This Sunday the New York Giants host the Chicago Bears in the final of three consecutive home games. The Giants’ offense has struggled much of the year, but have done enough to win lately.
While the Bears’ offense has let them down — outside of Jordan Howard’s impressive running -- their defense has been relatively solid. What can the Giants do to keep their winning momentum going against Chicago?
Stats At A Glance
Rushing Yards - 74.2 (31st)
Passing Yards - 266.9 (9th)
Total Yards - 341.1 (21st)
Points - 20.2 (24th)
Rushing Yards - 98.4 (11th)
Passing Yards - 242.8 (12th)
Total Yards - 341.2 (11th)
Points - 23.9 (19th)
Stabilize The Offensive Line
The Giants took a hit when Justin Pugh suffered a sprained knee against the Philadelphia Eagles. As their best lineman, losing him was going to hurt. However, second-year center Brett Jones was the first man off the bench and played admirably in Pugh’s absence despite the high level of competition.
This past week, Jones denied the Giants a longer look when he, too, went down, this time with a strained calf. The Giants then turned to offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse and reserve center Adam Gettis to platoon in the inside. Newhouse played the guard position when the Giants used a five-man line, then Gettis came on the field when Newhouse moved out to jumbo tight end. It was far from a perfect solution — those generally don’t exist three deep on a depth chart — and Geno Atkins nearly wrecked the game for the Giants.
Now Gettis is dealing with a calf injury of his own and the Giants have signed Shane McDermott to the practice squad to compensate.
With Pugh and Jones not practicing, it seems likely that Newhouse will get the start at left guard. Fortunately for the Giants, the Bears don’t have any defensive linemen like Atkins or Fletcher Cox of the Eagles.
That being said, the Giants will need stability along the offensive line to mount a functional offense. They have shown glimpses, flashes, of what they are really capable, but their lack of a running game has held them back. They’ll need some semblance of a rushing attack to give their offense something like balance and keep them from being predictable.
Stay Creative, But Don’t Get Cute
The Giants mounted easily their best offensive performance of the season on their first offensive possession against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a thing of beauty that defied their established trends and had the defense completely off balance. Manning was accurate and efficient while the play design was creative and effective. Not only did it result in a touchdown, but it was a breath of fresh air for a Giants’ offense that seems to live in the shotgun, with three receivers, one tight end, and one running back on the field at all times.
Ben McAdoo vowed to make adjustments over the bye week, and introducing some creativity and variety into the offense certainly seems to be one of those adjustments.
They need to keep it up, but they also have to guard against getting “cute”.
It’s a fine line to walk, and often explosive plays lay just to one side or the other of that line.
The Bengals, for instance, got an explosive play out of an absolutely wonky formation that saw a third of their offensive line in front of a wide receiver on the left sideline. Later in the game the Giants quickly adjusted and sniffed out a similar play for no gain.
The Giants need to continue to be aggressive and creative, but they can’t abandon the mundane, either. The plays they run the most they do so for good reason, those are they plays they can execute the best, that the players are most comfortable with. Just like with the run game, they need to strike a balance between the creativity and the mundane to keep defenses off balance and the chains moving.
Beware The Linebackers
With nose tackle Eddie Goldman not practicing with an ankle injury suffered against the Buccaneers, the Bears’ linebackers might be more vulnerable than they had been in the past. That being said, former Bronco Danny Trevathan and rookie Leonard Floyd are dangerous.
As anyone who watched the Broncos in 2015 knows, Trevathan might be undersized, but his athleticism and range see him flying around the field and he made an impressive 13 tackles against the Buccaneers.
Floyd was commonly thought to be the Giants’ top target in the 2016 draft, and the Bears traded ahead of the Giants to draft the University of Georgia product at ninth overall. After a slow start plagued by injury Floyd is beginning to play to his draft position with 4.5 sacks in the last three games.
Floyd, like Trevathan are both also skilled in coverage, with Floyd in particular having the length to match up on tight ends. That might make creating mismatches in the middle of the field more difficult than the Giants are used to -- They really like getting Will Tye on a crossing route near the sticks on third downs. With Floyd’s length and athleticism, that route might not be there.
But when it comes to defending the run, however, the Giants might be able to exploit the Bears.
The Giants are fond of using a “pin and pull” technique with their offensive linemen, using a pulling lineman to add aspects of a power scheme to zone blocking. While Floyd uses his length well to deal with (most) tight end blocks and is able to shed them almost at will, his lanky 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame puts him at a disadvantage against a lineman. Floyd was sent sprawling several times when matched up against 330-pound Donovan Smith of the Buccaneers. If anything, Flowers is even stronger, and he has been playing effectively against talented competition in recent weeks.
Inside, Weston Richburg is still one of the top centers in the league despite not playing with the surgical precision he did in the 2015 season. If the Giants can work him to the second level, his agility and ability to use angles to his advantage could help the Giants deal with Trevathan in the run game.
In the passing game, Vic Fangio has been working Floyd into more designed blitzes, scheming to get him open looks at the quarterback. That is where Richburg and Eli Manning’s football IQ will come into play. It will be up to them to diagnose the Bears’ blitzes and call the appropriate protections.
The Giants have the offensive firepower to take this game over, but they will need to execute their scheme, game plan, and assignments well to bring it to bear.