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Giants vs. Jets: Can Giants’ offense move the ball vs. Jets’ defense?

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What should we look for when he Giants are on offense?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Giants quadrennial regular-season rivalry game against the New York Jets will happen this weekend.

Though the two teams share the stadium and neither team will travel, the Giants will be the visiting team. The Giants are coming off of a disappointing performance against the Dallas Cowboys in a season full of disappointing performances. The Jets, meanwhile, are under siege from their fanbase following a stunning loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins.

It shouldn’t be lost on the Giants that the Jets’ only win this season is over the team that just beat the Giants by 19 points. Despite the Jets loss to a team commonly held to be the worst in the NFL, the Giants can’t afford to take this game lightly.

Let’s look at how the Giants’ offense matches up with the Jets’ defense.

Stats at a glance

Win the line of scrimmage

There are a variety of ways in which this advice can be taken, and the Giants should heed all of them. As this is an offensive preview, we’ll just stick to that side of the ball.

The most obvious area in which the Giants need to up their game is in their pass protection. Dallas came away from Monday night’s game with 5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits, the last of which resulted in a forced fumble which was returned for a touchdown. Per Football Outsiders, the Giants rank 22nd in adjusted sack rate at 7.9 percent and have given up 28 sacks on the season. The Jets don’t put the quarterback on the ground often with 13 total sacks and Jordan Jenkins leading the way with three, but their 11th rated pass rush win rate (the percent of rushes in which a defender beats a blocker in 2.5 seconds or less) is something to be aware of.

The Giants also need to get some movement up front with their run blocking. They only averaged 2.0 yards per carry against the Cowboys’ 11th ranked rush defense and Giants’ running backs have averaged just 2.9 yards per carry since Week 3. With Evan Engram expected to miss the game and Sterling Shepard’s future entirely uncertain, the Giants are going to have to run their offense through Saquon Barkley. For that to work, they will need their offensive line to execute their blocks and create some room for Barkley to run, as well as get the ball to him in space as a receiver.

Creating room to run against the Jets’ defense is easier said than done. They have only allowed an average of 89.2 yards (3.1 per attempt) on the ground per game, and their run defense is the best in the league per Football Outsiders.

Keep control of the ball

This is another fundamental aspect of offense that the Giants need to get a handle on. No team has given the ball away more than the Giants and their -9 turnover differential is the third-worst in the league. It is difficult — at best — to have consistent success on offense and win games when the offense can’t keep possession of the football.

Taking this a step further, the Giants need to sustain drives on offense. Daniel Jones’ ability to scramble and extend plays has emerged as an asset for the Giants on third downs. Even so, the Giants rank 18th in the league, converting (roughly) 39 percent of their third-down opportunities. That has made it difficult to sustain drives, score points, keep their questionable defense off the field and deny opportunities to opponents.

The good news here is that the Jets are not great at taking the ball away, ranking 23rd in the NFL with 10 total takeaways and are 30th in the NFL allowing 6.4 third-down conversions per game. The Giants’ offense might be missing two of its best weapons, but if they are going to string together long drives and play a clean game, this is one of their best opportunities this year.

Connect on chunk plays

Defenses seem to have come up with a plan for dealing with the Giants’ offense: Take away deep passes, then swarm to the ball in run defense. What’s left are short passes, which the Giants generally complete but don’t amount to much.

Daniel Jones’ average intended pass is 8 yards down-field (per NextGenStats), but his average completion is just 5 yards downfield. Those 5 yards in the air are the fifth-lowest among active quarterbacks, and the -3 yard air yard differential is the sixth-worst in the NFL. Jones completed 23 of 32 passes of 10 yards or less against the Dallas Cowboys but went just 3 or 9 on passes 10 yards or more downfield Monday night.

As we’ve repeatedly mentioned, the value in the passing game is downfield, and the Giants need to challenge coverages deeper to create space closer to the line of scrimmage. But more than just that, they need to connect on those passes.

Pat Shurmur’s offense is built around yards after the catch, and deep passes tend to be limited in that regard. But if a defense can keep the offense in front of them and swarm to the ball, it makes them too easy to stop. This doesn’t mean adopting a “chuck and duck” offense, but making judicious use of Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, or Saquon Barkley as downfield threats will help open up the rest of the offense.