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Giants-Packers: When New York has the ball

Can Tommy DeVito keep the magic alive?

New Orleans Saints v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The 4-8 New York Giants host the 6-6 Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Winning has been synonymous with both teams in recent weeks. The Giants won two games with Tommy DeVito starting at quarterback before their Week 13 bye week, and the Packers defeated the Chiefs, Lions, and Chargers in the last three weeks.

Green Bay now possesses the final Wild Card spot in the NFC, and the Giants currently hold the seventh pick in the NFL Draft. Still, the Giants are not going down without a fight.

DeVito mania has swept the tristate area with vigor. The craze resembles the 2012 Linsanity, which involved Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks. DeVito may need to win a few more games to strongly earn that comparison, but he will receive the opportunity to win those games.

Brian Daboll discussed the quarterback controversy with the media on Tuesday. New York opened Tyrod Taylor’s 21-day practice window. The Giants waived quarterback Matt Barkley to make room for Tyrod Taylor. Many believed Taylor would oust the now-incumbent quarterback, but Daboll had other plans:

Daboll said that DeVito played two good games - he’s not wrong. Are there aspects of DeVito’s game that pale compared to Taylor's experience? Of course, specifically his sack rate, but the young UDFA has earned the chance to succeed or fail.

Packers’ statistics

Joe Barry coordinates the Packers' defense and runs many common quarters/palms concepts that have proliferated around the NFL in recent years. However, Barry does diversify his coverage and has run a lot of middle-of-the-field closed concepts in 2023.

The Packers primarily use a 2-4-5 defense, but BASE personnel (3-4) is their second most utilized grouping. 3-3-5 and 2-3-6 are also employed by Green Bay.

On the season, the Packers rank ninth-best in points surrendered (20.3), 18th in yardage forfeited (340), 30th in rushing defense (136.3), and 10th in passing yards surrendered (203.8).

Green Bay only has 29 sacks on the season, and nine are from Jersey’s Rashan Gary. The Packers blitz at the 12th-highest rate, with a 29.2% blitz rate. For reference, the Giants are second behind the Minnesota Vikings in blitz rate; New York blitzes 41% of the time.

The Packers get pressure at 23.2%, ranking ninth in the NFL. Green Bay’s zone-heavy defensive approach forces a lot of checkdowns. The Packers force the fourth-lowest average depth of target at just seven yards. The only teams with lower DADOT are the Bears, Raiders, and Bills.

Green Bay hasn’t surrendered more than 22 points in its last three games, and the Packers played three top 11 offenses in those games. What’s impressive about that fact is they’ve accomplished this without star cornerback Jaire Alexander, who has not played since Week 9.

Packers’ personnel

Green Bay has an explosive, long, defensive front that frequently operates in nickel sub-packages. Their second level is very explosive and operates with bad intentions. The combination of Kenny Clark up front, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith as the edge defenders, is a dangerous trio of quickness and physicality.

Both Clark and Gary have 41 pressures on the season, which would rank second on the Giants behind Dexter Lawrence, who has 53. Gary has nine sacks to lead the team, and Clark has 4.5; between the two is Preston Smith, who has 5.5 sacks with 31 pressures.

2022 first-round pick Devonte Wyatt starts opposite Clark as the 4i-shades/5-techniques. Wyatt, who had a slow start to his career last season, has 30 pressures and three sacks this season.

Big T.J. Slaton is the predominant nose tackle for the Packers. The former Florida Gator has ten pressures and no sacks, with 24 stops on the season. Green Bay spent their first-round pick on Lukas Van Ness - a raw 6-foot-5, 272-pound athlete. Van Ness has only 11 pressures and two sacks on the season

Green Bay has three other rookies that rotate up front: Colby Wooden (Auburn), Brenton Cox Jr. (Florida), and Karl Brooks (Bowling Green). Cox Jr. is mostly a special teams player who doesn’t often dress, but Wooden and Brooks have a solid role for Green Bay. The former has played 207 snaps with nine pressures, and the latter 295 snaps with 19 pressures and three sacks.

Second-year former Gamecock Kingsley Enagbare rotates at edge and has 15 pressures and a sack this season. Seven of those pressures came in the last three weeks.

Quay Walker leads the defense in tackles with 92, and linebacker Isaiah McDuffie is second with 68. Walker was a rare athlete at Georgia and is starting to shine in his second season. He was a first-round pick in 2022.

McDuffie has started six of 10 games for the Packers and helped Green Bay when they were missing De’Vondre Campbell. The trio of linebackers is very underrated. Eric Wilson is the fourth linebacker in the group; he played admirably against the Raiders in Week 5 with no Campbell and Quay Walker leaving after 17 snaps.

Alexander and Eric Stokes are cornerbacks on the Packers, and injuries hamper both. Rasul Douglas was traded earlier in the season to the Buffalo Bills, and Green Bay relies on a young group of cornerbacks.

Former Giants’ sixth-round pick Corey Ballentine and rookie seventh-rounder Carrington Valentine have started together since Week 10 (Valentine started since Week 3). Alliteration aside, the duo has out-performed perceived expectations. Keisean Nixon is their operates their nickel spot and plays a heavy amount of snaps.

Without Alexander, their cornerback room lacks a premier name, but the trio of players are effective, and the tandem of Rudy Ford and Darnell Savage, along with Jonathan Owens and Anthony Johnson Jr., have formed a sturdy safety group. The Packers aren’t averse to using three safeties at a time.

Giants’ strategy

New York must continue to use pres-nap motion to force hesitation and provide indicators for Tommy DeVito, mostly out of 11 personnel. 12 personnel will be used from single back, under center, looks to set up play action and to run the football.

Sequencing plays based on motion, situation, and defensive tendencies to keep Green Bay honest will be part of the game plan, but the Packers' defense is playing much better than Washington and the Patriots.

Wan’Dale Robinson should be the primary motioning receiver, with Jalin Hyatt and Darius Slayton playing most of the snaps at wide receiver, albeit Sterling Shepard and Isaiah Hodgins will rotate in.

Hyatt’s speed outside the numbers, and hopefully on the horizontal plane like the third-and-eight conversion against New England, must remain a focal point when the Giants see man coverage or zone with no cloud in middle-of-the-field closed. It would be lovely to see defenses continue to play Cover-6, with Hyatt’s side seeing the Cover-2 side (cloud).

It's still necessary for the Giants to operate their quick passing attack. DeVito has improved in this area this season, and it could be an effective way to move the football against the Packers’ zone defense.

DeVito has done an exceptional job attack outside the numbers this season. From throws within the pocket this season, DeVito is 15 of 21 (71%) when targeting the left side of the field and 10 of 18 (56%) targeting the right side. Collectively, he’s 25 of 39 (64%).

Four completions were behind the line of scrimmage, six were five yards away from the line of scrimmage, six were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, four were within 20, two were between 20-25, and three were 25 or more.

For reference, Daniel Jones was 19 of 27 (70%) when his launch point was within the pocket, targeting the right side of the field, outside the numbers, and 7 of 18 (39%) when targeting the left side. Jones had just two completions beyond ten yards of the line of scrimmage when throwing from the pocket, targeting outside the numbers.

The Giants coaching staff has displayed a willingness to throw the football downfield, outside the numbers, that just wasn’t consistently present when Jones was the starting quarterback.

The Giants should continue to target that area of the field to open up the middle of the field and force Green Bay to defend every blade of grass.

Final thoughts

The Giants will once again grace the nation in prime time. The Giants, allergic to winning prime time games, were inches away from handing the Buffalo Bills a loss. But, like most aspects of the 2023 season, the Giants found a way to shoot themselves in the foot, leading to a loss.

The Giants can win this game against a young, albeit currently formidable, Packers team. Is Jordan Love at a peak in the roller coaster that is his first starting year at quarterback? I don’t think so. Yes, the injury to Christian Watson may stymie the offense, but Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed are young ascending talents, as is rookie Dontayvion Wicks.

The injury questions surrounding the Packers are consequential, and I think the Giants put up a fight in the game, but I believe the Packers will continue their playoff push by earning a victory on Monday night.