The New York Giants gained an excellent and adaptive offensive coaching staff orchestrated by head coach Brian Daboll after the third biennial firing of a staff in a row. The 2022 Giants had several iterations that helped guide Big Blue to success.
Daboll and his staff weren’t rigid like previous staffs, nor were they stubborn. They proved if it wasn’t broken, why fix it (see the end of the fourth quarter vs. Jacksonville)? However, they also abandoned early concepts that failed to yield success for starting quarterback Daniel Jones. One of those concepts was the Double-China-7 route with a running back choice in the red zone.
The ‘China’ portion of the route refers to the 5-yard in breaking route from the outermost receiver, and the double element incorporated the number two receiver to the front side of the 3x1 set. Both players are running five-yard in routes. The ‘7’ portion is the corner from the number three receiver (innermost).
If the defense is in man coverage, the pre-snap leverage can determine who will be open to the front side of the play. Say the front side is to the field and the ‘Y’ is a number three receiver against a nickel with inside leverage and a safety aligned slightly outside the hash. A good release and break could give the receiver space toward the back pylon for an open touchdown as the underneath in-breaking routes draw coverage toward the inside.
Conversely, depending on defensive cushion and leverage, either in-breaking route may come open and the traffic of a tight seven in confined space may act as traffic for the covering defender. What makes this three-man route concept relatively easier for quarterbacks is all three players are in the sightline of the signal caller.
Offenses can get creative to the backside of the play, and we witnessed that early in the 2022 season. To my knowledge, the Giants ran the Double China-7 three times - twice in the preseason game against the Patriots and once in Week 1 versus Tennessee. As some may remember, the play against the Titans resulted in a third-and-seven fourth-quarter interception.
The Giants used a nub-tight end (a backside tight end attached to the line of scrimmage) on the two plays vs. the Patriots. On the play against Tennessee, Daniel Bellinger was in a two-point stance about three yards outside of Andrew Thomas.
On all three plays, the tight end’s primary job was to clear space for Saquon Barkley, who appeared to have a choice route dictated by the leverage of the covering defender. Let’s go through the three plays.
On the 7-yard-line with the ball in the middle of the field, the Giants ran Double China-7 in the first quarter that resulted in an incomplete pass to Kenny Golladay (19) on third-and-6. Daniel Jones confirmed man coverage and choose to go to the front side of the play pre-snap; with the blitz dialed up, Jones threw the football to the receiver who had cushion.
Golladay was criticized for his effort on this play, but it’s important to note the timing and location on the field forced Golladay to slightly delay his release. Still, a dropped catchable pass from an underwhelming receiver (understatement) should infuriate the fanbase.
On the backside of the play, the tight end runs an outward stem inward break at the goal line. This expands both defenders - as the Patriots blitz - and Barkley ran an angle route to the vacated space in the middle of the field. I can’t say that I am one hundred percent certain that Barkley’s route is a choice route, but it seems likely, as we’ll see in the next two plays.
A little bit later on in the game on third down, with the ball on the nineteen-yard-line, the Giants go back to the Double China-7 concept with the ball now on the far-hash for the front side (three-receiver side). The Patriots are in press with two safeties back pre-snap. New England doubles the seven after the routes are distributed, and the free safety robs the number two in-route (it was open for a second, but don’t get your receiver killed. Instead Jones looked to the strong safety to see his reaction on the backside).
Jones saw that the tight end was occupying two defenders, resulting in a one-on-one matchup for Barkley who faced a linebacker aligned just outside the hash to start the play. The linebacker had to work over the top of the tight end’s release and then come square to Barkley, which is a great situation for the Giants.
Jones saw the one-on-one, waited for Barkley to declare, and then fired the football into his chest for an easy first down to the boundary side. Jones did a good job reading the defense and finding the correct matchup to exploit for a third-down conversion. However, it didn’t go as well for the Giants the one time I remember them running this play in the regular season.
In Week 1 on third down in the fourth quarter with the ball in the middle-of-the-field, the Giants use Barkley in motion to force the defense to declare their coverage - a smart adjustment to the play. Sterling Shepard (3) and Golladay run the in routes, with Richie James (80) swiftly running the corner, but the Titans have a four-on-three advantage to the front side of the play, so Jones looks to the backside after man-coverage is confirmed; it worked against the Patriots!
Unfortunately, Amani Hooker (37) positioned himself very well over the top of Barkley who ran a wheel type of route. Jones, who had already decided on the back side of the play, should have thrown the football out of bounds, but he forced it, and the Giants turned the football over after they were gifted with a muffed punt three plays earlier.
Despite the mistake, the Giants still won the football game. However, we didn’t see much of this 3x1 concept after for Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll. The Double China-7 concept with Saquon Barkley running a choice on the backside gives Jones options in the red zone. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it back in the rotation next season, especially with Darren Waller as the backside receiving option.