In an effort to get a little bit more inside the game, Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, will give us his insight on the intricacies of the game. Look for his analysis before each game.
BREAKING DOWN THE GIANTS' OFFENSE
The New York Giants’ offense is very intriguing right now because it is dealing with key injuries as well a red-hot Eli Manning despite a porous running game. One of the key injuries that the team is dealing with is running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has a cracked bone in his foot, and is expected to play this weekend, but it could limit his workload. This is significant because the Giants like to use Bradshaw in various ways out of their several personnel groupings, which include 10 (single back), 11 (1 back, 1 tight end), 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends) and 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end).
Bradshaw is a very talented running back, as he is able to run on the frontside of the defense as well as the backside with equal success. Not all running backs possess this ability, which makes Bradshaw special. He is also able to run in between the tackles despite his size and has the quickness to make cuts to elude defenders. Bradshaw’s multiple talents allow the Giants to use several run concepts. These run concepts include Outside Zone, Toss, Counter Trey, Trap, Draw and Lead.
These run concepts are crucial to the success of the Giants offense because they help set up the passing game. The Giants have had troubles running the ball this season, but Manning has done a good job of selling the play action and still beating defenses.
Manning has had a stellar first half of the season, completing nearly 65 percent of his passes while keeping his touchdown to turnover ratio respectable. Last season, Manning threw 25 interceptions, which cost the Giants games down the stretch. Manning’s offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, has done a good job of using the plethora of weapons that he has to attack defenses. This is nothing new with Gilbride, as he’s put together potent offenses in the past, most notably with the Houston Oilers from 1990 to 1994.
During his time in Houston, Gilbride ran the “Run and Shoot” offense which ranked top five in scoring each year he was there. The Run and Shoot is commonly known as a heavy passing offense that featured a lot of vertical throws. In New York, Gilbride uses short throws to get Manning in a rhythm and the defense attacking aggressively downhill before hitting them deep. The short throws include screen passes, slant, curl, flat and stick routes.
However, Gilbride has brought over some of the passing concepts from his offense in Houston. One of the frequent concepts is ‘Switch.’ The ‘Switch’ concept has two wide receivers running a diagonal stem for about 5 to 6 yards before turning up the field. The inside receiver, known as the No. 2 or slot receiver, runs a “wheel route” and has multiple options based off of the coverage and leverage of the defender. Meanwhile, the outside receiver, known as the No. 1, runs up the field after the diagonal stem and also has multiple options. If there is a safety in the middle of the field, he can run straight down the field or a deep-in route. He also has the option of running a post route if there are two safeties in the middle of the field or simply sitting down like he would on a Curl route.
One of the issues that the Giants have had with this season is protecting Manning. The Giants are averaging two sacks allowed per game, which is twelfth in the league, but their star quarterback is still being pressured a significant amount of time.
Often employing a six man zone (also known as “area”) protection, the Giants offensive linemen and running back or tight end have had trouble sustaining their blocks, which has given Manning less time to throw. The guards of the Giants are playing with high pad level, which puts them at a disadvantage because they do not have leverage in blocking. Meanwhile, the offensive tackles have been slow getting off the ball and have paid for it, especially RT Kareem McKenzie, who was beaten bad multiple times last week.
BREAKING DOWN THE GIANTS' DEFENSE:
Let’s get it out of the way right now: Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is an aggressive play caller. Fewell uses various fronts and coverages to create confusion for the offense. Some of the fronts he uses include Okie, which is a three-man line with the center and offensive tackles covered by defenders. This front is the same one that the Patriots faced last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fewell also uses a four-man line but in three different ways. One way is his two defensive tackles in the standard one technique, which is the on the outside shoulder of the center, and three technique, which is the outside shoulder of the guard. In this case, the defensive ends will align on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles in a five technique.
The second way is with the two defensive tackles in three technique while the defensive ends are in five technique. This front is usually used by the Giants on passing downs.
The third and final way is with the left defensive tackle in a three technique on the strong side of the formation while the right defensive tackle on the weak side of the formation is in a shaded two technique (also known as 2i in the diagram). Meanwhile, the strong side end, Justin Tuck (91), is aligned head up on the tight end and the backside end (on the right) is in a loose five technique. This four-man line is usually accompanied by three linebackers, with the strong side linebacker (“SAM”) aligned in a shaded nine technique on the tight end.
Along with these fronts, Fewell will use a Bear front. His Bear front is not the typical one -- with three down lineman - instead it features five defensive linemen, much like the Dallas Cowboys do when they go to their Bear front under Rob Ryan.
Despite these various fronts and a plethora of quality pass rushers, Fewell does not hold back on his blitzes. He will call zone blitzes as well as man blitzes. Man blitzes are as it says, several pressure players with man coverage behind them. The Giants’ man blitzes feature Cover 0 and Man-Free (Cover 1) in the defensive secondary. These two coverages are played with and without the blitz. Other coverages that the Giants will use when they aren’t blitzing include Cover 3, Tampa 2 as well as what many will call Cover 5, which is Cover 2 Man.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Patriots DL vs. Giants OL - The Patriots have struggled applying pressure this season, but there may be a chance of them having some success when they face a Giants offensive line that can sometimes get sloppy with technique. The Giants struggle getting off the line at times and will play with high pad level.
- Giants Man Coverage vs. Patriots Crossing Routes and Hot Reads - Anytime a team plays man coverage, it has to be noted that crossing routes by the offense can do damage because of the defenders being in trail position. The Giants could have these issues if they plan to send man blitzes in the direction of quarterback Tom Brady. Also, the Patriots will likely look to their hot reads when dealing with the pressure. It is possible that the Giants try to play more defenders in coverage, thus sending less blitzes and relying on their pass rushers to apply pressure on Brady.
- Patriots Secondary vs. Giants WRs - The Giants are without number one WR Hakeem Nicks this weekend but still have Manningham and Cruz that can do damage to the Patriots secondary. Cruz is dangerous after the catch and is able to make high degree of difficulty catches while Manningham does a solid job of running routes. Cruz is a threat vertically, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will likely test the Patriots secondary.
- Giants LBs vs. Patriots TEs - Against the Miami Dolphins last week, the Giants LBs keyed TE Anthony Fasano and often aligned over him to jam him at the snap of the ball. This week, they face Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Who will they key? How will they handle the two talented pass catchers?
- Giants MLB Greg Jones vs. Patriots RBs - Jones is a very undisciplined player that often is out of position and not executing his assignment. Last week against the Dolphins, running back Reggie Bush had a few big runs against the Giants and mainly because of Jones’ issues. The Patriots will likely look to combination block the interior defensive lineman of the Giants while running up the middle and making Jones play assignment football.