Giants News, Notes, and Reflections: Sept 23, 2014


Of the many words used to describe the Giants offensive line this season, one that wasn’t expected got thrown about frequently was dominating. Will Beatty, Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton, John Jerry, and Justin Pugh put together their finest performance of the season by far, and their ratings on (PFF) bears that out. In today’s News, Notes, and Reflections, as the Giants prepare for their quick turnaround game against the Washington Redskins on Thursday, Giants360 is taking our Tuesday deep dive into the statistics to see how the team performed. They are a combination of some homegrown stats and the brilliants work of the game graders at PFF, which requires a subscription to view. Below are the highlights, and the premium statistics package is recommended for those of you who enjoy the statistical side of the game.

All of the offensive linemen graded out positively, which should come as no surprise, given the rushing performance turned in by Rashad Jennings. In Monday’s game review, Giants360 pointed out that Jennings seemed to have most of his success running to the left behind Beatty and Richburg. This was confirmed by the PFF ratings as 23 of Jennings 34 carries were to the left of center for 123 out of 176 yards. Somewhat surprisingly, both linemen rated out better against the pass than the run, but both ratings were positive. Walton was the highest rated run blocking offensive lineman.

John Jerry has a good day run blocking
John Jerry has a good day run blocking

Jerry also had an especially good day run blocking, as noted, Jennings touchdown was behind a Jerry block. Pugh gave up the Giants only sack of the game, and struggled against the pass, earning a negative rating, but had a good day run blocking. The most pleasantly surprising rating was Larry Donnell’s strong run blocking as this had been an area where he has struggled. The Giants 4.60 yard per carry average for the game represents a high for the season to date. Their 14 rushing first downs were more that they had in their first two games combined (9).

The most unpleasant surprise among the run block ratings is Henry Hynoski’s negative one. Film review made it seem as if Hynoski’s blocking was keying the strong running game, but the PFF review rated him out poorly. Hynoski was in for 19 of 72 snaps on offense. It’s possible that his presence caused Houston to key on the run and contributed to the poor performance or his preseason shoulder injury may still be troublesome.

Another surprise rating was Jennings, who, despite a monster afternoon, rated out average, due mainly to poor pass blocking. He also had great blocking to the right side and only gained 40 yards on 11 carries in that direction. Given his career highs in yardage, carries, and yards per carry (for a game with more than 15 carries), one would expect an astronomical rating. Reviewing objective evaluations takes into consideration the entire scope of responsibility. Jennings excelled at running left and up the middle, but can improve his pass blocking and running to the right. Tom Coughlin will certainly point out his opportunities for improvement to keep him grounded.

Pass protection was greatly improved, with Beatty and Richburg leading all linemen. Eli Manning completed 75% of his passes for the day and has a 65% completion percentage on the season, just 5% short of Ben McAdoo’s stretch goal of 70%. The team’s average per pass play has steadily increased over their three games, from 4.11 to 6.34 to 7.79, an indicator of both improving pass protection and greater comfort with the offense. Pass attempts per sack have also nearly doubled, from 16.50 against the Lions to 28.00 in Sunday’s game.

After being under pressure for almost one third of his drop backs against the Lions, Manning was pressured on only 5 of his 29 drop backs yesterday, a rate of 17.2%. Compare this to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was pressured by the Giants defense on 15 of 43 drop backs, a rate of 34.8%. The only dropped pass recorded by a wide receiver was by Preston Parker, meaning that Rueben Randle’s end zone play was not considered a drop.

Red zone offense, where the Giants had been solid through 2 weeks, struggled, registering just 2 touchdown in 7 trips, with 3 field goals and 2 failures – the Donnell fumble and the botched field goal attempt.

Stevie Brown, benched. In line for less playing time?
Stevie Brown, benched. In line for less playing time?

On defense, Stevie Brown was assigned responsibility for the Damaris Johnson 44 yard touchdown. He was replaced at free safety by rookie Nat Berhe, who saw action on 19 of the team’s 66 defensive snaps. Brown played only 46 snaps after being on the field for the entirety of the first two games. Brown’s knee seems to not be fully recovered from the ACL repair. It often takes two full seasons for an athlete to recover their form after suffering the catastrophic tear Brown did last summer. Adrian Peterson’s rapid 10 month recovery and subsequent chase of the NFL season rushing record was the exception rather than the rule. Berhe is in line for more playing time as Brown continues to recover, but don’t write him off just yet.

The best performances on the defense, and there were many, were turned in by both starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Robert Ayers, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Cullen Jenkins. Jason Pierre-Paul struggled rushing the passer, but turned in a solid performance against the run.

Starting his first game due to his run stopping prowess, Mark Herzlich was solid, especially against the run. Jameel McClain struggled in pass coverage, something he was known for in Baltimore. This may be attributable to his shift in position for the game. Markus Kuhn, back for his first game after suffering a high ankle sprain in August, saw 13 snaps. While Damontre Moore rated out poorly as a pass rusher in his 20 snaps.

Ayers was a pleasant surprise, recording 5 of the Giants 15 quarterback hurries on the afternoon. No other player recorded more than 2. The Giants defense was credited with 6 missed tackles – two by Jenkins, and one each by McClain, Jacquian Williams, Ayers, and  Rodgers-Cromartie. Ayers flew under the radar as a free agent acquisition from the Denver Broncos with Geoff Schwartz and Rodgers-Cromartie getting the headlines, but he has proven a valuable addition to the rebuilt defensive line, playing good run defense and rushing the passer. Keep and eye on number 91.

The Giants are among the top teams in the league with 7 sacks. Thursday’s opponent, the Washington Redskins, actually lead the NFL with 11, but that number is misleading as 10 came in their week 2 game against Jacksonville’s pitiful offensive line. The Giants are 10th in the NFL in attempts per sack on defense, with an average of 13.71.

The Giants defense is performing well in the red zone, holding opponents to 5 touchdowns in 11 trips, and forcing them to kick field goals 6 times.

The explanation Coughlin would give for Brown’s benching is that is was “Not injury related.” The Texans’ success throwing over the middle had to be a factor in the decision. On the day, Fitzpatrick completed 15 of 20 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown down the middle of the field. Those number are inflated by late game soft defense strategy, but it was also evident that attacking the middle of the field was among the Texans’ half time adjustments.

Special teams remains a nightmare
Special teams remains a nightmare

Special teams remains a team nightmare, and will surely be an area of focus during the ten day “mini-bye” between Thursday’s game and the Giants’ October 5th game against the Atlanta Falcons. Penalties, missed tackles, and blown assignments on special teams threaten to turn the positive tide back to one of frustration and failure. Had Moore not blocked the punt on Sunday, the special teams contribution to the win would have been absolutely nothing. Beyond that one play, Moore rated out among the worst on the Giants special teams.

Zack Bowman, who has a bad game last week against the Cardinals, had another against Houston, as did Berhe. No one on special teams rated out particularly well. Steve Weatherford, at first glance, would appear to have had a pedestrian afternoon, averaging only 39.8 yards per punt. However, when you consider that all 4 of his punts pinned the Texans inside their own 20, with no touchbacks, the average makes sense and he was extremely effective.

Bowman suffered a quad injury on Sunday and did not participate in Monday’s walk through in preparation for Thursday’s Redskins game. He was a limited participant today. He will likely be inactive. Jon Beason has participated on a limited basis and is hopeful to be on the field, although, given the performance of the defense and his long term importance, the prudent move would be to hold him out and give his foot the extended rest offered by the “mini-bye.”

Odell Beckham has been ruled out for the game. He is making progress and it will be surprising if he is unable to fully practice next week and doesn’t at least return punts against the Falcons. Given the progress made by the offense over the past two weeks, Beckham’s addition will provide the talent boost needed to bring it to the next level. Defenses will have to adjust to guard against his speed, opening up better running lanes for Jennings and underneath routes for Cruz, Randle, and Donnell. His participation in one-on-one wide receiver drills today during the walk through is encouraging, although it is not against a defender. He was officially listed as a limited participant in today’s practice, after carrying the did not practice designation in all previous regular season practices. However, until Beckham suits up and takes part in a full contact practice, he will be a game day inactive.

Charles Brown and James Brewer, both inactive for the first three games, were also limited participants in the walk-throughs, taking part in individual drills only.

In Coughlin’s post game press conferences following the Detroit and Arizona games, the underlying theme was “Nightmare.” After Sunday’s victory, he used the word “Outstanding” multiple times to describe the performance and several players, including Manning, Jennings, Rolle, Donnell, and the offensive line. What a difference a win makes.

Coughlin saw a lot that he liked. And a few things he didn't.
Coughlin saw a lot that he liked. And a few things he didn’t.

Coughlin’s opening remarks talked about the positive takeaways from the game, “Winning the turnover battle, we rushed for 193, had the interception turnovers, blocked the punt, which is really, really good, and we forced them to play from behind… all were contributors.” But, he also reminded the players of the areas that need work, “We left some plays out there, no doubt. We had the bad snap from center and that hurt us on the field goal. We had the turnover on the long drive…”

Coughlin is one of the best coaches at making week to week corrections. He also excels at keeping players grounded when press clipping are too positive. A win this week against a disappointed Redskins team, losers of a close game to division rival Philadelphia, will have the Giants season back on track.

The Giants won both games with Washington last season, and hold a 13-6 record against them under Coughlin.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has taken over for the injured Robert Griffin III, has provided a spark for the Redskins offense. A better pocket passer than highly skilled runner Griffin, Cousins is better suited to run new Washington head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. When Griffin returns from injury in 3-4 weeks, it may ignite a quarterback controversy in the nation’s capital as the electrifying Griffin is a fan favorite.

Should the Giants come through this game relatively injury free, the ten day “mini-bye” will provide an opportunity for injured players to heal. The team should head into the Falcons game healthier than they have been since the season opener. Their full bye is October 26th following back to back games at Philadephia and at Dallas.

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