Each week this season we have endeavored to craft a potential game plan, or even just a piece of a game plan, for the New York Giants offense based upon their upcoming opponent. We have looked at sail concepts against the Pittsburgh Steelers, dig routes against the Chicago Bears, zone-beating concepts against the San Francisco 49ers, and even how to run against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams.
Rooted in each of those passing game plans was an understanding of Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy. The desire to push the ball down the field as part of the Air Coryell offensive school of thought.
The problem we face right now is that the vertical nature of Garrett’s offense, that we envisioned taking shape in New York, has failed to get off the ground.
Our fearless leader highlighted this fact in this recent piece, and I quote some of the statistics that show just how the Giants’ passing game is anything but the vertical offense we all pictured back this spring. First off, there is this fact. “There have been perhaps surprisingly few downfield throws from Daniel Jones thus far. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones is 27th in the league with only eight passing attempts of 20 yards or more. Four of those have been completed.” Only Jared Goff, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill have attempted fewer passes downfield, and both Newton and Tannehill have played in just three games each.
Interestingly enough, Jones has completed four of those eight attempts for 117 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. His Adjusted Completion Percentage on those downfield attempts is 50.0 percent, ranking him 11th in the league. His NFL passer rating of 135.4 is fourth. Small sample size to be sure, but worth noting.
Mr. Valentine also pointed out these numbers, which are staggering:
Yards gained per attempt: 2019 (6.6) | 2020 (6.0)
Intended air yards per attempt: 2019 (8.0) | 2020 (6.6)
Adjusted net yards per attempt: 2019 (5.38) | 2020 (3.81)
Yards per reception: 2019 (13.8) | Career (11.9) | 2020 (7.4)
Yards per target: 2019 8.0 | Career (7.9) | 2020 (5.7)
Yards per reception: 2019 (10.6) | Career (11.2) | 2020: 7.7
Yards per target: 2019 (6.9) | Career (6.8) | 2020: 4.4
Why do we revisit these numbers and the surprising lack of a vertical approach? Because this week could be the quintessential “get right” game for the Giants if they want to be a downfield passing offense. Watching the Dallas Cowboys defense right now, you will see opportunities to hit downfield, particularly against a group of safeties that seems to be struggling on film.
Pay attention to the two safeties on this play from Week 3:
The Seattle Seahawks run the Yankee concept, a max protection, two-receiver route design that pairs a crossing route with a deep post pattern. Both safeties in this Cover 4 coverage scheme bit down hard on the crosser, enabling Tyler Lockett to get over the top on his post route.
Russell Wilson also hit D.K. Metcalf for a play over the top of this defense that caused many to wonder just what coverage the Cowboys were in:
Again, the safeties get caught looking in front of them, allowing Metcalf to get behind the defense. Only effort from the cornerback, and Metcalf’s own “Leon Lett moment,” prevents this play from being a touchdown.
So there are opportunities to get over the top of the Dallas defense by implementing things we have seen the Giants do already this season. The big play from Jones to Darius Slayton back in Week 1, very similar to both of these plays:
A route in front of the safety to get them driving downhill, a failure of the cornerback to fill the middle of the field quickly, and six points for the Giants.
We expected the Giants’ passing game to have a vertical feel when the organization hired Garrett to be the offensive coordinator. With a few exceptions, that has largely failed to materialize. This week presents an opportunity to get more downfield in the passing game, with plays that have worked for the Giants against a secondary that has given up some downfield throws this year.
If it does not happen this week, we might start to wonder if we were just wrong about what this offense is going to be.