We’re three games into the 2018 NFL season, so for this week’s stats column, let’s look at a few trends that have been developing.
Personnel Usage: 11-personnel still rules
If you are like me, you had more than your fill of seeing the Giants offense line up in 11-personnel as often as they did under the previous coaching regime,
Well, there’s good news and bad news tinged with good news on this front.
Thus far under head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants have mixed up their offensive personnel packages to include more 12-personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) and 21-personnel (2 backs, 1 tight end), but with that said, 11-personnel continues to reign supreme when it comes to getting the job done.
All 30 points scored by the Giants offensive playmakers (I’m not counting points scored by kicker Aldrick Rosas) have come from an 11-personnel lineup.
Breaking that down a little bit further, 18 of the points have come from the shotgun formation while 12 of the points have come from the empty set.
Further, 261 of the Giants 958 yards of offense (27.2 personnel) have come from the 11-personnel packages.
So yeah, the Giants aren’t using 11-personnel as much as they did in previous years, but the package is still worth keeping in the playbook, largely thanks to the fact that they have more options and better skill players with which to work such as running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Evan Engram, and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.
Third-down conversion rate improves
The last time the Giants finished an NFL season with a third-down conversion percentage that was equal to better than the league average was in 2014 when their 42.98 percent was slightly better (by about 3.04 percent) than the league average of 39.94 percent.
Thanks largely in part to their performance last week against the Texans in which the Giants converted 7 of 13 third-down attempts (54 percent), New York’s season-long third down conversion percentage is now at 44.19 percent.
According to league stats, that’s way ahead of the league’s 38.98 percent average and is a figure that is currently the seventh-best mark in the NFL.
Landon Collins’ “quiet” start
Author and scholar Aaron Levenstein once summed up the love-hate relationship people have with statistics perfectly when he said, “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”
Thus far this year, Giants strong safety Landon Collins epitomizes that sentiment.
Through three games, Collins, who is in a contract year, has recorded just 16 total tackles, an average of 5.3 per game which has him currently tied for 18th in the league among safeties who have played at least 150 snaps.
Per Pro Football Focus, Collins, who has cut down each season since his rookie year on missed tackles — he went from 15 as a rookie to 13 in 2016 and then 10 last year — has already racked up two missed tackles in three games.
Collins was only too happy to explain what he believed to be behind his “quiet” start.
“Honestly, it’s just when teams see me down (in the box), they expect me to blitz,” he said. “It’s getting to the fact where I’m not going to get those free blitzes; I gotta fight for them.
“But when I do get one, I’m going to definitely take advantage of it.”
Still, that doesn’t mean that Collins doesn’t think he can get better every day, especially in coverage where he has allowed 75 percent of the pass targets against him to be complete for 77 yards (12.78 yards per catch).
He’s also already given up one touchdown (after only allowing two all of 2016 and 2017) and has just one pass breakup for a (thus far) career high 144.3 NFL Rating.
“When I get my opportunities with the ball in the sky, then yes, I gotta fight for them. But I don’t get many opportunities because teams know who I am,” he said.
Also per Pro Football Focus, Collins has yet to record a pass pressure of any kind, this after recording double-digit pass pressures in each of his first three seasons.
Given that Collins has historically been more of a box safety, it could be that those instances where he’s been caught in coverage have been a matter of the opponent getting the mismatch they desired.
Collins said he’s perfectly fine if his numbers don’t match what he produced in his first three seasons so long as it means the Giants are winning.
“It’s a team game, not an ‘I’ game,” he said.
“We’re all gonna get stats in some way. I’m cool with it if I don’t have the 100 tackles because if we get the ‘W’ and are in the playoffs, then I’m good with not having 100 tackles I promise you.”
Rookie Saquon Barkley became the first player in franchise history to record more than 100 all-purpose yards from scrimmage in his first three games, yet the Giants are currently 1-2 in games played in which they’ve had a player with 100 or more all-purpose rushing yards.
So that got me wondering just how important a player having 100 or more all-purpose yards really is to a game’s outcome. To find out, I went back to 2016 and looked at all 15 Giants regular-season wins over that period.
What I found was that the Giants went 8-7 in games in which they had a player record 100 or more all-purpose yards, which would suggest that having such production isn’t necessarily a guarantee to win.
However, where having a player record 100 or more all-purpose yards benefited the team over the sample period was in the scoring department.
The Giants averaged 21.625 points per game in which they had a player go over 100 all-purpose yards.
When they didn’t, they averaged 18.71 points per game.
With the high-scoring Saints coming into town Sunday, the Giants probably would welcome having at least one if not more players on offense generating 100+ all-purpose yards.