Let’s play a little “good news, bad news.”
Good news? The New York Giants are in first place in their division.
Bad news? That division is the woeful NFC East and the Giants have a 4-7 record.
Good news? They place the Seattle Seahawks this weekend, a team that has struggled on the defensive side of the football (last week against the Philadelphia Eagles aside).
Bad news? In all likelihood Colt McCoy is going to be taking the snaps.
With Daniel Jones suffering a hamstring injury, the Giants are proceeding as if McCoy is going to be the starting quarterback on Sunday against Seattle. Wednesday, Judge addressed the media and stated that McCoy would see the “majority” of first-team snaps in practice:
Joe Judge: Colt McCoy will get the "majority" of first-team reps today at practice.— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) December 2, 2020
Given that Wednesday is a big day of practice, as that is the time most of the game plan for the upcoming week is installed, this portends a McCoy start.
So, what might that game plan entail?
As mentioned above, the Seattle defense has not been the most dominant unit in the NFL this season. For example, back in Week 2 Cam Newton and the New England Patriots’ passing attack looked impressive, even in a loss. Newton threw for 397 yards in a losing effort. Back in Week 1 Matt Ryan threw for 434 yards on them. Similar numbers were put up by Dak Prescott in Week 3, Kyler Murray in Week 7, and Josh Allen in Week 9. Seattle lost those games against the Cardinals and the Bills.
From that New England game in Week 2, you can see some of the concepts that worked against Seattle:
Working through some Patriots passing game from Sunday night and I'll clip some stuff here. First up is this 3rd and 7 conversion from the first quarter:— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) September 22, 2020
*Adjusting to the adjustments
*Anticipation plus placement equals YAC pic.twitter.com/wtQkBG6i8I
On this example, the Patriots and Newton see that the Seahawks are doubling Julian Edelman, so the QB gets to his second option on the play.
New England also had success in the play-action passing game, as they do here by putting defenders into conflict:
Good offensive football sometimes comes down to putting defenders into conflict pic.twitter.com/DCRmYcQdTx— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) September 22, 2020
Then, as many teams have done, they took shots downfield:
Love this connection from Newton and Edelman:— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) September 22, 2020
*Helping your quarterback pre-snap
*Moving defenders with your eyes pic.twitter.com/VIG3e7QX6L
Now, as luck would have it, these are all areas where McCoy can be effective. If you think back to when the Giants signed him, and we walked through what to expect from him, his ability in the vertical passing game was a plus. At the time, it seemed like that meshed well with what we expected from a Jason Garrett Giants’ offense back in April. Throws like this one:
Or this shot play, where McCoy trusts DeSean Jackson to make a catch in the vertical passing game:
Now, there are two reasons why I might caution you away from expecting 50 vertical shot throws on Sunday when these two teams square off. First, it’s 2020 and we can’t have nice things. But on a more serious note: The Seahawks have gotten better at rushing the passer in recent weeks.
Looking back to Sunday the Giants and Garrett seemed to use their backup as a facilitator when he came on the field. Remember, McCoy entered the game in the second half due to injury, so Garrett was probably limited in what he could call. The gameplan entering last week against Cincinnati was crafted with Daniel Jones in mind. But with McCoy, it is probably no accident that his first passing attempt was a running back screen, and his second was a designed quick read on a crossing route (that was nearly intercepted). Given that Jones had gotten hurt and McCoy entered the game mid-drive, there was not enough time to really get heads together on the sideline and go over what plays should be called.
When they did, before McCoy’s second drive, you saw a more vertical approach. On a third-and-8, they designed a vertical concept to the left side for McCoy, who hit Golden Tate to move the chains:
Then there was this design a little later:
This is a mesh concept play with both quick and vertical elements. McCoy has the vertical route at the bottom of the screen, but he sees the pressure package coming before the snap and knows the Bengals are in man coverage, so he looks to the wheel route from the running back right away. If the throw is on target, this is a walk-in touchdown.
So, there will be vertical elements.
Protecting McCoy long enough will the task. Why? Because the Seahawks have gotten better at rushing the passer in recent weeks. Yes, there is the acquisition of Carlos Dunlap, who sacked Kyler Murray at the end of the Thursday Night game two weeks ago. But they also have a healthy Jamal Adams back to rush the passer, and the safety is also a reason why Seattle has put pressure on QBs recently, including Carson Wentz a few nights ago.
Seattle loves to use Adams as a box safety, and that enables them to implement him as part of their pressure schemes. He had eight pass rushing snaps against the Eagles, and he caused some damage. There is this example, where Adams blitzes off the edge and blows up a passing play:
Or this play, where Adams again rushes off the edge and this time gets to Wentz for the sack:
So, to sum up. Yes there are plays to be made in the vertical passing game. Yes, I would expect that McCoy will have chances to do so. And yes, Adams has the potential to blow them up.
As I said, “good news, bad news.”