There was more to Jason Garrett’s Thursday press conference than the the widely discussed parting exchange where Garrett suggested being referred to as “coach” while walking off the podium. I didn’t see that as egregiously as others. It just seemed like no one responded to his salutation. So, to avoid feeling like Steven Glansberg, he made a small parting comment about his lack of a general goodbye from those at the media session. It seemed to be in jest. Anyways, here are some takeaways from Garrett’s remarks.
Daniel Jones and this offense
Garrett’s initial question was about Daniel Jones’ comfort level heading into his second year in Garrett’s offense. Here’s Garrett’s response:
“Daniel is one of those guys who just comes to work every day and he’s so prepared. He’s prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, and I just think he continues to grow and get better. The more you put him in different situations, you can see him just grow and develop. That’s his understanding, simply having physical experience running the plays against the different defenses. His approach is outstanding, and I think you see daily improvement.”
These cliches are the mantra that one would expect. Jones is a hard worker, the first guy in, the last guy to leave type of individual who approaches practice in an ideal manner. It’s an excellent way to be characterized by one’s coaches, but this insatiable work ethic has to materialize into wins on Sunday, which is possible.
When asked if anything is holding Jones back as he heads into the second year of his system (a question attempting to get Garrett to elaborate more on the opening question), Garrett responded with this:
“I just think the biggest thing for everybody with our football team is you’ve just got to go back out there, approach it the right way and try to get better every day. That’s our approach with Daniel and that’s our approach with everybody. Because he goes about it the right way, because he’s always so prepared and he has physical tools, we’re just going to keep trying to give him those experiences. We’re trying to put him in an environment where he’s comfortable. We’ve got some young players around him who are growing and they’re all growing together, and that’s a positive thing and an exciting thing.”
Garrett also spoke extensively about Jones’ competitive nature. When asked about the fight earlier this week and how Jones ended up on the bottom of the pile, Garrett had this to say:
“You never want to take the edge off of a guy like that. Daniel is this guy from Duke who really presents himself beautifully, but deep down, he’s a really, really tough competitor. He loves ball. His physical toughness and his mental toughness are outstanding. He’s a fun, exciting guy to be around and he’s a fun, exciting guy to coach because of that. He loves ball, you can see the competitive juices flowing. The best players I’ve been around, the best coaches I’ve been around, are people who fight. We talk to our team about that a lot. The way we talk about the word ‘fight’ is fight to be the best in everything you do. Fight to live up to the highest standard, fight to get the job done, and fight for each other. We think that’s important, so we try to instill that in our team. That doesn’t necessarily mean a physical fight on the field, but you want to have that spirit. If you think about the people in your life who you admire most, they fight, they compete, they battle, they try to be their best regardless of what the circumstances are. We believe our quarterback is one of those guys.”
Defending his scheme
This phrase has been negatively associated with the Giants’ offensive coordinator all season. He was asked about his unimaginative 2020 offense. One question even asked if Garrett was creative enough to fully maximize a player like first-round selection Kadarius Toney, and Garrett quickly stated that he was excited to have him aboard. Garrett was also asked if he need to incorporate more pre-snap motion.
“Yeah, motion is, obviously if you followed our offense last year, a big part of what we’ve done. Last year, we ran a lot more of the no-huddle stuff around the line of scrimmage where you don’t run as much motion. We were using tempo, sometimes we went fast, sometimes we went slow. We weren’t in the huddle as much last year – I don’t know if you guys could see that on TV – but that was one of the things that we did,” Garrett said. “Motion and shifting and movement, all that stuff has been a big part of what we’ve done in the past and if we feel like it applies to a particular game plan, we’ll certainly use it.
Perturbed by the valid question, Garrett elaborated on the ways he did use pre-snap motion last year. However, the usage of pre-snap motion by Garrett in 2020 was nothing like other offenses that have had significant success around the NFL. Garrett would occasionally use Jet, In, and Fly motions to keep second-level defenders guessing or to gain a numbers advantage to the play-side.
For this, I applaud him, but there are so many other ways to incorporate motions into an offense that can stress coverage assignments. When used to its full potential, motion can help an offense create momentum, deception, and leverage. Garrett used deceptive motions more than the other two.
Something as simple as motioning the No. 1 receiver to the No. 3 spot in a BUNCH (both aligned off the line of scrimmage with the number two on) right before the snap can force missed assignments and blown coverage in the secondary. Orbit motion used in conjunction with a zone read out of split-back personnel can put outside linebackers in conflict. Orbit motion used in manner different manners can stress different defensive coverages, and possibly lead to more difficult run fits. Teams like the 49ers and Chiefs utilize these principles, but they’re few and far between for the Giants.
Yes, Garrett used a lot of up-tempo, no-huddle, offense last year; and yes, he also used a lot of 12 and 13 personnel that limits the creativity of the motion. However, with the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, one would imagine that 11 personnel may be a bit more frequent. If this happens, I hope to see more creative motion usage, rather than just deceptive and run advantage motion. We’re looking for more high-value motions that may lead to a more potent and explosive offense on the football field.
Garrett was asked why the organization has so much confidence in its young, largely unproven line.
“I think we made progress over the course of last year. We had a lot of young guys playing for us who just simply were inexperienced, and I think over the course of the year you saw them grow and develop,” Garrett said. “Again, it’s the same thing we talked about with Daniel, if you approach it the right way, you get your mind right and your spirit right to come out and practice and get better every day, you’re going to improve. So, we try to put those guys in those situations and they’re responding well. We have a long way to go, every guy individually and certainly as a unit, but they’re going about it the right way.”
Growth and development is the key ingredient to any young football team. The Giants are counting on their ability to groom the young talent on the field. It’s plausible. Each player on this offensive line offers something unique, but each player has liabilities as well. Andrew Thomas was wildly inconsistent for the first half of the season last year.Shane Lemieux was arguably one of the worst pass-blocking guards in football last season. Nick Gates is a solid player who is still developing in a new position. Will Hernandez never took a snap on the right side and has underwhelmed the last two years as a professional, and Matt Peart also struggled down the stretch of his rookie season.
Both Hernandez and Peart were dealing with the after-effect of COVID-19 last season at the end of the year, so that has to be mentioned. All five of these players can take a step forward in 2021 under Rob Sale. It’s well within their capabilities. They all have to take some sort of step forward if they want to improve upon being the worst graded offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus.
Questions about Garrett’s offense possibly not being creative enough to maximize Toney weren’t the only Kadarius Toney-related questions. Garrett heaped praise on the limited sample size he’s seen from the rookie out of Florida. Garrett said he picks up football easily and that he showed some exciting things on film at Florida. Garrett was then asked about Toney’s ability to get up to speed with the offense. Here’s Garrett’s response:
“The biggest thing with him is just come on in here and try to learn. You know, we haven’t seen him a lot, he was here for the rookie minicamp and he’s working his way back in now, but he’s a really good young man,” Garrett said. “I think he’s a smart football guy and he’s working hard to get himself back up to understanding what we’re asking him to do. Hopefully, over the next few days, we’ll get a chance to see out there practicing.”
With Sterling Shepard healthy, and the other receivers hopefully being on the field, it may take Toney a bit to find the football field consistently, which isn’t ideal for a first-round investment. It’s honestly not a bad problem to have.
It’s all speculative right now. Let’s just hope that Toney can stay healthy through training camp and learn as much as he can from these coaches and the veterans like Sterling Shepard - who Toney heaped praise on for helping with his development. Let’s also hope that Garrett really looked into all of those other offenses like he said. Maybe he won’t change the DNA, but he’ll add enough tricks to make his offense a bit more stressful for defenses.