances of converting a first down on early downs and basically eliminates the chance of a third down conversion going by the Giants’ rates this season.