Giants Film Breakdown: 2016 NFL Week 14 — Sunday Night Football — Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Football Giants
After the Week 14 match up with the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Football Giants sit in second place in the NFC East, and tied for the second-best record in the NFC overall. Despite the record, there are some encouraging positives and glaring weaknesses with this team. The thing about both of these characteristics is that they are both the things that have cost them wins and been the chief reason they’ve won several games this season.
After beginning the season with a disappointing 2-3 mark; including losing to a team with no offense to speak of (Minnesota) and a team that had already shown cracks in the dam on both sides of the ball (Green Bay), and after previously blowing a 21-9 lead in the process of losing to the Washington Redskins in Week 3, the Giants reeled off seven wins in the last eight games. Much was stated about the level of their opposition, despite them being the same teams that Dallas beat, minus the criticism of Dallas’ record while they were on a then-11-game winning streak.
Ben McAdoo became the Giants’ head coach prior to this season, and much of it was believed to be on the strength of the efficient and high powered offenses that he had coordinated in 2014 and 2015 after succeeding Kevin Gilbride (who looks like Bill Walsh compared to what McAdoo has done with the Giants offense in 2016) despite possessing more talent than Gilbride probably ever had other than in 2008. His playcalling reeks of a coach who is fail-safe, looking to call plays with the least amount of risk possible, thereby placing his offense in bad situations where they invariably have to take risks because the plays are predictable, slow to develop, and poorly executed. If not for the play of his defense, his team would likely be 4-9 right now, not 9-4.
Offensive Line Play.
The Giants have issues along their offensive line. They continue to utilize Ereck Flowers at left tackle, despite being better suited to play guard or right tackle. The failure this has produced has reverberations throughout the entire offense. Flowers has subpar feet, spotty technique and overall lazy play at times. He has been spotted many times throughout this season with his hands down out of his stance in pass protection, getting out over his hips at times, and slow with his feet when cornering off the edge against pass rushers. He’s been adequate in run blocking, but he also has his fair share of holding and false start penalties, which is inexcusable. Flowers was solid in 2015, but he has regressed horribly to levels not even seen while in college at Miami (FL).
Justin Pugh has been good (actually rated #1 according to Pro Football Focus — for what that is worth) among left guards, before he was injured. Marshall Newhouse (and others before him) have been decent in that slot. Not great, but not killing the offense by any means. Weston Richburg has been above average, but has had his fair share of inexplicable gaffes — particularly in pass protection — coupled with John Jerry, who continues to be porous in run blocking.
The Giants utilize a lot of double teams, reach blocks, and pulls with their line in order to create rushing lanes to aid the struggling rushing attack. At times, these techniques work, but we have seen in every game that when you have a center/guard double team combination, a crease between the guard and tackle forms, and the run gets blown up for minimal game or a loss, or a pass rusher/blitzer gets to Eli Manning quicker than the play can develop. This has been a constant issue all season when drives stall or are destroyed with turnovers. John Jerry is the best pulling lineman on the team. Often times he will pull to his left and wrap around tightly (keep this in mind) behind the center so that linebackers cannot shoot gaps and blow up the outside running plays. Occasionally, Richburg will kick out, Pugh would pull to the right once in a while, and Bobby Hart has mostly remained in his slot at right tackle. He’s not played to the level that he did at Florida State, but he has been leagues better than Newhouse was at that position.
Ultimately, too many errors in technique from Ereck Flowers have cost the Giants yardage on the ground and in the passing game for the aforementioned reasons. Last night, we saw Flowers get beat several times off the edge with technique that would make a middle school offensive lineman cringe and look over his shoulder for his line coach to scold him. Then, on a couple of runs, the Giants had Flowers pulling on runs. The team had the blocks lined up well on both runs, but Flowers was far too wide and did not get a hat on Sean Lee, who submarined in to blow up both runs. This happened to Marshall Newhouse as well, but he is a natural tackle pulling as a guard, so he gets somewhat of a mulligan.
Too Much Onus on Receivers to Win Routes Every Down.
The scheme the Giants employ requires so much of the players, versus the play caller scheming around the individual abilities of the receivers. Sometimes, this can work (see the Green Bay Packers in Aaron Rodgers’ prime years) but when you utilize the same personnel and formations 85% of the time. Couple this with the shaky offensive line play, and inexplicable decisions with the football at times by Manning, and you have what is an offense that scores a touchdown fewer per game on average than what it had in McAdoo’s two previous seasons as offensive coordinator.
Inconsistencies from All Receivers.
Odell Beckham continues to have lapses in focus when it comes to catching the ball. Granted, there are times (read: often) when defensive players are draped on his back as the ball arrives, but there are times when he drops passes while wide open and unpressured. Victor Cruz cannot create separation, and has always had issues with drops — particularly at critical times — while Roger “Otto” Lewis has not shown to be a proficient route runner who understands the nuances of playing the wide receiver position. Sterling Shepard has been consistent, even if he has been overlooked at times in the offense, which is another thing that falls at the feet of Ben McAdoo, and to an extent, Eli Manning.
The tight end position has been mostly below average all year, although the unit has been better of late at both run blocking, pass protection and getting downfield in the route since Larry Donnell was benched and/or demoted to special teams online.
The only real question mark on the Giants defense is the soft spot between the linebackers and defensive backs where they tend to get beaten at times with tight ends, which has happened a good bit this season. Otherwise, they are sound at every level, even with injuries and multiple changes in personnel since last season.
The defense has been solid to flat out great all year. After a middling start (although they were not surrendering much in the way of points), they hit their stride, and that culminated with yeoman’s work in Week 14 against what is otherwise a very good Dallas offense — particularly without Jason Pierre-Paul, who was lost for the rest of the regular season due to a sports hernia.
Olivier Vernon has picked up his play since Week 7 and has produced on par with what the Giants believed they were getting when they signed him to that large contract. Signing Damon “Snacks” Harrison has been huge, as he pairs with Johnathan Hankins to form an impenetrable tackle front. Jason Pierre-Paul lines up on each end and occasionally inside at times, while the Giants have also utilized Romeo Okwara, who showed out in the preseason, as well as Owamagbe Odighizuwa in limited duty (as Vernon and Pierre-Paul rarely left the field through the first two months of the season). Linebackers are not superstars by any means, but they swarm to the football and have played tighter in coverage than the sieve that was the worst defense in Giants history in 2015.
The Giants secondary is virtually second to none. Only the fully healthy Seahawks and Broncos secondaries are better. Spearheaded by shutdown corner Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the stellar play of Landon Collins, there isn’t much to get against the Giants secondary in the pass. Andrew Adams has come along on short notice with injuries to Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe. He had a gaffe on the lone Dallas score in Week 14, or else the Giants would have likely shut out this much-lauded offense.
Going forward, the Giants could continue what they’ve done defensively. They match up well with most offenses now because Eli Apple (who is finally healthy) is rounding into form, as well.
Offensively, if the Giants do not become more multiple on offense (while being so on defense, which is even more maddening when you know what you are watching), they aren’t going far. In a game where the offense was probably the worst it has been all season (and that’s with two or three other stinkers on the ledger), against what is a bad defense — regardless of what rankings say about Dallas’ defense, it is not good — it is amazing they even won the game, despite leaving about 24 points on the field. This is a trend that cannot continue. McAdoo needs to utilize his offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan and cede playcalling duties, because he is the only thing holding back this team from being explosive on both sides of the ball.