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New York Giants: Creating the Blueprint for Optimal Offense in 2015

Patricia Traina@Patricia_TrainaFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2015

New York Giants' Odell Beckham (13) throws the football after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Defenses might win championships, but offenses sure do go a long way toward getting a team in a position to earn its immortality.

As the New York Giants commence the final phase of the 2015 offseason program—the OTA workouts which will pit the offense against the defense—this year will be a big one for offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and company in terms of building on what they started last year.

2014 NY Giants Final League Rankings
Overall (Yds/Game)Rushing (Yds/Game)Passing (Yds/Game)Scoring (Pts/Game)
10th (367.2)23rd (100.2)7th (267.0)13th (23.8)
Source: NFL.com

Well, don’t suggest that to McAdoo, who told reporters at the team’s rookie minicamp that the concept of picking up where they left off is “a loser’s mentality.”

“Any success in this league is earned,” he said.

“If you come walking in thinking you don’t have to do any work and you can pick up where you left off and we can execute the way we were at the end of the season, that is a loser’s mindset.”

Apparently, quarterback Eli Manning had a slightly different perspective when he was asked during a late-April conference call with reporters where the Giants offense really needed to improve the most:

We can still cut down on the turnovers. I think we need to score more points as an offense. I think the second half of the season we showed improvement from the first half, especially those last six games we were doing some good things offensively and scoring more points and [being] more efficient on third down.

Anytime you are in a new offense, you want to see improvements and you want to see a progression of getting better and having a better understanding of concepts and eliminating some of the bad plays.

I thought we did a good job of doing that, so we have to build off that and understand that we have to work our tails off this time of year and into training camp to make sure we are making those improvements to have a great understanding of the offense and [having] everyone playing at a high level so we can … win more games.

With all that said, here is a proposed blueprint for the optimal Giants offense.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Set the Offensive Line

If the Giants offense is to have any chance of being effective, it all starts up front with the offensive line. It wasn’t too shabby as a pass-blocking unit last year, finishing 10th in the league.

The run blocking was quite another story, as the unit finished 22nd. As a result, the Giants had hoped to fix that problem in the offseason by juggling their personnel.

First, the Giants are due to get Geoff Schwartz, who was penciled in to play left guard last season before a toe injury landed him on the temporary injured reserve list, back on the field this year.

Schwartz was initially presumed to be destined to play right guard this coming season. He had one of his best seasons at that position as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.

Second, the Giants are reportedly planning to move Weston Richburg, who played left guard last season, to his natural position of center.

At right tackle, the plan might have been to start 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers, thus moving Justin Pugh inside to left guard next to left tackle Will Beatty.

Then in the snap of Beatty’s pectoral muscle, an injury that required surgery and which will shelve him for up to six months, a unit that was shaping up to be a potential strength seemed to fall apart.

Love or hate him, Beatty was the Giants’ most consistent offensive lineman last year. The Giants averaged 4.4 rushing yards running to the outside left of the formation.

It’s anyone’s guess right now as to how the offensive line is going to look with Beatty out of the lineup (here is one proposed configuration), but whatever the Giants coaches do decide, it probably would be a good idea to get the offensive line settled as quickly as possible.

Get the Running Game Going

Last season, the Giants finished with an average of 3.57 yards per rush, which put them 30th in the NFL, according to the NFL Game Statistics & Information System.

That was only part of the problem with the running game, which struggled behind the 22nd-best run-blocking offensive line.

Because of the problems with the running game, the Giants struggled in several other key areas, falling well below league standards.

Giants 2014 Rushing Game vs. NFL Rushing Game Average
RB YardsPower Success %Stuffed %2nd Level YardsOpen Field Yards
NYG3.6261%20%0.940.47
NFL4.1465%19%1.020.65
Source: Football Outsiders

Lastly, in a stat that should surprise absolutely no one, the Giants averaged 81.9 rushing yards per game in their 10 losses, only going over the 100-yard mark as a team twice in that period.

In the six games won, the Giants averaged 131.7 yards on the ground per game, only failing to hit the 100-yard mark once in that stretch.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

While the Giants will try to figure out how to configure the offensive line, the addition of Shane Vereen to the mix should be a big boost. The return of a more experienced Andre Williams, who had to be thrown into the deep end before having learned how to swim last year, will also help.

What should also help, if the Giants can pull it off, is finding a solid run-blocking tight end who is consistent each week as an in-line blocker.

The Giants averaged 3.45 yards running to the left end (23rd best in the NFL) and 3.34 yards running to the right end (22nd in the NFL).

Those two average yardage figures are well below the league’s averages of 3.74 and 3.79 yards, respectively.

Establish a Target Balance in the Passing Game

In receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants have another offensive weapon that just might keep opposing defensive coordinators awake at night trying to figure out how to stop him.

While it wouldn’t be surprising if Beckham desired to test defensive game plans by having quarterback Eli Manning throw him the ball, the truth is that the second-year receiverwho was targeted the most (129 times) out of all Giants receivers last year despite missing the first four gamescan’t go at this alone.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 14:  Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants attempts to score a 30 yard touchdown that was nullified due to a penalty in the fourth quarter during their game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Decemb
Al Bello/Getty Images

Manning is going to need to spread the ball out to others, and it’s imperative that those other receiving targets show that they can get open on a consistent basis and come up with the ball if it’s catchable.

Receivers Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Victor Cruz (if healthy) and Geremy Davis, tight end Larry Donnell and running back Shane Vereen all figure to be among those potential targets Manning will consider in addition to Beckham.

They all don't have to be great, though it certainly wouldn't hurt. They just need to be consistent with route running and protecting the ball if it does find its way into their hands.

Stay Healthy

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 12: Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants is carted off the field after attempting a catch in the end zone during the third quarter of a football game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 12, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

This goes without saying for any team, but when you’re talking about the league’s most injured team two years in a row, it’s especially true.

Unfortunately, as previously noted, the Giants are off on the wrong foot in this area thanks to Beatty's pectoral injury.

In the last three seasons, the Giants have finished with a combined 22-26 record, with the season-ending won-loss record worsening instead of improving over that period.

In each of those years, the Giants have also had to deal with at least one key starter either not looking like himself all season or missing time due to injury, as noted on the chart below.

Key Offensive Starters Lost Due to Injury
Season(s)PlayerInjuryNo. Games Missed
2014WR Victor Cruz*Knee10
2014OL Geoff Schwartz*Toe, Ankle14
2013, 2014RB David Wilson*Neck16
2014RB Rashad JenningsKnee, Ankle5
2014WR Odell Beckham Jr.Hamstring4
2013FB Henry Hynoski*Shoulder13
2013C David Baas*Neck13
2013G Chris Snee*Hip, elbow13
2012RB Andre Brown*Leg6
2012WR Hakeem NicksKnee, Foot3
*Denotes player placed on IR. Source: NY Giants' Year-end Media Packets

The Giants fell from 25th place in 2012 to 32nd in the league in 2013 in terms of adjusted games lost due to injuries.

With more than 20 players overall on injured reserve last season, the Giants were unable to climb out of the cellar in that statistic, again finishing in last place in the league in 2014 with 141.3 adjusted games lost due to injury.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 23:   Will Beatty #65 of the New York Giants reacts as he is injured in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on November 23, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Earlier this spring, head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters that the Giants made some modifications to their conditioning program, but it’s been tricky for the Giants as far as getting their players ready for the season under the chokehold of the CBA rules governing offseason contact.

If Beatty is the worst of the injuries the team suffers on either side of the ball—and make no mistake, Beatty’s is a major blow to the offense—then it will be ahead of the game.

If not, then it could be another very long season.

Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and other information were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise sourced. Advanced statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.

Follow @Patricia_Traina

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