Thursday, September 20, 2012
V/S GIANTS - Pregame
V/S GIANTS - Pregame
Short week this week. NY comes off a win against the Buccaneers, and Carolina obviously a win against New Orleans. Last time these two teams met was the season opener in 2010, and while one has won a championship in the meantime, both teams look radically different. For NY, some key elements are there – Tom Coughlin’s still a red-faced jerkbag preaching control and discipline while often missing out on his own message; Eli Manning is still the QB, skirting the lines between high second level QB and “just good enough”. But the days of elite defense and a power running game have started to fade, and the team is more pass-centric (put up the divides on run/pass compared to a few years ago). This makes the Giants at times more potent, but also less efficient and physical.
The Giants are deliberate – they rarely run trick plays, they take mostly calculated risks; they rely more on talent than scheme. They rely on guys who fit their system more than adaptation to their talents; you have to prove yourself before they fit to your abilities.
First round pick RB David Wilson fumbled on his second carry in the season opener and didn’t see the ball after that: he’s got 5 total carries for 10 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw had carried most of the load (half of the 44 carries; Andre Brown has taken 13 replacing the departed Brandon Jacobs). They’ve run half as much as Manning’s 83 attempts – this just isn’t the same physical team. Last year, they ran only 42% of the time and that’s contunuing into this year. Bradshaw was still showing he can carry a heavier load, without Jacobs aboard; he ran for 659 yards at 3.9 per carry and 9 TD last year, though Jacobs had similar stats. FB Henry Hynoski is not a run threat and doesn't play that often.
With Bradshaw out, the Giants become more one dimensional. They don't have much of a power threat without Wilson taking many snaps so far - it's hard to say how far that continues.
RT David Diehl is out - but he may be one of the more overhyped linemen in the league, even with an offseason of statisticians tearing him down for being awful. Chris Snee has earned a solid reputation, but he’s never grown into the killer guard that some expected. David Bass is an equal in the awkward last name category, but hasn’t grown into the center he could’ve either. To the left, Will Beatty is marginal, a 2nd round pick from Connnectibut in 2009 that's yet to really come into his own, but did a solid job giving up 3.5 sacks in 10 games. Sean Locklear likely moves to RT, the aging NC State and Seahawk relegated to being a backup so far this year.
The pass offense for NY is where things happen: The Giants are 24th in the league with 88 yards/game rushing, but 1st in pass yards at 348. Manning is an accurate passer who doesn’t get flustered by pressure and gets the ball out fast. He’s throwing at a 62.7% completion percentage, and a 91.6 rating (4 TD/3 INT), more or less all on par with his nearly-5000 yard effort last year.
Despite the absence of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz can still be deadly. He leads the NFL in targets even with Nicks healthy so far, and has 237 yards receiving and one score. The Giants don’t move their WR around that much in base, but Cruz played 63% of his snaps in the slot and 3rd WR Domenik Hixon plays mostly on the outside, not unlike Mario Manningham did last year; while Captain Munnerlyn has been better as a nickel, Cruz is a lot to ask of him. 2nd round rookie Rueben Randle barely plays so far and isn’t a threat yet, but probably plays on the outside with the injuries.
The Giants’ acquisition of Martellus Bennett at TE has given them a big target in the middle to go with their aces outside. Bennett will never be fast or explosive, but he’s physical and much larger than anything in the back 7 for Carolina. He leads the Giants with 2 TD, bringing in 9 passes for 112 yards. 2nd TE Bear Pascoe is mostly a blocker, as is rookie 4th rounder Adrien Robinson. Bradshaw is an effective receiver at RB; he had 34 for 267 and 2 TD last year; departed backups Jacobs and DJ Ware provided a total of 42 more, so their plans aren’t to get a ton of balls to the backs even with a lessened emphasis on running.
With Bradshaw and Nicks out, look for Carolina to shade toward Cruz – with SS Charles Godfrey playing off the line more than last year (and more as he did this week), toward the middle of the field. Getting someone in the face of Bennett might work as well – there may be some value to switching to a cover 6 look sometimes, and other times just playing a man-free scheme switching Godfrey into a centerfield and putting Nakamura as a double on Cruz.
It will be interesting to see if Cruz does continue to play a lot in the slot, without a better compliment outside (playing the slot is a lot different with Manningham and Nicks, than Randle and HIxon). A lot of Cruz’ success comes inside.
On defense, it still starts up front – neither Justin Tuck nor Jason Pierre-Paul are elite but both can hurt you, and they still have Osi Umenyiora to mix it up and former end Mathias Kiwanuka at SLB. That group allows for a very diverse and athletic rush; the guards get as much pressure on them as the tackles, and while Amini Silatolu has had his time against the run, both he and Geoff Hangartner have struggled with pass protection at times. DTs Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph are more fresh with a lower snap count. Backup Marvin Austin hasn’t seen action since 2009.
Next to Kiwanuka, they have hardnosed MLB Chase Blackburn, occasionally interchanged with Mark Herzlich; they have rangy WLB Michael Boley, who already has 2 INT on the year.
In the backfield, Corey Webster is a solid matchup guy, but has trouble with some of the Panthers' preferred intermediate routes - the out, the post, and if used, the slant. 3rd round pick Jayron Hosley has been a solid starter so far this year, and plays in the slot on nickel; Prince Amukamara, if/when he's not on the trainer's table or getting drowned in the cold tub by teammates, can be a good, physical corner, but hasn't shown much yet (1 INT, 3 passes defended in 7 games, none yet this year. Justin Tryon is the typical guy to pick on in the secondary, coming in for nickel snaps and getting abused fairly often.
Antrel Rolle is an unspectacular FS on the back end of his career; Kenny Phillips, likewise, gets to his assignments but isn't turning into the playmaker many thought he was going to be as a first rounder.
DC Perry Fewell was a candidate in Carolina in 2011 for Ron Rivera’s job; his defense currently ranks 25th in points, 19th in yards (22nd/259 against the pass, 16th/111 against the run). They gave up 38% of third downs last year with similar personnel.
It appears, for now, that the ways Carolina likes to manipulate a defense are valid ways to hurt the Giants: 3 and 4 wide, and motion out of base formations. Getting any LB in space against Greg Olsen would be profitable, and getting deep into the Giants’ bench for corners can provide benefit as well.
The Giants play sound special teams, but aren't spectacular; they finished 22nd in Rick Gosselin's ratings. Wilson takes the kickoffs; Randle the punt returns. P Sean Weatherford is one of the best; Lawrence Tynes is average, and even with new rules last year the Giants had more returns than touchbacks, but Tynes does have range from 50-53.
Carolina, at home in primetime, gets an advantage with the absence of Nicks and Bradshaw. It will make the Giants, always deliberate, potentially more predictable. The unknowns are massive, though; the only thing you really know is that Cruz will get massive amounts of targets and the Giants' DL will be aggressive.