It’s the Giants bye week, their chance to regroup, recharge, and prepare for the grueling end of the 17 week NFL marathon. With injuries mounting for the Giants, their bye couldn’t be better timed and, having lost back to back games to division opponents, it also give the team the opportunity to lick their wounds, self evaluation, and make the corrections needed to salvage a season that has started slip-slidin’ away. To help with that process, we offer our Tuesday deep stat dive reviewing Sunday’s game stats using a combination of homegrown statistics and the subscription rating from profootballfocus.com (PFF).
One of the Giants360 keys to victory for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys was running the ball, and the Giants brain trust agreed, testing the Cowboys run defense early and often. A close look at the results reveals how ineffective the Giants run game has become without the injured Rashad Jennings. The stat line reads 26 carries for 104 yard, a reasonable 4.00 yard per carry average by NFL standards, but if you back out Odell Beckham’s 13 yard end around, Eli Manning’s 11 yard scramble, and Andre Williams 22 yard burst from that total, the resulting stat line is a pathetic 58 yard on 23 carries. An average of only 2.52 yards per carry.
Run blocking was obviously not sufficient on Sunday afternoon, and the two main culprits were Will Beatty and Weston Richburg, according to PFF, both rated out poorly blocking for Williams and Peyton Hillis. Justin Pugh also struggled with run blocking against Dallas. The other linemen and tight end Larry Donnell were rated average, which represents an improvement for Donnell, but in the NFL, average doesn’t get the job done.
The Dallas defense was getting penetration on the Giants offensive line, stuffing the run (zero or negative gain plays) 4 times in 23 attempts, for a 15.38% stuff rate. The rate at which opponents have stuffed Giants rushing attempts has increased from 2.94% (Falcons) to 8.70% (Eagles) to the 15.38% achieved by the Cowboys. An alarming trend of ineffective running that’s caused a downward spiral for the entire offense. The loss of Jennings coupled with the relative inexperience of rookie replacement Williams is a big contributing factor.
Beatty an Richburg also rated poorly in pass blocking, making this an all around bad game for the left side of the Giants offensive line. Pugh was the lone lineman to get a positive rating in the game, grading out well for his pass blocking effort. After the four sack surrendering performance he suffered against the Eagles, a bounce back game in pass blocking was critical to Pugh’s psyche as a professional athlete. Given the atrocious pass blocking in the Philadelphia game, it was apparent that this was an area of focus during the week of preparation, perhaps to the detriment of run blocking work.
Eli Manning was under pressure 9 of his 34 drop back, for a rate of 26.50%, an improvement from last week, but still higher than the rates in the teens he enjoyed during the three game running streak. One area where he improved was throwing under pressure where there was no steep drop off in effectiveness as seen in the past two games. Given the offensive line struggles, Manning will need to throw well when pressured with consistency in order for the Giants offense to succeed.
Drops resurfaced this week with Rueben Randle and Hillis being credited with one each by PFF. This is an area that needs to be addressed by the coaching staff during the bye as drops can derail an offense that depends on rhythm and sustained drives for success. After leading the league in red zone drives per game after their three game win streak, the Giants have managed only three red zone drives in the past two games combined. The Philadelphia and Dallas defenses are not considered among the NFL’s elite, and therefore Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo need to look within for the solution to the Giants offensive woes.
On defense, the Cowboys ran the ball 35 out out of 60 plays, a rate of 58.3%, and a season high for an opponent running the ball against the Giants defense. Their average of 4.46 yards per carry was at the season average for what opponents achieve against the Giants defense and just 0.3 yards per carry more than the NFL average. The issue was the Giants inability to stop DeMarco Murray in critical situations and the defense’s failure on third down where Dallas converted 9 of 14 attempts, a rate of 64.3%. Only the Lions, converting 66.7% in the season opener has more success against the Giants defense in 2014.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Jameel McClain, and emerging star Jonathan Hankins rated highly against the run in the Cowboys game. Mathias Kiwanuka, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, and Antrel Rolle all earned negative ratings. When three of the four defensive tackles in the rotation are struggling to stop the run, a defense is in for a long afternoon.
Quintin Demps struggled in pass coverage for the second straight week, suggesting that opponents have diagnosed his game on film and his effectiveness in coverage has waned. With Stevie Brown returning to the field in limited snaps for the three safety package that Perry Fewell favors, and rookie Nat Berhe also in the fold, it may be time to consider making another change at free safety. Demps is not getting the job done in coverage. Romo threw the middle of the field 13 times on Sunday, completing 12 for 172 (out of 279) yards and all three of his touchdown. Andrew Luck is up next, life is not getting easier for the middle of the Giants defense.
Zack Bowman was credited with surrendering one of the touchdowns to Gavin Escobar and the touchdown the touchdown to Terrence William by PFF. Bowman had good coverage on both plays, but had a 5 inch height disadvantage to Escobar and the Williams touchdown was as a result of no pass rush. Giants360 posted a video on our Twitter account yesterday that shows Williams go from covered to open as a result of the incredible amount of time Romo has on the play. PFF shows that he was under pressure 26.9% of his drop backs, and that his effectiveness dropped 60% when pressured, however, only Pierre-Paul rated out highly as a pass rusher.
The first Escobar touchdown was credited by PFF as being surrendered by Demps. Giants360 review of the play shows Jayron Hosley dropping into phantom coverage and moving like an old school video game player mis-programmed on the play. As no one has access to the coverage assignments and the Giants don’t like to share responsibility for blown coverages publicly, we won’t know who was supposed to have Escobar. Hosley looked horrid in the preseason, and in his first game back, did not appear to have improved. Terrell Thomas is available and the bye week is a good opportunity to check his conditioning and the health of his knees. They held up last season as the nickel corner.
Steve Weatherford had his best game punting of the season, with “English” on his punts that caused two of them to spin toward the field of play rather than into the end zone. Those readers that were following Twitter during Monday night’s Texans at Steelers game commented when Giants360 pointed out the play of the Steelers on punt coverage converging on the ball and keeping it from the end zone. That’s something that Special Teams Coordinator needs to improve with the Giants as too many times punts bounce into the end zone without the gunner making an attempt to keep it in the field of play.
Inside the 10 yard line downing aside, punt and kick coverage have improved somewhat in recent games, a trend that must continue in the second half of the season. Beckham seems to be increasing in use as a punt returner and Michael Cox has given the team a boost as a kickoff returner. In 2013, after a worse start than this season, the special teams were good in the second half of the year, with the exception of poor kick and punt returns. The issue may be turnover in the bottom half of the roster and it takes several games to coach the new players up to speed. Other teams seem to have solved this issue, however, and the Coughlin and Quinn need to learn their methods in the off season to avoid poor, game changing, starts in the future.
Assistant coaches were made available to the media today, and Giants360 is going to pour through the interviews and bring you the highlights along with our unique brand of opinion and analysis of them tomorrow.
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