Why The NY Giants Should Be Running to The Pass

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Why The NY Giants Should Be Running to The Pass
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I read an interesting article on the site recently about a possible offensive identity crisis in Chicago.  In a nutshell the writer makes a case that this old-school, run first franchise needed to change their offensive game to utilize their excellent quarterback and stable of young but speedy wide receivers.  Sound familiar?  It should, but I don’t think identity crisis is the right term. 

 

What is really going is that these teams are not game planning with the players they have in mind.  There is a disconnect between who they think they are and who they really are.  I think this exactly the spot the Giants are in right now.

What follows must be said but know that I love this team as much as one can.  (My daughter’s middle name is Blue and ONLY because my wife put her foot down on “Plaxica” and “Strahan”).  Real talk though, super fans:  the 2007 Giants were a mediocre team, with a 3 or 4 finger handful of stars.  Howl all you like but it’s the truth.  The success of that season was not built on star power but on something as boring as roster management. 

 

It was the coaching staff’s accurate assessment of the roster at hand that laid the foundation for the Super Bowl run.  Spagnuolo took the best group of players at his disposal (the defensive ends/ tackles) and built his defense around them.  While there is no doubt his blitzes and personnel packages were brilliant, his objective was simple.  Put the best players on the defense in a position where they could do the most damage, every play. 

 

When they blitz a corner it’s not because you want him to get to the QB.  You send him because while a back or tackle goes to pick him up, you give Osi or Tuck or Strahan one man to beat to the quarterback.  When the pressure is working with just 4 or 5 guys, the secondary runs itself.

 

The run game became the lynch pin of the offense for the same reasons.  With its three headed attack, and (in 2008) two 1,000 yard rushers the Giants were able to win a championship and a division title in successive years.  On the roster were 3 specifically talented running backs that could tire them out in the first half and burn them in the second.  Ball control and play action was a winning combination especially when you look to the other skill positions. 

 

We had a young quarterback still struggling with his consistency and leadership.  While Plaxico was a force at flanker, Toomer was a solid possession guy without any deep threat capability (the Dallas playoff game notwithstanding) and Shockey was underutilized throughout his career here. 

 

Finally, the undersized but athletic O-line were able to pull on power O’s and sweeps to attack the second level.  This scheme, along with their native toughness, allowed an under pedigreed line to bust through most teams they faced.  Here we are three seasons removed from the championship and much has changed.  The exits of Derrick Ward, Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress as well as some additions have completely changed the nature of this team. 

 

When Ward left, he took a lot of the Giants rushing attack with him.  This is not because he is such a stellar back, but he completed a triumvirate that together could give you the production of a Tomlinson or Peterson by themselves almost every game. 

 

The big question when Tiki left was can Jacobs be a legitimate every down back.  The short answer is yes, the long is answer is yes, but with help.  His bruising running style is a nightmare for safeties and smaller linebackers.  The problem is that if he can’t get cleanly to the next level, he doesn’t have the shiftiness to escape the backfield.  Bradshaw is all heart and shows flashes but doesn’t have the durability to secure a starting spot. 

 

Finally, while I think long term the front line will be fine, clearly age and injury have eroded some of the run blocking that our backs depended on.

 

But for all the team’s problems, the passing game under Manning flourished.  In fact, it produced Manning’s first 4000 yard season, an offensive rookie of the year contender and the Giant’s first Pro Bowl receiver in years.  All this and there are still promising young wide outs waiting in the wings.  This is not a fluke. 

 

The departures of Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress while devastating in the short run, have cleared the way for a group of young wide receivers to shine.  It’s also allowed Manning to be the undisputed leader on the offensive side of the ball.  These wide outs have only known one system in the NFL, and have been lead by one quarterback.  This cohesion, which is such an important part of any offensive unit, is just now beginning to bear fruit.

 

While the coaching staff and front office pay lip service to having a dominant run game, the franchise has quietly (and at times not so quietly) built a passing offense. 

 

Since 2002, the Giants have drafted 7 offensive skill players from the first three rounds.  None of them were running backs.  In fact the last time the G-Men picked up a running back higher than Day 2 was the first round bust Ron Dayne.  The biggest free agent signing of the modern Giants era was Plaxico Burress who invigorated a lagging passing game. 

 

Over the last couple of years, the Giants have drafted a stable of promising wide receivers, including a 1st and a 2nd rounder.  Of course the biggest sign of the team’s commitment to the pass was the blockbuster trade that brought Eli to New York and his subsequent re-signing.  These are not the moves of a team looking to push the run.  I don’t think the Giants spent $100 million re-signing a guy to “manage” the game.  He obviously brings much more to the table than that and they expect more.

 

I think it’s about time this team becomes what it was clearly built to be:  a pass-centric offense built around its QB with a solid supporting run game.  No one’s talking about 45 pass attempts a game or running the no huddle from the 1st quarter and completely abandoning the run.  However, the time has come to overhaul the playbook and really take advantage of the strengths of this offense. 

 

This means more than just increased passing, but variation and multiple 3 and 4 wide player packages.  It means using different sets to get guys like Beckum and Barden on the field.  It means shorter routes that get the ball out Eli’s hand instead of trying to force the ball 40 yards downfield on passing downs.

 

If Jacobs and Bradshaw have their workload lightened, it can only help them stay healthy and effective longer. 

 

I can hear the chants of “Coach Killdrive” already and while I’m not against at least looking in another direction there is hope.  Don’t forget that his Run and Shoot with the Oilers was a top 5 offense for a few years.  I don’t think anyone is looking for that kind of system but clearly he knows how to move the ball around.

 

If the Giants are going to continue to be successful, they most continue to build their scheme around their team and not the other way around.  The current roster dictates that a change is in order and I think (or hope) that the franchise feels the same way.

 

 

 

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