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Giants-Seahawks: What to expect when the Giants have the ball

Can the Giants get going on offense?

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The 1-2 New York Giants host the 2-1 Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. The two teams met in Week 8 last season, and Seattle defeated New York 27-13. Former Giants’ wide receiver Richie James muffed two punts as the Seahawks’ defense held the Giants’ offense to just 225 yards, 75 yards more than the Giants earned on Thursday night against the 49ers.

Daniel Jones completed 17 of 31 passes for 176 yards with 20 yards on the ground. He was sacked five times. Saquon Barkley scored the lone Giants’ touchdown. The star running back is questionable for the game with a high ankle sprain.

New York is hoping for the return of star left tackle Andrew Thomas. He is optimistic about playing on Monday, and left guard Ben Bredeson should clear the concussion protocol. The Giants desperately need their offensive line to stabilize. According to head coach Brian Daboll, if both players return to the lineup, this is what the rotation will look like:

LT Andrew Thomas
LG Ben Bredeson
C John Michael Schmitz
RG Marcus McKethan
RT Evan Neal

The Seahawks’ defense has found health ahead of Week 4. Jamal Adams is trending to play on Monday. The former Jets’ safety hasn’t seen live action in a football game since tearing his quadriceps muscle in Week 1 last season.

According to head coach Pete Carroll, second-year cornerbacks Coby Bryant and Riq Woolen are looking positive for Week 4. The former missed Week 3 with a toe injury, and the latter missed with a chest issue. CB Tre Brown left Week 3 and is in the concussion protocol. Defensive linemen Darrell Taylor and Dre’Mont Jones left Week 3 with lower body injuries. It’s uncertain if they’ll play, but Caroll suggested that Taylor could be “OK” for Week 4.

Seattle’s defensive statistics

The Seahawks allow 407 total yards per game through three weeks; that is tied for third worst in the league with the Chicago Bears, and just ahead of the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos. They’re 29th in the league in scoring defense, allowing 29.3 points per game; they’re just ahead of the Giants, who are ranked 30th in scoring defense.

Seattle’s front has done well to bottle up the Rams, Lions, and Panthers rushing attack. The Seahawks are sixth in rushing yards surrendered, only allowing 79.3 rushing yards per game. However, the secondary for defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt ranks 31st in passing yards allowed. They currently allow 328 passing yards per game. They will likely be receiving much-needed reinforcements for Monday night.

The Seahawks have five total sacks on the season, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. The Giants have only two. Seattle is +2 in turnover differential with two forced fumbles and a Tre Brown interception.

Seattle’s philosophy

Seattle stifled Daniel Jones and the Brian Daboll-led offense in 2022. The Seahawks approach wasn’t dissimilar to a typical Pete Carroll-coached defense. Seattle primarily used Cover-3, and Cover-6, with a combination of fire zone blitzes, simulated pressure, and surprise creeper pressure to get pressure on Jones. Here are Seattle’s five sacks from that game:

The Seahawks only blitzed on 18 of the Giants’ 65 plays. New York started Tyre Phillips at right tackle and Joshua Ezeudu at left guard, with Evan Neal and Ben Bredeson injured. As we saw in the first sack above, Seattle wasn’t buying the Giants' play-action bootlegs, which is a difficult reality experienced by New York in the current season.

Seattle stopped the Giants' counter-attack on the ground and was rarely fooled. Saquon Barkley managed just 2.7 yards per carry, and Jones averaged just 5.7 yards per pass attempt. One GH-counter run went for 15 yards, off a bad force by Seattle’s contain defender. Barkley also added ten and nine-yard rushes off variations of crack toss, where Barkley found success following a pulling Andrew Thomas.

Seattle’s front fit counter well, bottled up DUO, and was disciplined on the edge against zone-read plays. The Seahawks used dime personnel on third down and then nickel 2-4-5 and 3-3-5 for most of the game, with 3-4 TITE front on first down.

New York may look to work outside with crack toss plays behind Andrew Thomas to avoid running inside the tackle box. The Giants did use G-Lead (play side guard pull) against the 49ers, with Marcus McKethan as the pulling guard. I expect the Giants to try their counter run (double puller), but quickly look to adjust if Seattle plays it as well as last season.

The Seahawks are known for their offensive skilled players, but their defensive players are savvy and tough. Bobby Wagner isn’t the athlete he once was at 33 years old, but he’s one of the smartest linebackers in the league. Wagner leads the Seahawks in tackles and only has one missed tackle; he also has 15 STOPs, which ties for fourth in the NFL. Former first-round pick Jordyn Brooks typically aligns as the weak-side linebacker and does a solid job in pursuit.

Jamal Adams joins a very formidable pair of safeties in former Giant captain Julian Love and Quandre Diggs. Love has three passes defended on the season:

However, Love currently has a 16.1% missed tackle rate. It’s a small sample size and an anomaly in regard to his career statistics. Seattle is receiving reinforcement at cornerback with the possible return of Riq Woolen and Coby Bryant. Panthers quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns against the secondary without those two players, albeit it was on 58 pass attempts.

Even with Bryant’s return, rookie top-10 cornerback Devon Witherspoon will start opposite Woolen. Like Love, Witherspoon also has three passes defended - in just two games - and looks the part of an alpha cornerback in the league:

Witherspoon has only allowed a 44.4% catch rate on 18 targets. Artie Burns and Michael Jackson are the other two corners used in Seattle’s secondary.

Defensive linemen Jarran Reed and Mario Edwards Jr. harassed Andy Dalton throughout Week 3. Reed leads the Seahawks with 11 pressures; Edwards Jr. has 10, and edge defenders Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe have nine and eight, respectively. The edge room is explosive, quick, and operates promptly together while executing twists, along with the defensive linemen.

Giants’ strategy

In last season’s matchup, the Giants went three and out on their first three drives. After picking up a third-and-5 on their fourth offensive possession, a false start penalty put them behind the sticks, and they eventually punted. New York only found the end zone on offense because of an Adoree’ Jackson strip of wide receiver Tyler Lockett that set up the Saquon Barkley rushing touchdown. Needless to say, the offense has to be more efficient and effective while avoiding mistakes on Monday night.

On a second-and-7 near the end of the first quarter, the Giants narrowly missed on a chunk play to speed tight end Lawrence Cager on the wheel. New York attempted to the Cover-3 beater as an element of surprise to shock Seattle:

Since last year’s matchup, the Giants added speed tight end Darren Waller. Springing a player like Waller free on a wheel route will be difficult since the Seattle defense’s attention will be focused on the 31-year-old veteran. The 49ers gave Waller little breathing room. He was bracketed, inside-out, through most of the game, and finished with just three catches for 20 yards.

Protecting Daniel Jones is critical. The Giants shouldn’t have to use as many resources in protection if the offensive line is healthy; this should give New York more options with their quick passing attack. Cover-3 has its vulnerabilities in the flat and up the seam, as well as in between zones.

If the protection is better, the Giants must threaten Seattle vertically with either Jalin Hyatt or Darius Slayton. Teams play the Giants’ offense tight, top-down, which means the defense is driving underneath on their quick game. New York can combat the aggressive approach with double moves or route concepts that put defenders into conflict.

New York can use 3x1 speed out with a stick outside from the tight end to stretch the curl-flat defender horizontally. Hoss-Y-Juke could be a means to create an explosive play up the seams with the hitch routes on the outside occupying the deep third defenders.

Although, the Giants must be careful with a five-man empty protection. New York will likely employ their drive series of plays and the 12-personnel speed stack that provided success for the Giants in Week 2. Even without Saquon Barkley, the Giants should attempt to establish the run more than they did on Thursday Night Football in Santa Clara.

If the Giants can flood zones and find other passing options, if Seattle plays Waller like the 49ers, then maybe the rhythmic passing attack we witnessed last season will start to flourish. And, if the Giants succeed through their quick game, that should help New York gas plays deep through double moves or their speed.

Final thoughts

It’s early in the season, but the Giants find themselves in an almost must-win primetime game entering Week 4. New York has a tough schedule ahead; they play the Dolphins, Bills, Commanders, and Jets over the next four weeks. If the Giants want to secure a Wild Card spot in the NFC, they’ll likely be competing with the Seahawks. Owning the tiebreaker may be the deciding factor on who gets into the dance.

The Giants were outmatched in Weeks 1 and 3. They rallied for a valiant comeback in Week 2 against the Cardinals - a team that many, including myself, perceived to be much worse than New York. Seattle is comparable to the Giants on paper. New York is the home team and had more time to prepare for the matchup. The health of both teams has improved.

The negative perception of the Giants can change on Monday Night Football if the 2022 Coach of the Year and newly paid quarterback can lead the Giants offense, possibly without star running back Saquon Barkley. The defense will have its hands full with the passing attack of Seattle, led by Geno Smith, and the rushing game, led by Kenneth Walker III, but New York’s offense must show life, score touchdowns, and possess the football against a team that allowed Andy Dalton to throw for 361 yards.