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Giants at Bears: Can the Giants deal with Chicago’s defense?

Formidable challenge on Sunday for Daniel Jones and Co.

New York Giants v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Can the New York Giants begin to turn things around and finish the 2019 season on a high note? If they’re going to do that, it will have to start this week against the Chicago Bears.

While Chicago has taken a step back defensively from their heights of a year ago, which is to be expected with Vic Fangio finally getting a head coaching opportunity, the Bears’ defense remains dangerous. Chicago ranks in the top ten in each of the traditional “box score” stats, 14th in pass rush win rate, and 13th in takeaways. They also rank fourth in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, behind only the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, and Pittsuburgh Steelers.

Khalil Mack might not be playing at a DPOY level, and the Bears are without Akeem Hicks and potentially without LB Danny Trevathan, but they will still pose a stiff test for the Giants’ offense.

Stats at a glance

Keys to the game

Keep Daniel Jones clean

It seems that every time I preview the Giants’ offense, it all starts here. But that’s because every offensive scheme begins and ends with the quarterback being able to execute. And so far this year, the Giants have struggled to keep Daniel Jones upright and executing.

The Giants’ offensive line grades out reasonably well in pass block win rate, holding for 2.5 seconds or more for 57 percent of their pass protection reps, ranking 17th in the NFL. But as Dan Pizzuta pointed out as he returned to Big Blue View Radio for a mid-season look at the state of the Giants: the Giants’ offensive line is built to protect Eli Manning. While they are able to hold up for 2.50 seconds on most passing attempts — which would be plenty for Manning’s average time to throw of 2.56 seconds from 2016 to 2018 — Jones has held the ball for an average of 2.81 seconds. That helps explain the discrepancy between ESPN ranking the Giants’ 17th in pass block win rate and being ranked 26th in pass protection by Football Outsiders.

The Giants need to do a better job of keeping opposing defenses from disrupting their offense, and it is a whole-team affair.

When it comes to pass protection, the onus is always on the offensive line. And considering the Giants have an adjusted sack rate of 8.4 percent, have given up 34 sacks in 10 games, and are on pace to surrender 54 on the season, criticism is warranted. However, the other six players on offense have roles to play as well.

As Mark Schofield so eloquently pointed out in the aftermath of the Giants’ 8-sack performance against the Arizona Cardinals, the quarterback often bears culpability for sacks. Jones will need to show progress in getting through his progressions and making decisions more quickly.

By the same token, the Giants’ receivers need to give Jones targets more quickly. The Giants’ receivers have largely struggled to create separation with their routes or get open quickly. Golden Tate has the third-lowest separation among receivers and tight ends in the NFL, while Darius Slayton only averages .1 of a yard more than Tate, and Fowler only .5 of a yard more than Slayton.

The Giants’ coaches also need to do their part by giving Jones quick throws to speed up his mental process and scheming around their porous offensive line. Run-Pass Options (RPOs), play-action, and bootleg plays all exist within the Giants’ offense, but they have seldom been called. Each of them has the potential to slow down the opposing pass rush while simplifying the game for Jones, and should be regular features of the Giants’ game plan.

The entire Giants’ offense needs to do what it can to not give the Bears the opportunity to win the game on defense, nor put Jones in position to get hit or have a turnover.

Scheming plays in space

By this point it is no secret that the Giants’ offense is at its best when short passes are being turned into long gains.

That could prove difficult to achieve against corners Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. Instead I want to focus on Saquon Barkley and how he could be used in the passing game. We've seen Barkley struggle to string moves together and create magic behind the line of scrimmage.

However, Barkley is still capable of creating chunk yardage beyond the line of scrimmage. The Giants should strongly consider using 21 (two back) personnel and using Barkley as the offensive weapon he is. With Trevathan battling injury, the middle of Chicago's defense could be particularly vulnerable to angle routes. Likewise, moving Barkley to a receiver position would create opportunities to isolate linebackers in coverage and get the ball to Barkley in-stride and in space. get the ball

Play smart

The Giants' offense had productive outings against the Lions and Jets, but they are two of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Giants fared much worse against the Cowboys, Vikings, and Patriots.

It doesn't help that the Giants have questions about several of their starters, including Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Sterling Shepard. So if the Giants might be at a health and talent disadvantage, they will have to play smarter.

As mentioned above, the Giants need to focus on getting Barkley, Tate, and Slayton in position to make plays is a big part of the equation. The other part will be preventing the Bears from making big plays.

The good news going into this game is that the Bears' offense has had similar struggles as the Giants, with a beat up offensive line and inconsistent quarterback play. The Giants should be able to stay within their offense and not deviate from their game plan early. Their best bet would be to play a methodical, efficient brand of offense for as long as possible. The Giants have been hit by both sides of the "Toxic Differential," and while the offense can't do anything about the defense giving up big plays, they can try to limit the number of turnovers they allow on offense.

As mentioned before, the Giants' offensive coaches can and should scheme to put Jones in as many good positions as possible, with quick reads and try to avoid pressure. But this will also come down to Jones doing his part to make good, quick decisions. There will be instances in which the Bears have tight coverage, and Jones needs to read the defense and not put the ball in danger. There will also be times when Chicago is able to get pressure on Jones, and he needs to take care of the ball, whether that means giving up on the play and throwing the ball away, or securing it and taking the sack.

Despite the fact that the Bears' offense has struggled, the Giants don't want to get into a shootout. The best way the offense can help with that is to play smart, string drives together, and not give Chicago any extra possessions.