The New York Giants will face first-year Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald in an important Week 6 matchup at home. Macdonald was on the defensive coaching staff for the Ravens from 2014-2020 before assuming the defensive coordinator role at the University of Michigan.
Giants’ current defensive coordinator Wink Martindale had Macdonald on his staff as his linebacker coach. Injuries, specifically in the secondary, affected Martindale’s final season in Baltimore; the defense did not live up to its elite standards without the reliable backend pieces. However, Martindale still ranked sixth in blitz percentage.
Through five games, the current Ravens aren’t nearly as aggressive as they were under Martindale. The 2022 Ravens currently rank 21st in blitz rate while ranking 27th in pressure rate.
Baltimore ranks 17th in points against, with an average of 23.4 points per game allowed. For reference, the Giants are ninth, with an average of 18.6 points per game allowed. They surrender 398.2 yards per game, ranking them 28th in the NFL, just ahead of Houston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Seattle; the Giants rank 12th at 326 total yards per game.
Baltimore surrendered a Week 2 35-21 lead in Miami and lost 42-38. They were also up 20-3 in Week 4 against Buffalo and lost 23-20. The Ravens’ defense has struggled in the second half; conversely, the Giants are a second-half team with arduous comeback efforts against Tennessee and Green Bay.
The Ravens’ run defense is much more respectable than their pass defense; they rank 12th in rushing yards allowed per game with an average of 108. The Giants are 26th with an average of 131.6 rushing yards per game.
Baltimore’s pass defense continues its struggles after Martindale’s departure. They rank last in the NFL, with an average of 290.2 passing yards per game. The Giants are eighth with an average of 194.4.
Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s 469 yards, six-touchdown Week 2 effort skew the numbers a bit, but both Mac Jones and Joe Flacco threw for more than 300 yards, albeit the latter was almost all in garbage time.
Baltimore has surrendered twenty plays of 20 or more yards this season. The Ravens also miss a solid amount of tackles; they have 50 missed tackles on the season. The Giants have 39.
Baltimore uses their sub-packages on defense for about 80% of their plays. They use nickel personnel in more than 50 percent of their play, and dime in about 30 percent. Their “base” personnel is a 3-4 front. They’ll align in TITE and vary the alignment depending on the offensive personnel and situation.
Similar to Martindale, Baltimore aligns mostly in middle-of-the-field-closed with a Cover-3 percentage of 30.3 percent. They run Cover-1 18 percent of the time, and they stay balanced with a mixture of quarters, Cover-6, and Cover-2.
Despite surrendering the most passing yards through five games, the Ravens are tied for first in the NFL in interceptions. The Ravens, Bills, and Steelers all have eight interceptions. The Giants have yet to record an interception.
Safety Marcus Williams, who signed with the Ravens in the off-season from New Orleans, leads the team in interceptions with three. Marlon Humphrey has two, and Marcus Peters, Josh Bynes, and Patrick Queen all have one
The defensive backs have a ton of talent that allows Macdonald to be diverse with his coverage concepts. Rookie safety Kyle Hamilton is in a situational role behind Williams and Chuck Clark. Expect the safeties to be used in a variety of different ways.
Peters and Humphrey are an excellent duo at quarterback, with Peters being one of the more aggressive corners in the league. Baltimore also plays Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, and Damarion Williams, with Williams assuming the slot role.
Baltimore has a healthy mix of veteran and young pass-rushers, and they currently have 11 sacks on the year (same as the New York Giants). Calais Campbell is still effective at 36 years old; he has 14 pressures on the season and he is an excellent run defender who uses his length and plays with excellent leverage at the point of attack. Attempting to pin him on pin-pull concepts may be a difficult task for the Giants’ interior offensive line.
Defensive lineman Justin Madubuike has 12 pressures on the season, and he’s starting to have a career year. He has two sacks and is very quick at the line of scrimmage. Campbell and Madubuike are the two players who typically align in nickel on the defensive line. Broderick Washington Jr. cycles in as the third defensive lineman, along with 335-pound Michael Pierce who anchors the nose and one-shade when it fits.
Second-year pass-rusher Odafe Oweh might be an issue for New York. He’s explosive, long, and already has 17 pressures this year. He was raw coming out of Penn State, and he’s still developing, but he can be a game wrecker, especially if he is disciplined on the Giants’ play-action rollout passes and zone-reads - his length and explosiveness can affect typical rushing lanes in these situations.
Justin Houston did not play in the last two games, and the Ravens added Jason Pierre-Paul, who looked great on Sunday Night Football. The combination of Oweh and Pierre-Paul outside against a team like New York, which bases a lot of its offense on getting Barkley or Jones outside should be an interesting development throughout the game.
The Ravens also have speed at the second level with Patrick Queen, which should assist the Ravens in containing Jones. However, the Ravens’ linebackers haven’t been the most disciplined, and eye candy can cause hesitation. Josh Bynes typically plays in nickel with Queen, while Malik Harrison rotates in for certain downs.
The Giants plan
The Giants have success running the football in a variety of different ways and using their mobile quarterback’s ability to extend plays and out-run defenders to the sideline. I expect a similar approach initially, but the Ravens should be prepared for the play-action boot. I expect the backside defenders to respect Jones, which can allow the running game to have more success.
New York will vary their rushing approach, work the play-action, design quarterback runs, and attempt to hit deep passes. Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll will go back to the well of working quick game, taking what the defense gives you, and attempting to take shots if they’re there. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the play-action leak pass come back for an encore; hopefully, this one is more successful than the one they ran in Week 5:
Daniel Jones is sacked on this play, but I love the play-action leak attempt to Richie James. A deceptive play that could hit soon enough.— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) October 11, 2022
Here's a brief breakdown of the concept pic.twitter.com/pDqyAhk4KR
The health of the Giants' receiving corps will be a discussion point throughout the week, but it’s safe to assume Darius Slayton and his speed will be utilized.
Slayton, and possibly Marcus Johnson, can be valuable to the game plan. The Giants run a lot of intermediate-to-deep horizontal crossing patterns. Mac Jones and the Patriots carved through Baltimore in the middle of the field - man, zone, didn’t matter. I expect to see a lot of traffic over the middle of the field, with the Giants using a tight end to chip and assist and then release as the check down.
New York found success with initial two to three-man route concepts with a protecting eligible receiver releasing late. Not only does it temper the pass-rush and give Jones more time, but it also acts as a simple check down that gets lost a lot, especially on the bootleg plays.
The Ravens are a formidable opponent, as were the Green Bay Packers, and the Giants' significant play-action rollout philosophy now has three weeks of film. It was born out of necessity against Dallas and then used to defeat Chicago and Green Bay. Most of the Giants passing plays have been on bootlegs or off regular play-action, and the coaching staff has done an excellent job punishing the defensive desire to stop Saquon Barkley.
The star running back will be the focal point of the game plan. Getting him involved early and often and making, and then adjusting to how the defense is defending Barkley, relative to the respect they’re showing Jones on zone-read and the RPO. If Baltimore shuts down the rushing attack and maintains discipline with Jones, I expect maybe a little bit more RPO to put the defense in conflict and try to move the football.
The Giants have the coaching staff to make the necessary adjustments to take advantage of the critical vulnerabilities of their opponents while positioning their own personnel in an optimal manner. They will be tested this Sunday, but the Giants are no longer a team that their opponents can easily write off.