The New York Giants travel to Florida this Sunday for a Week 7 matchup against Trevor Lawrence and the 2-4 Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Doug Pederson and his squad lost, 34-27, in Indianapolis last week.
Pederson’s arrival adds a level of maturity to Jacksonville’s franchise after a seemingly wasted 2021 season under Urban Meyer. Pederson’s impact was felt quickly; the Jaguars started the season 2-1 before losing their last three games.
One of the primary goals of the hire and the 2022 season is salvaging 2021 first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence, who has displayed brilliance this season while also showing his inexperience by making mistakes.
The Jaguars’ offense ranks 15th in points per game, with an average of 23; for reference, the Giants are 18th with an average of 21.2 points per game. Their offense average the 11th-most yards per game (357.8), whereas the Giants average 317.3, rankings 25th in the NFL.
Jacksonville’s offense ranks ninth in rushing yards (136.7 rush yards per game) and 20th in passing yards per game (221.2 passing yards per game). The Giants are the fourth-ranked rushing team (163) and the 31st-ranked team in passing yards (154.3).
The Jaguars are the fourth most disciplined offense in terms of penalties, with only 13 offensive penalties; the Giants have 20. Jacksonville also ranks fifth in explosive offensive plays (20 yards or more); 17 are through the air, and nine were on the ground. They have 26 on the year, and the Giants rank last with 12.
The Jaguars have run 11 personnel just over two-thirds of the time. They also run 12 personnel, so expect to see old friend Evan Engram. Lawrence has been pressured on 29.4 percent of his dropbacks, rankings 10th best in the NFL. The Giants rank 31st with a 46.6 percent pressure rate on Daniel Jones.
According to Pro Football Reference, Lawrence has the fifth-best on-target percentage with a 79.7 percent rate. He’s been accurate and effective. He currently has a touchdown-interception ratio of 9-4 with 1,397 passing yards and a 65.5 percent completion rate. He has 1,496 intended air yards on the season; for reference, Daniel Jones has 980.
The comfortability of Lawrence within Pederson’s system is evident. Lawrence is quickly getting the football out of his hands, while also taking deep shots down the field to Marvin Jones, Zay Jones, and Christian Kirk; Lawrence will also target running back Travis Etienne downfield, who has an 11.2 yards per reception average.
Pederson is pivotal to Lawrence’s development, but the progression of the offensive line has also helped. His pressure rate is down five percentage points, but he has suffered 10 sacks. Tackle Jawaan Taylor is the only offensive lineman with two credited sacks, per Pro Football Focus; however, Taylor still maintains a high pass-blocking grade and has only allowed seven pressures.
One key matchup on the offensive line is Dexter Lawrence against rookie center Luke Fortner. Lawrence has quickly become a mismatch nightmare for opposing interior offensive linemen.
Pederson’s incorporation of the tight end has also assisted Lawrence. The primary tight end is former Giant Evan Engram, who has 24 catches on 32 targets for 208 yards. The next most involved tight end is Dan Arnold, who has three catches on the season. Expect Lawrence to target Engram and Kirk often.
New York is 5-1, but receiving no respect from Vegas or ESPN. The Giants are three-point dogs at the moment, and ESPN has Big Blue with a 27.2 percent chance to win - that seems cruel. Jacksonville can get pressure on defense, but they just surrendered a 389-yard, three-touchdown, performance to 37-year-old Matt Ryan.
The Jaguars are far from a sure thing for the Giants, and I think it’ll be a difficult task, but the lack of respect is evident.
One contributing factor is the road element. The Giants only true road game was Week 1 against Tennessee - a game with ample time to prepare. The other road game was in London against Green Bay, where the Packers also had to travel.
The Giants can win this football game if they maintain their discipline and continue to exploit the opposing team’s mistakes. In a league predicated on those traits, the Giants have consistently been the more prepared and disciplined team
The Giants have to shore up their run defense, specifically to the outside; their second-level defenders must position themselves well when scraping over the top and filling the C-Gap, inside of the EDGE who is being kicked out if Jacksonville runs Power-Gap. New York just surrendered 211 rushing yards at home against Baltimore, with Kenyon Drake turning the clocks back.
Containing the rushing attack of James Robinson and Travis Etienne is pivotal to the Giants’ success. Even third-string running back JaMycal Hasty had a 61-yard rushing touchdown last week. Robinson’s late 2021 Achilles injury hasn’t slowed him down. Robinson has 340 rushing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Etienne is smaller and shiftier; he’s more dangerous in space and as a receiver. Etienne against Tae Crowder is something to monitor. The second-year running back has only 13 catches for 146 yards with two fumbles. Etienne is still looking for his first NFL touchdown.
I am curious to see how the Giants defend wide receiver Christian Kirk, who signed a massive contract in the offseason. Kirk has 25 catches on 41 targets for 362 yards and four touchdowns. Will the Giants decide to shadow Kirk with Adoree’ Jackson if Kirk gets going? Kirk has only seven catches in the last three games, but Coach Pederson has mentioned his desire to get Kirk more involved.
Jackson has shadowed in the slot when it was necessary (against Randall Cobb in London). Slot cornerback Darnay Holmes only played 10 snaps against Baltimore.
Expect Wink Martindale to dial up the exotic pressure against the young quarterback and force Lawrence to beat the Giants with quick decisions. New York will bait throws, bring the pressure, and also account for the overall athletic ability of Lawrence, who does a solid job evading and escaping in the pocket.
The Giants will be tested on the road against a team that is aggressive, well-coached, and talented. However, if the Giants can maintain their level of discipline and execution, they will have a real chance to defeat this young football team on the road.