By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: The Giants have had a long time to stew over their very disappointing opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The defeat was a clear reminder to the team and its fans that 2012 is indeed a new season. Nothing will be handed to this team; everything will need to be earned. Indeed, the game reminded us all that every opponent will bring their “A” game when playing the NFL Champions and if the Giants don’t respond by being at their best, they will not win those games. The Giants’ last-place finish in 1987 was not due entirely to the strike and their 8-8 record in 1991 was not due entirely to the departure of Bill Parcells.
There are some fans who have argued, “I wasn’t surprised the Giants lost…the game was more important to the Cowboys…the loss was exactly what the Giants needed…this will wake them up.” I don’t buy that bullcrap. A loss is a loss and losing a division game in your home opener hurts. All we heard in the offseason is that the Giants felt disrespected and they were going to prove the doubters wrong again. The Cowboys are not a more talented team than the Giants. But they played with greater intensity and better execution. They beat the Giants fair and square. The Giants have only reinforced the doubters.
The Giants-Buccaneers game is a big game for the Giants. Starting 0-2 (and 0-2 at home) would not be a mortal wound, but the patient would not be looking so good. There remain legitimate concerns with the offensive line/running game and the injury/talent situation at right cornerback. And this Giants team has developed a very dangerous habit of making every game a close, down-to-the-wire affair.
I still think the Giants are one of the best teams in the NFL. But they have to raise their level of intensity and execution. It’s also well past time to blow a team out. It’s time to play angry.
Giants on Offense: The Giants’ offense suffered from two obvious problems on opening night. The first problem was that the Giants lost the battle up front. The Giants continue to have problems running the football and that is creating difficult down-and-distance situations. I harped on it before the game last week and rnargi also pointed it out in his excellent game review. As he said:
- “There was a seriously disturbing statistic that involved Bradshaw and the running game. Ten of Bradshaw’s 17 attempts came on first down, and on those downs he gained just 30 yards. Eight of those attempts gained 3 yards or less for a total of 15 yards. The other two attempts were the 10 yard touchdown run and a five yard run. As such, the Giants were unable to consistently get into manageable distance on second and subsequently third downs.”
I still contend that the offensive line is not the sole problem. Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t been running very well. He didn’t last year and he didn’t in the opener. But the offensive line is clearly the main culprit. Let’s be brutally honest here – the Giants are not going to be a physical, smash-mouth team. That’s not a horrible indictment because there aren’t many teams that are anymore in today’s pass-happy, touchy-feely new CBA league. But it begs the question: are the Giants being stupid and stubborn for failing to admit the obvious – that is – this Giants team is a finesse passing team that performs better when it throws early and often? Instead of operating out of a traditional 2-WR, 2-RB, 1-TE set, perhaps the Giants’ offensive base should be a 3-WR and yes maybe even a 4-WR set. The strength of the team is not the offensive line and running backs at this point, but the quarterback and the wide receivers. Throw the damn ball! Attack!
Is there a risk in doing so? Of course. Balance is always better. Not becoming one dimensional is always better. Controlling the clock and time of possession is always better. Being more physical than the opposing defense is always better. But my gut says the Giants are who they are and this team will perform better if it passes first and then uses the pass to set up the run. As Tom Coughlin said last week:
- “Right now, quite frankly, our play action pass doesn’t do anything to anybody. (The opposing defenders) just drop back and play pass and you’re seeing what is happening in the secondary and I’m not going to try to tell other people how to play us, but if you watch, you see. You’ve got to be able to run the ball. ”
So teams are going to play pass first and dare the Giants to run without an extra defender in the box. The problem is the Giants can’t seem to run the ball when teams have seven in the box!!!
First of all, I would use less play action. It takes more time and it isn’t working. Coughlin’s argument – and it is an old tried and true one – is that if a team is playing pass, run it. But I don’t think that is going to work with this personnel at this time. I would take the opposite tack. I would get out of the 2-WR, 2-RB package and go three and four wide and force other teams to adjust to the multiple WR packages. I don’t think there are many teams who can cover Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle/Domenik Hixon, and Martellus Bennett all at once. If the opposition plays back in a shell, then hit Wilson out of the backfield. He’s a deadly, deadly player in open space. Right now, running on first down seems like a wasted play.
As for the Buccaneers, I watched their game against the Panthers last weekend. Their defense is either much improved or the Panthers stink on offense. They are pretty quick and active. The Buccaneers dominated the line of scrimmage, shut down the Panthers running game, and got after the quarterback. How dominating? The Panthers rushed for 10 yards in the game. And Cam Newton was sacked three times. But the Panthers did throw for 300 yards. If I’m Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride, I wouldn’t be stubborn in this game. Open it up. Put the ball in the hands of your best player – Eli Manning.
The second problem for the Giants offensively is that Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were not on top of their game last week. Cruz had three costly drops and just seemed to be “out of it,” even when blocking. Nicks is nowhere near 100 percent physically. The Giants need these two to play better and play better fast.
One final note on the offensive side of the ball – those fans looking for outside help at this point are fooling themselves. This isn’t a video game…you can’t just plug pieces into the puzzle in mid-September, especially on the offensive line. For better or worse, David Diehl, Chris Snee, David Baas, Kevin Boothe, Sean Locklear, Will Beatty, and James Brewer are the only possible solutions at this point.
Giants on Defense: Josh Freeman came out really hot last weekend as the Buccaneers scored 13 points on their three first-half possessions, with two very long drives. At the half, he was 12-of-14 for 122 yards and a 126.8 quarterback rating! He cooled off in the second half. However, the superb first half by Freeman is a warning for the Giants. When Freeman is on, he can be very efficient and deadly throwing the football. Vincent Jackson is a big receiver who can hurt a defense and Dallas Clark gives the Buccaneers a down-field threat at tight end. The other wide receiver – Mike Williams – is no slouch either.
Of Freeman’s 16 completed passes last weekend, half of them went to the halfback (Doug Martin) and fullback (Erik Lorig). Former Giants’ assistant coach Mike Sullivan, the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator, knows how difficult the Giants’ pass rush can be. I would expect a lot of quick, short passes to the backs and tight ends. This will be a big game for the linebackers in coverage.
That said, the obvious target in the secondary will be whoever is playing right cornerback – be it Prince Amukamara, Michael Coe, or Justin Tryon. Do the Giants move Corey Webster around to follow Vincent Jackson? Or do they double Jackson and keep Webster one-on-one with Mike Williams? Regardless, Webster needs to rebound from a terrible game. And Coe has to play with greater physical toughness and stay on the field.
The real key to this game defensively is defending the Buccaneers’ running game. The Buccaneers have a big and physical offensive line. In particular, the left side of the line with LT Donald Penn and LG Carl Nicks is mammoth. Nicks can absolutely destroy defenders. And RT Jeremy Trueblood is pretty imposing as well. This line has the ability to out-muscle the Giants up front. The defensive line and linebackers must be physical. Doug Martin is not a big back, but he plays with a low center of gravity and is shifty. He can keep the chains moving.
Giants on Specials: A key point of concern in this game is punt protection. The Giants had issues in punt protection in the preseason and the Buccaneers blocked one punt last weekend and came close to blocking a second.