Oct 062011
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, October 9, 2011: If you asked Giants’ fans before the season would they take a 3-1 start with a win in Philadelphia, I think most would gladly sign up for that.  It hasn’t always been pretty and it certainly hasn’t been easy, but the Giants are in good shape at the one-quarter mark of the regular season.

The key now is to keep it going. This is the soft part of the schedule, a three-game home stand against very beatable teams.  The pressure is on the Giants to sweep the next three because after that, the schedule gets brutal.  Moreover, the Redskins are hanging around and I think anyone counting out the Cowboys and Eagles is being foolish.

The biggest negatives for the Giants right now are still injuries.  Terrell Thomas is missed and to a lesser extent so is Jonathan Goff.  Justin Tuck and David Baas have worrisome neck injuries.  How much Prince Amukamara will be able to contribute this season is debatable. On the field, the Giants need to do a better job of running the football and stopping the run.  Those are the first two things that most football coaches preach.

In my opinion, aside from the play of Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks, I think the biggest positive is that the Giants are still very much a work in progress and are not anywhere near peaking yet.  In the blocking department, the offensive line, fullback, and tight ends still lack cohesion.  That will come with more playing time, provided David Baas doesn’t miss too much time with a neck injury.  Once the blocking is there, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs will break bigger runs.  We have not seen the best of Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, Jake Ballard, and Henry Hynoski yet.  I still think we may see positive contributions from BBI-whipping boys Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum.

Defensively, if Tuck returns and returns near full strength, the defensive line is downright scary. Michael Boley is playing very well at linebacker and Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones are gaining valuable experience.  I don’t think we’ve seen the best of what Mathias Kiwanuka has to offer yet.  In the secondary, the big concern is depth. The Giants cannot afford any injuries at corner.  And it remains questionable if this secondary can compete with teams like the Packers and Saints without Thomas and a fully-acclimated Amukamara.

Special teams have actually been respectable.

The game against the Seahawks is critical.  It’s a home game against an NFC opponent.  Granted the Seahawks have proven to be a different team on the road than at home, but this is a team that also beat the Cardinals and came very, very close to beating the Falcons last week.  This isn’t the same Seattle club that most Giants’ fans are familiar with.  They are a team in transition with many new faces.  That in itself presents a certain degree of uncertainty and danger.

Giants on Offense: Despite their 1-3 record, the Seattle defense is currently ranked 13th in total yards allowed (14th against the run and 16th against the pass).  So while not great, they are certainly respectable.

It’s obvious what the Giants need to do and that is to get more productivity out of the ground game.  The last two weeks, the Giants have been vastly out-rushed and the time of possession battle has not gone the way Tom Coughlin likes it. Speaking of Coughlin, this is what he had to say about Seattle’s defense:

“They’re a physical team. They give up literally no yards against the run. They’re another team that sinks the safety pretty much according to formation and almost on every play. They have a unique ability – (Earl) Thomas can come down from like 14 yards deep and be at the line of scrimmage. He’s very quick. They’ve done a nice thing with their personnel. They have a 318-pounder that sits on the inside eye of the tight end. The tight ends are in for an interesting week, for sure. They have five new players on the defensive team.”

Last week against the Cardinals, the Giants really struggled to run the football except for Ahmad Bradshaw’s 13-yard touchdown run.  It’s not one thing that is the problem.  Against Arizona, I got the sense that the Cardinals were playing with more intensity, especially early in the game. They were the more desperate team.  The Giants need to elevate their intensity and hopefully surpass that of Seattle’s this week.  Also, it’s not just the offensive line, as Tom Coughlin alluded to above, the tight ends are a big part of the running game.  So is the fullback.

Seattle runs a 4-3 defense and the deployment of their ends is a bit strange. The bigger, stronger, stouter run defender (Red Bryant) plays on the weakside; the smaller, better pass rusher (Chris Clemons) plays on the strongside. One would think the Giants would try to run more to their right this week.  Ex-Cardinal Alan Branch is a big body inside at defensive tackle while his flankmate Brandon Mebane is short and stout.  The linebacking corps of MLB David Hawthorne, SLB Leroy Hill, and WLB K.J. Wright (Aaron Curry also subs here) is respectable.

You already read Coughlin singling out free safety Earl Thomas. He’s probably Seattle’s best defensive player. He is very good against the run and the pass. Kam Chancellor is a physical strong safety who also plays the run well; he has been dealing with a quad injury. The backup is ex-Packer Atari Bigby.  At corner, LCB Marcus Trufant has not played as consistently well as he did during his Pro Bowl season in 2007. RCB Brandon Browner is huge (6-4, 221). He will play a physical game with Hakeem Nicks, but Nicks may be able to run past him if he beats the press. Depth is an issue at corner for Seattle.

Based on strengths and weaknesses, even though I said the Giants need to run the football better, I think I would come out attacking Seattle with the pass. Seattle’s front seven is respectable against the run and the safeties make a lot of plays in run defense.  I would play quite a bit of 3-WR sets early and spread Seattle out.  I’d like to see Seattle have to deal with Nicks, Manningham, and Cruz all at once.  I also get the feeling that Manningham is due for a big game.  Get an early lead then come back and hit Seattle with the ground game.  Use the pass to set up the run.

Giants on Defense: The Seahawks are dead last in offense in the NFL in terms of yards gained (28th passing and 31st rushing).  Much of the problem has been a dramatic turnover in personnel on the starting offense since last season. The offensive line is being completely rebuilt.

The Giants need to stuff HB Marshawn Lynch and make the Seahawks one dimenionsal.  Lynch is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, but he is capable of breaking off big runs. Leon Washington and Justin Forsett are dangerous in space.  If Justin Tuck can’t play this weekend, you’ve got to think the Seahawks are going to target Osi Umenyiora all day since the Cardinals were able to do so with good success.  Osi needs to play with better leverage, more discipline, and be more physical at the point of attack.  The linebackers also need to rebound with a stronger game.  Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, and Greg Jones weren’t particularly strong against the run last weekend.

The Seattle offensive line isn’t very good.  They have two rookies playing on the right side and a second-year player at left tackle. They have talent, but they are very green at this point. The left guard and center are average best. This is an offensive line the Giants’ defensive line should dominate and shame on them if they don’t.

Ex-Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson is an up-and-down player who is mostly down, but he is a guy who can occasionally play a great game. The Giants must not give him any confidence early on or it could be a long day. He’s an athlete with a strong arm and he can hurt you with his feet. Consistent accuracy is his problem. He does have a couple of dangerous receivers in Sidney Rice (averaging 17 yards per catch) and Mike Williams (who is coming off a concussion and might not play).  Jackson and Rice played together in Minnesota.  Rookie Doug Baldwin has flashed in the slot.

I think the key here is really to prevent the big play.  Seattle has not been consistently good on offense and if they play true to form, they will have a hard time putting together long, multi-play drives.  Prevent the big run and the big pass and the Giants should be alright. Stuff the run and use your talented defensive line to abuse the green offensive line of Seattle to get after Jackson.  I would play it a bit more conservatively in the back seven on defense and not blitz too much.

Giants on Special Teams: Ex-Jet Leon Washington is the key.  He is a very dynamic and dangerous punt and kick returner.  He can change a game around.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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