Using the most basic concepts of information gathering, the following is an examination of the New York Giants using the “Five W’s and H” questions everyone learns in elementary school. The NFL regular season has reached the midway point, so a thorough analysis of the Giants and how they should fare in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is warranted.
Who are the New York Giants?
The Giants are a team that can pass the ball, protect the pass, and disrupt the pass, and they do all three exceptionally well. New York’s offensive line has allowed fewer sacks (seven) than any team in the NFL. When Eli is given time to throw, he can pick a defense apart. When opponents send five or more blitzers, Manning will often decimate a defensive secondary with his outside-the-tackle-box arm strength and accuracy.
New York has one of the most malleable passing games in the NFL. They possess the unique ability to withstand an injury by plugging in a reserve capable of delivering a stellar performance. Wideout Hakeem Nicks has been hampered by injuries in the first half, and secondary receiving options like Ramses Barden, Domenix Hixon, and Rueben Randle have risen to the challenge and contributed to victories in his absence.
Offensive linemen William Beatty and Chris Snee have acted as logjams between foes who have the ability to apply pressure on Eli Manning, allowing him to stay upright. This has also helped earn the team the No. 2 overall pass offense in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com. (Note: Pittsburgh, the Giants’ opponent this Sunday, has the No. 3 rated pass offense.)
On the other side of the ball, it has been defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Markus Kuhn, Rocky Bernard, and slowllllly Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, who are generating push up front and strangling the rushing attack. This forces opponents to throw on more downs than they would like.
Although the days of the fearsome “NASCAR” package are long gone – Pierre-Paul is the only member from that four-man pass rush who has not seen a precipitous drop in his play or retired – the Giants have bolstered their 4-3 base defense with highly effective members on the front four. In cyclical fashion, different members of the defensive line will be pivotal impact players in a given game, and like always the replacements have been outstanding, generating great interior and edge pressure.
Joseph, Kuhn, and Bernard have been superb run defenders, and a now healthy Chris Canty adds versatility and fresh legs. Led by the double-team magnet Pierre-Paul, New York’s front four continues to be lethal, and while tangibly they have not garnered gaudy numbers, the proof is in the takeaways/giveaways statistic. New York is leading the NFL with a glimmering +13 differential.
Eight of those takeaways have come from safety Stevie Brown, a hybrid secondary/front seven player. In the collegiate ranks, Brown spent some time playing linebacker, so he has paired his nose for the ball with safety ballhawking skills to become a turnover machine. SI’s Chris Burke explains that the Giants often use a Cover-1, with Brown as the deep safety and Antrel Rolle as the fourth wheel in what evolves from a 4-3 to a 4-4 set (and they use the reverse of Brown charging and Rolle deep).
With defensive coordinator Perry Fewell utilizing his eight men in various blitzing schemes, Brown’s job is to stay in front of the receiving targets and pick a spot where he wants to apply coverage help. If Brown jumps the right route, he can force a turnover. If he is a second late, he can plug the gain by providing a form tackle (thanks to his days as a linebacker). If he and Rolle switch and Brown jumps in as the eighth man and Rolle stays deep, then Brown can assist in cornerback man-to-man assignments. Brown is effectively getting to the ball before the receiver, and if he reads the play as not being a takeaway opportunity, he can provide stability for his fellow secondary teammates.
What makes the Giants run?
I was reading an article on Grantland the other day by the thought-provoking Jonathan Abrams, and he wrote the following about Memphis Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins. It stuck with me because it encapsulates a professional coach perfectly.
“(A) coach is more than just a coach: The best ones are mentors, disciplinarians, negotiators, orchestrators, psychologists, strategists, pragmatists, and idealists. A coach’s job, Hollins believes, is to see and hear everything but not to react to everything he sees and hears. Hollins know it’s in his job description to recognize personalities and personnel, to realize when to push the gas and pump the brakes. He can look at his players and know what they’re thinking because he once stood in their place.”