It often takes rookies a year or two to get acclimated to an NFL playbook, as it is a lot more complicated than any high school or college playbook they had ever seen before. One of the biggest hurdles rookie running backs have to overcome is blocking assignments. Most wide receivers have their "coming out party" in their third season in the NFL because that is how long it takes for them to fully understand the playbook. So how is the average fan supposed to know the complicated language of an NFL play? Well, I have tried to simplify the playbook for you. Here is a look at the 2008 NY Giants most effective plays
Formations - Power I, Offset I (when the fullback lines up behind a guard) Single Back
One of the reasons the Giants had the best rushing attack in the league last year was due to the great offensive line. On a running back sweep, it is important for the lineman to get a good push off the line, to ensure the defense doesn't tackle the running back in the backfield for a loss. The sweep play enabled Brandon Jacobs to build up his speed before facing a defender, which was always bad news for the defender. Jacobs had a full head of steam, and was able to run over linebackers, corner backs, and safeties. This play was effective for Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, as it used their speed to get to the outside of the "box" and from there, the quicker and more agile Ward and Bradshaw were able to make players miss.
Formations - Power I, Single back, Offset I
The counter play was great for the Giants in 2008. Their identity of a power running team and having an athletic offensive line was all showcased in this one play. The counter play is a play that is supposed to lead the defense in the wrong direction, as the running back takes a hard step in the opposite direction, and then cuts back across the backfield. This play was often ran to the left side of the line, enabling guard Chris Snee to pull from the right guard position. Any type of running back is effective in this play. Jacobs power, Ward's escape ability, and Bradshaw's elusiveness and toughness all were on display during a counter play.
Formation - Shotgun formation
The shotgun formation is when the quarterback is not underneath the center, and instead a few yards back. On a draw play, the ball is snapped to the quarterback, and he'll decoy to the defense that he is going to pass the ball. The offensive tackles play like it is a pass play, to let the end rushers get up field into the backfield. Then the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back. This play was very effective for the Giants in every situation. On 3rd and long situations, in "the green zone", and even on short yardage situations, it was the Giants bread and butter play. Often Derrick Ward was used, as he is a bit quicker than Brandon Jacobs. Another reason Ward was in the backfield for this play, because when in the shotgun formation the opposing defense was expecting a pass play, and they knew Ward was a better receiver than Jacobs.
Formations - Any formation where the Tight End is on the field
The Tight End option is a favorite of the Giants. It gives Eli Manning the ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage as he reads the defense. In this picture, those are the different routes that a Tight End can run. It is important for Kevin Boss and Eli Manning to be on the same page to be effective. The Tight End option was most useful when the Giants needed to move the chains on 3rd down, or in "the green zone."
Formations - Any basic offensive formation with a receiver on the outside (this picture is a "bunch formation"
The Wide Receiver post was a great play for the 2008 Giants, and it was one of Plaxico Burress' famous routes. But now with Burress departed in 2009, a lot of people are looking to rookie, Hakeem Nicks to fill the void. Nicks said, "I loved watching Eli throw him the deep post down the middle and the speed routes were great to watch." This quote is about Burress running the post, which was a great play for the 2008 Giants as it was able to spread the defense, as Burress occupied a corner back and safety, it left other players open. In this specific picture, you see a Tight End crossing route, which Eli loves. Having to combat the strong winds, Eli enjoys using Kevin Boss in the underneath route to move the chains.
Formations - Any formation with a Running Back in the backfield
Every knows how great Eli Manning is with play action plays. The Giants have a great rushing game, and other teams know this. They have to respect the fact the Giants can run the ball on any down. Faking a run to the running back baits the secondary towards the line of scrimmage, in hopes of having the tight end or wide receiver get behind the secondary. Eli Manning was great in this situation, as it gave him a better look at what the defense was doing, so he could pick them apart with his strong arm.
The 2008 Giants were a very successful team sticking to their routes of the power running game, play-action pass, and short intermediate routes. Playing in the Meadowlands is a distinct advantage for the Giants, as they have built their team tailored to the home conditions. NFL players have trouble understanding the language of an NFL playbook, so hopefully this has helped you understand the Giants keys to success during their 2008 season.