clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Giants’ WRs can determine more than just passing game success

Even Daniel Jones is less important than the receivers in this area

NFL: DEC 24 Giants at Vikings
Daniel Jones, Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton

There has been much hullabaloo this offseason about the New York Giants’ receiving corps. Many do not believe that a team can succeed without a true No. 1 receiver. Others, like many of us at Big Blue View, see the potential for a very strong group, headlined by Darren Waller as a receiving tight end.

However, less discussed is the impact of a team’s receivers on the running game. The assumption is that if the opposing team has an elite quarterback, that is what forces defenses to play looser, invariably opening up space for the running backs. However, statistically, it is often the receivers and not necessarily the quarterback who lighten the box.

In this way, the Giants’ receivers can actually impact their offense far more than just in the passing game.

Why this matters

Unsurprisingly, NFL teams run more effectively against non-loaded boxes than loaded ones. Here are the averages from 2022 according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which defines a loaded box as any play in which there are more defenders than blockers in the box (as opposed to the traditional definition of eight or more defenders in the box).

  • Yards per carry: 4.09 loaded, 4.52 non-loaded
  • Success rate: 37.2% loaded, 42.6% non-loaded
  • Rush yards over expected (RYOE): 0.0930 loaded, 0.180 non-loaded

Here were the Giants’ 2022 rushing numbers as a team:

  • Yards per carry: 4.0 loaded, 4.61 non-loaded
  • Success rate: 35.8% loaded, 40.4% non-loaded
  • Rush yards over expected (RYOE): 0.0543 loaded, 0.466 non-loaded

That is a pretty significant difference, particularly in success rate. The yards-per-carry average could be viewed as skewed due to the tendency for teams to load the box in goal-line and short-yardage situations. However, the difference in success rate shows that it is appreciably easier to run the ball without a loaded box.

RYOE provides an even starker difference. It is a metric used to differentiate the performance of a running back from that of his blocking. On average, running backs were able to perform essentially double as well in this area with a lighter box. This makes sense, as it is easier for backs to make tacklers miss and get more creative with their runs when they have more initial space, even if the holes close up.

For the Giants, the number was even more severely disparate at 8.6 times the RYOE average with a lighter box vs. a loaded one.

How receivers can help

In 2022, teams that faced lower levels of loaded boxes included the Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers, Raiders, Bengals, Bills, Saints, and Seahawks. What those teams have in common is at least one receiver who can threaten opponents vertically on a consistent basis. While not all of them had elite quarterbacks, just the threat of the opposing receiver combined with competent quarterback play was enough to unload the box.

Now, this is not a perfect correlation. For example, the 49ers faced the second-highest rate of loaded boxes despite fielding Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. The Eagles faced the seventh-highest rate with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

However, many of the other teams in the top 10 had lackluster receiving corps, including the Falcons, Titans, Browns, Patriots, Cardinals, and Panthers. At No. 11 was the Giants with their less-than-elite receiving corps.

There are certainly other factors at play, including the formation that a team utilizes. The Falcons and 49ers, for example, use run formations, including multiple tight ends, at a very high rate. The Eagles and Giants have quarterbacks who are running threats, making teams step up just a little closer to guard against that and forcing them to play a spy.

Still, the receiving corps definitely plays a big role in how defenses game plan to stop the run.

Giants 2023 outlook

What the Giants did in 2023 was add a significant amount of speed and athleticism to their pass-catching group. Between Waller, Parris Campbell, and Jalin Hyatt, there are big-time mismatch concerns for defensive players. Add in Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s creativity, and there is the potential to keep defenses on their guard.

In 2022, even though Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins had good years personally, they simply did not threaten defenses on a consistent basis. Slayton’s speed alone was not enough to stretch the defense vertically, and Hodgins played as a possession receiver (despite having more potential as a deep threat than he showed). Defenses just weren’t scared of the Giants’ receivers, and their goal was to stop Saquon Barkley.

Obviously, Daniel Jones’ ability to hit those receivers will play a role in whether defenses will fear them. Still, if the receivers play even close to their potential, they can pose a tremendous threat to opponents that was simply not there last year. That can bode well for whoever is carrying the ball for the Giants, giving them space to work with.


I do believe the Giants’ ball carriers will have more space to work with in 2023, regardless of who ends up taking most of the carries. With Barkley’s status up in the air, the additional receiving threats still bode well for Matt Breida, Eric Gray, Gary Brightwell, and Jashaun Corbin. Waller, Campbell, and Hyatt will put too much stress on a defense for them to key against the run, and that was likely part of Joe Schoen’s intention with his roster moves this offseason.

Couple the speed on the outside with what is likely to be better run-blocking at the center position, and the Giants have a chance to take a step forward offensively. Vegas may not have great expectations for the team as a whole, but this is the most potential the Giants’ offense has had in a long time.