The Giants beat up on Washington, by the score of 45-14, but how dominating was their performance? Does the 31 point margin of victory reflect the relative strength of the two teams? In order to better examine these questions, we will do our Tuesday deep statistical dive on Saturday, due to the Thursday night game. It’s a combination of homegrown statistics and those provided by the impartial evaluators at ProFootballFocus (PFF), a subscription site that impartially evaluates player performance.
The Giants averaged slightly more than 4 yards per carry against a Redskins team that had not given up no more than 3.5 yards per carry in their first three games, gaining 154 yards on 38 attempts. This would imply a stellar performance by the offensive line, but that’s not the case, as only Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg rated out highly for the game. John Jerry, who appeared to have a strong game in film review, with several good blocks noted, surprisingly rated the lowest, garnering a negative rating for the game.
The team ran best up the middle and to the right of center, averaging 5.58 yards on their 17 carries. This outstanding average makes Jerry’s poor rating even more baffling.
Fullback Henry Hynoski was on the field for 18 snaps and graded out average, an improvement over his negative grades against Houston. Preseason sensation Corey Washington was on the field for 20 snaps on offense, rating out as average, but had no passes thrown in his direction.
Penetration on run plays by opposing defenses, measure by dividing negative plays as a percentage of total rushing attempts has decreased steadily through the first four games, from 9.09% in the season opener, to 7.41% against the Cardinals, down to 4.71% versus Houston, and finally dropping to 2.63% on Thursday night. In 2013, the Giants averaged a negative play, or stuff on 12.6% of rushing plays, an indicator of how bad the offensive line was last season. The steady decline, especially achieved against a series of strong defenses, is an indicator of growing cohesion among the Giants starting five offensive linemen.
Manning has thrown 9 touchdown passes in 4 games, and is on pace to throw 36 for the season, doubling his touchdowns from 2013. Pass protection was also improved, with Manning considered under pressure on just 6 of 41 drop backs, or 14.6% of the passing plays, lower than last week’s 17.2% Will Beatty has another good game pass blocking, but had the only high rating among the linemen. As expected, Pugh, who gave up the only sack of the night, rated the lowest for pass blocking. Each starting lineman registered a quarterback hurry surrendered, with Jerry registering two.
Rashad Jennings his second straight game with poor pass blocking. To no one’s surprise, Manning and Larry Donnell both rated out highly for the game. Donnell’s improved run blocking, one of the pleasant surprises against the Texans, did not carry over into this game.
The Giants have 20 red zone drives already in 2014, and are averaging 5 per game. The team has scored 12 touchdowns, 4 field goals, and come up empty 4 times. By comparison, the 2013 Giants averaged 2.5 red zone drives per game, and scored 17 touchdowns for the season, 14 field goals, but only came up empty 5 times in 16 games.
Based on the first four games, with 8 give aways, the Giants would have 32 turnovers for the season. However, with only one in each of the last two games, this rate drops to 20, using the reduced average, a much more manageable rate. Ball security needs to remain an area of focus.
The Giants had more first down against Washington, 31, than in any game this season, and converted 11 of 16 first downs, a rate of 68.75%, also a season high. In his Tuesday press conference, McAdoo said that converting third downs was an area of focus for the offense during the shortened week. The focus was successful, and the team needs to maintain the gains.
The team registered four more drops, bringing the season total to twelve. Victor Cruz, Preston Parker, Jennings, and Andre Williams all dropped a pass on Thursday night, and Cruz leads the team, and NFL with 5 drops. While no other player on the team has more than two through four games, this disturbing trend is an area requiring correction.
Despite the dropped passes, Manning completed 71.79% of his attempts against Washington, bringing his season rate up to 66.91%. This is a career high for Manning by a wide margin.
On defense, Cullen Jenkins, Jameel McClain, and Antrel Rolle all graded out poorly against the run. Mark Herzlich and Jason-Pierre Paul graded out highly. The Giants obviously miss Jon Beason’s run defense and have given up 4.88 yards per carry in the two games he’s missed. They surrendered just 3.45 yards per carry in the two games he played.
Pierre-Paul had a rough night rushing the passer and has not rounded back into his pre-injury form in that department yet. Robert Ayers continued his strong pass rushing performance, grading out the highest. The Giants put Kirk Cousins under pressure on 8 of his 35 drop backs, an average of 22.8%. This is down from the 34.8% pressure percentage for Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Texans last week.
Trumaine McBride, Prince Amukamara, and newly promoted starter Demps excelled in pass coverage, while Herzlich was every bit the liability he appeared be be on film review. Herzlich gave up 81 yards to opposing running backs and tight ends.
Demoted safety Stevie Brown was on the field for four snaps.
After allowing opponents into the red zone nine times in their first two games, the Giants defense has allowed opponents to penetrate only three times, twice by Houston and only once by Washington on Thursday night.
The Redskins converted only one third down in eight attempts.
No one other than punter Steve Weatherford graded out well on special teams, although Zack Bowman was better, rating out average, rather than his usual poor, for the game. Rookie Nat Berhe was a liability.
Weatherford averaged 45 yards on 5 punts, and with none returned – three were downed, one went out of bounds, and one fair caught, that was also his net average.
As expected, the game featured a lot of penalties, with nineteen flags thrown by the Carl Cheffers crew, seven on the Giants (all accepted), and twelve on the Redskins (11 accepted). True to their tendencies, nine of the nineteen were blocking infractions, five on the Giants, and 4 on the Redskins. Only two were point of emphasis penalties.
It’s clear from the analytics that the offense has started to come together. If Odell Beckham is able to assimilate, and defenses adjust to respect his deep speed, running lanes will open, as will underneath routes for Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Donnell. Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo have fixed the broken Giants offense.
The lack of a consistent pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul is concerning. There is not a statistic on PFF for facing double teams, and that’s difficult to consistently discern on television. I will keep an eye out for it when I’m at the Giants vs Falcons game to see if that’s the issue. If his lack of production is due to drawing blocking from his teammates and is contributing to Ayers, Mathias Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore registering sacks, he’s making his presence felt. The Giants have 11 sacks in 4 games, which translates to 44 for the season. While better than the 34 tallied in 2013, this defense is capable of more.
This brings us to special teams. The only word that can be used to describe these units is disaster. Kick and punt coverage has improved, but had concerning moments during the first quarter of the season. The return units are plagued by penalties that have wiped out any potentially game altering return. The only hope that can offered is that they were worse in 2013 and became significantly better in the second half of the season. The turnover in talent may be the cause, and special team coordinator Tom Quinn has shown he can turn things around.
Coughlin’s post game press conference was brimming with positives, which one would expect given the 31 point margin of victory. His opening comments included, “We played well and did a lot of good things. To be plus 5 is really something.” He also complimented the players focus, how quickly they moved past the victory over Houston to concentrate on this game, and that the nicked up players stepped up and played with short recovery time.
He was most impressed with the offense in the first half, “The ball control aspect of it.” The Giants held the ball for 18 minutes in the first half, and 37 minutes for the game. Washington dominated time of possession last week against the Eagles, holding the ball for 35 minutes to Philadelphia’s 25 and ball control was emphasized in the Giants game plan this week.
Coughlin is concerned about how the Redskins were able to move the ball on defense and said “We will take a look at that” during the down time between games. He added that “Our defense had their moments. They got turnovers.”
Asked about the field goal just before the half, Coughlin said the drive was important for two reasons beyond the obvious points on the scoreboard. It proved to the team that they can move the ball down field with a little more than a minute left in the half and that they can make a play, down field, with just 7 seconds left and leave time on the clock for a field goal attempt.
Among the many things Coughlin was pleased about with the offense is, “There doesn’t seem to be the misfires in the middle of drives that we had.” He’s also pleased with the pass protection, “For the most part.”
Despite Washington’s success stopping the run, the Giants game plan included running the ball throughout the game. “We knew what we were up again,” said Coughlin, “We didn’t have a lot of immediate success but we stuck with it. We wanted our turn at bat.”
It would be hard not to be impressed with Donnell’s performance on Thursday night, but Coughlin won’t allow the tight end to be complacent. While complimenting him, he also called upon the budding start to keep working and improving. His weak run blocking will likely be a focus of film study this week to point out that his game still need to get better.
Coughlin would not and say that Randle’s unregistered touchdown turned interception was a bad call by Cheffers. Instead saying, “I shook my head. Something about he didn’t make a football move… He (Cheffers) thought it was to quick that the ball came out.”
By his tone and demeanor, Coughlin obviously disagreed, but as coaches get heavily fined for publicly commenting on officiating, don’t expect a strong statement regarding a call. Especially after a victory.
If the Forty-Niners beat the Eagles and the Saints beat the Cowboys tomorrow, the Giants will enter Monday tied for second place in the NFC East, one game out of the division lead. After the Falcons game, the Giants play at Philadelphia the night of October 12th, and then at Dallas, late Sunday afternoon on October 19th, leading into their bye week. If the team stays healthy and hot, the division lead is there for the taking.
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