We have been hearing signs that the New York Giants veterans are growing frustrated as they drop game after game.
After the Giants’ loss to the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins expressed frustrations with how he is being used. In particular that the Giants are playing “sides,” and that he isn’t being allowed to travel with the opposing offense’s best receiver.
Does Jenkins stay to one side? Well, looking at the data from NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which tracks players’ precise position on the field, that’s true. He predominantly plays the offensive right and had very few snaps lining up on the offensive left side of the field.
That does make it easier for offenses to find and avoid him in matchups, as well as create matchups with the Giants’ young corners.
But that’s only half of the question.
The other question in need of answering is whether or not having Jenkins travel with the other team’s best receiver (in this case Davante Adams) would have prevented some big plays. Let’s take a look at each of Green Bay’s four touchdowns and see just what happened and why.
Touchdown one - Rodgers to Adams
1st quarter (8:49), Second-and-8, NYG 8-yard line
This play almost looks as though it comes from a different game than the touchdowns that will follow, but it just happened before the cold rain changed over into snow.
The Giants line up with three down lineman, but it is essentially a 5-2 front with their base personnel. They respond to the Packers’ condensed formation with a tight formation of their own. Jenkins does travel, lining up over the slot on the offensive left. The Giants are showing a Cover 3 shell, with Antoine Bethea as the deep safety while DeAndre Baker and Julian Love man the zones to the offensive left and right, respectively.
Starting underneath, Jenkins picks up running back Jamaal Williams in the shallow flat.
From there the Packers get tricky.
They run what appears to be a tosser concept — two parallel slant routes — with Allen Lazard and Devante Adams out of the bunch set on the offensive left. But it is mated with a crossing route from Marcedes Lewis on the offensive right, which effectively creates a mesh concept between Lazard and Lewis.
The three-player combination causes the Giants to concentrate on Lazard and Lewis, with each player being double teamed while Adams is able to find the void in the Giants’ coverage. He sets up just short of the end zone, and Bethea isn’t able to get there in time to stop him crossing the goal line.
We could blame Bethea for not coming down to pick up Adams sooner, or to Alec Ogletree for not passing Lewis off to Mayo, but the Packers do a great job of getting him lost in traffic. Its probably better to just appreciate a play that is well designed and well executed.
Touchdown two - Rodgers to Lazard
1st quarter (1:23), Second-and-1, NYG 37
Next we come to the Packers’ second touchdown, and one we already looked at in our rundown of the biggest plays from the game.
It is always interesting to see what the All-22 tape reveals, and here we can see the explanation for Antoine Bethea’s seemingly inexplicable breakdown in coverage.
The Giants show a Cover 4 shell before the snap, and that is what they stay in throughout the play. Jenkins is once again lined up on the defensive left (offensive right), over Devante Adams. He stays in tight coverage throughout the rep, not biting on Adams’ double move and carrying the route down the field.
The Giants’ coverage underneath is solid as well, with Alec Ogletree passing Geronemo Allison off to Julian Love, who stays with him well. David Mayo picks up Jimmy Graham as he runs across the field at the line of scrimmage.
That just leaves Bethea and Lazard. At the time — and shortly after the game — we wondered why Bethea flipped his hips to the defensive left while Lazard broke to the (defensive) right. With the All-22 we can see a subtle step to the (offensive) right, just before Lazard bends route to the middle of the field. It isn’t enough to be called a double move, but Bethea bites on the fake, flipping his hips to get into coverage on a corner route that never materialized. That brief mistake was enough to create all the separation Rodgers needed to put the ball in Lazard’s hands for the touchdown.
Touchdown three - Rodgers to Adams
4th quarter (14:29), Third-and-17, NYG 17
There isn’t much to say about this play. The Giants are confused and disorganized at the snap, caught with 12 men on the field. The Packers took advantage by getting to the line and getting their play off quickly. Even if they hadn’t scored the touchdown, the Giants would have given up free yardage and extended the Packers’ drive through the penalty.
There also seems to be confusion in the secondary as to what coverage they are playing.
At the snap, we see Sam Beal, Antoine Bethea, and Janoris Jenkins retreat into the deep zones of a Cover 3 look.
Jenkins and Bethea drop into their zones well, as does Beal — though he gets turned around and takes his eyes completely away from the play.
Meanwhile, rookie corner-turned-safety Julian Love becomes the hook defender on the offensive right, but Grant Haley gets in man coverage on Allen Lazard, who is lined up in the slot to the left.
By staying in man coverage and carrying Lazard up the seam, a conflict is created, preventing Bethea from getting to Adams and disrupting the pass. Likewise, with Beal’s back turned, he can’t attempt to close on the ball and make a play from behind.
The result is a fairly easy touchdown catch for the Packers to cap a long drive which started about halfway through the third quarter.
Touchdown four - Rodgers to Lewis
4th quarter (7:11), Second-and-1, NYG 1
For our final play we see a good use of play-action by the Packers and a good play by Rodgers.
Green Bay lines up in 11 personnel, with three receivers in a bunch to the right and Rodgers under center. The Giants show heavy pressure with eight players on the line of scrimmage. The Giant are running a Cover 0 blitz, with Jenkins, Haley, Baker, and Deone Bucannon in man coverage.
Bucannon appears to have a “Green Dog” blitz on Marcedes Lewis — that is, whether he blitzes or plays coverage is determined by whether Lewis blocks or releases into coverage. Lewis initially blocks, as the Packers want to sell the run, but then releases into a route. Bucannon is almost fooled, but manages to get turned and into coverage on the tight end — getting away with a hold in the process.
Meanwhile, back behind the line of scrimmage, several Giants have a shot at getting the sack on Rodgers. Lorenzo Carter is the closest but gives up outside contain and can’t bring Rodgers down. Dexter Lawrence, Bethea, and Markus Golden are all in the backfield as well, but none are close enough to make a play on Rodgers before he is able to get the pass off.
Unfortunately, Bucannon wasn’t able to stay in tight enough coverage and Rodgers puts the ball out in front of Lewis, where only the tight end can get to it. He makes the catch just over the goal line for the touchdown.
So, would letting Jackrabbit travel with Davante Adams have prevented some of the Packers’ touchdowns?
But also perhaps not.
The first touchdown to Adams was a very well schemed and well executed play. Given the coverage that was called, Jenkins wouldn’t have picked Adams up and the Packers did a great job of getting him lost in coverage.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered on Adams’ second touchdown either. Had Jenkins been on the opposite side of the field, he would have had Adams in zone coverage, but he would have had to pass him off to Bethea. Perhaps he would have had better awareness than Baker and been able to close and make a play on the ball. But even then, the conflict created by Haley carrying Lazard would have made that difficult even if Jenkins were there.
Was Jenkins right in that he should be allowed to travel with the best receiver? Maybe, but that might also make things more confusing for the rookies in the secondary. The inexperience of Baker, Ballentine, Beal, and Love give the Giants a tight line to walk in the secondary.
But at this point in the season, it might also be worth a try.