The New York Giants’ biggest test against the New York Jets undoubtedly lies on the offensive side of the ball. The Jets’ last game was a 20-14 upset of the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, and it came with two of the best cornerbacks in the NFL out of commission and two practice squad cornerbacks playing starter-level snaps. Still, the Jets have two tremendous offensive weapons that will need to be front-and-center of any Giants defensive plan.
How should the Giants attack the Jets’ flailing offense?
Breece Hall: Clog the cutback lanes
The Jets’ running game is primarily a zone scheme, which means that their running backs seek to make cuts rather than following a designed gap. They run toss plays that function more like outside zone in that they are designed cutbacks. Breece Hall has gained some chunk yardage on those plays.
The Jets are also missing their two best run-blocking offensive linemen, tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker (out for the season) and guard Joe Tippmann, which could make it easier for the Giants’ defense. Still, Hall’s production over the first 13 games of his career is almost historically elite in terms of yards per carry, rush yards over expected, and a host of other metrics. He posted 177 rushing yards against the Denver defense and is capable of taking one to the house at any point.
Hall is slippery and explosive, but it starts with the cutbacks for him. The Giants need to be aware of those lanes and avoid overpursuing to his spot.
Bring heat from the nose and A-gaps
The Jets’ offensive line is nearly as banged up as the Giants’. Two of their Week 1 starters are on injured reserve, and one of the replacements is out indefinitely. They’re on their third right tackle in Max Mitchell and their third right guard in Wes Schweitzer.
Although Kayvon Thibodeaux has an advantageous matchup in this game against Mitchell, and none of the Jets’ current offensive linemen have played well this year, it’s up the middle where the Giants have a chance to do the most damage. Connor McGovern, the Jets’ center, ranks 28th out of 35 qualified centers with a 46.9 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade. His 6.1% pressure rate is nearly double the 3.3% league average for centers. That’s where Dexter Lawrence has a chance to wreck the game.
The Jets will likely try to double-team Lawrence with their guards, which makes pressure in the A-gaps critical. Wink Martindale should be mugging up his linebackers on virtually every play and forcing the Jets into man protection. Lawrence just showed what he can do against a below-average center, posting eight pressures, two sacks, and a whole lot of mayhem against the Commanders’ Nick Gates, who had a 4.5% pressure rate entering the game. Setting Lawrence up for a one-on-one matchup with McGovern is a clear advantage for the Giants.
Stunting on the outside is also a good way for the Giants to get pressure, as the Jets’ tackles and guards don’t pass off stunts well. Still, it’s the Lawrence matchup that’s the most intriguing.
Contain Garrett Wilson
The Jets have only one wide receiver who poses a significant threat to a defense, and that’s reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. Wilson’s numbers are modest compared to expectations before the season, and that’s mainly because his quarterback is Zach Wilson rather than Aaron Rodgers. Still, Wilson is a threat to go off for a touchdown on any play. His YAC ability is one of his most dangerous assets.
Wilson had eight receptions for 90 yards against the Eagles last week (and it would have been nine for 115 if not for a boneheaded penalty). He pulled down one contested 33-yard pass, as well as many passes over the middle. He’s the No. 1 read for Zach Wilson on almost every play. The Giants should press him at the line since he’s shown signs of struggling against it.
(Wilson is up top against L’Jarius Sneed and wears No. 17.)
Past Wilson, Allen Lazard struggles to get open, and the Giants should take advantage of that. Although he can make some contested catches deep and sit down in a zone, he also has major drop issues. Randall Cobb has been playing many meaningful snaps for the Jets but is just about the least productive receiver in the league right now. The Jets’ No. 2 target in the passing game has been tight end Tyler Conklin, and he’s the next one to keep an eye on. Hall has also made some noise on screen passes and dump-offs.
Beware play action
Nathaniel Hackett, the Jets’ offensive coordinator, hasn’t dialed up a ton of play-action so far this season. When he has, though, it’s worked out well for Wilson. Wilson has the seventh-largest differential in his completion percentage between play-action and non-play-action passes (8.9%), but his 18.3% play-action rate ranks 25th out of 33 qualified passers (min. 100 dropbacks).
Wilson still isn’t all that effective with play-action, as his 72.8 PFF rating ranks 18th, while his 7.8 yards per attempt are 20th. Still, he has a 110.5 passer rating on play-action passes, which is tied for 12th, compared to 64.9 with no play-action, which is 31st. It’s something to look out for.
Jump the short stuff
Zach Wilson has been throwing the ball in the short area of the field for most of the season. His 7.8 average depth of target ranks 24th out of 34 qualified quarterbacks, and 61% of his pass attempts have traveled fewer than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. He ranks 24th in intermediate pass rate and 29th in deep rate.
This is something the Giants’ defenders should be prepared for. Although Wilson’s turnover-worthy play rate is way down from last year (2.7% compared to 5.9%), he can still make extremely boneheaded decisions. Buzzing down coverage in the flat could also be a way to force turnovers.