The New York Football Giants. One of the most prolific franchises in the sport, with four Super Bowl championships to their name.. However, they have been far from that recently, going 18-46 in their last 4 seasons. With many players and coaches on the hot seat this season, they are in the position where they need to prove themselves, and the only way of doing that is by winning. I will be following the Giants closely all season to see if they can reverse their recent misfortunes, and if they can’t, to dissect why they were unsuccessful.
Week 1: Game Planning For the Wrong QB
The aura that surrounds a team heading into week one of an NFL season is invigorating. A fresh slate, new faces and the feeling of hope fill every single organization. However, hope can quickly begin to dwindle, as was the case for the Giants in their week one matchup vs the Denver Broncos. The first quarter began uneventfully, with both teams trading punts. The tide began to turn during the Broncos second possession where the Giants defensive problems were exposed. QB Teddy Bridgewater led a 9 minute drive, going 6-8 for 51 yards and capped it off with a Brandon McManus field goal to open the scoring. Even with a strong defensive red zone stand by the Giants, it was clear their defensive scheme was presenting Bridgewater with loads of space in the intermediate passing game, which played into the veteran signal caller’s strengths. Instead, their defensive focus was to run a deep cover 1, dropping back the deep safety once the ball was snapped. This coverage hasn’t worked for Patrick Graham, Giants defensive coordinator, in the past. When Graham switched from a standard cover 1 to a cover 3 set at the midway point of last season, the Giants defense went from 23rd to 10th in expected points added. That Giants team, which started 1-7 before making the switch, finished the year on a 5-3 run, narrowly missing the playoffs. Graham returned to the Cover 1 man for the majority of the season opener despite its previous lack of success, allowing Bridgewater to orchestrate the Broncos passing attack with ease. With less than a minute left in the 2nd quarter, the Giants held a 7-3 lead. This lead was quickly squandered, as the Giants allowed a last minute drive capped off with a Tim Patrick touchdown with 13 seconds left. The turning point of this drive, a 4th and 2 conversion right at midfield, was the epitome of the issues with this playcalling. Needing only 2 yards to convert, Giants safety Logan Ryan was lined up 17 yards behind the line of scrimmage before the snap (pictured below). Ryan retreated further after the snap, leaving a gaping hole in the coverage, as the linebackers were tight to the line of scrimmage to defend the run, allowing Bridgwater to find a wide open receiver in Courtland Sutton for a 14 yard gain. This deep safety is in place to keep the deep threat to a minimum, which makes sense with weapons like Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton lined up on the perimeter. However, it quickly became clear that the Bronco offense wasn’t playing for the deep ball, and the Giants lack of adjustment for this cost them greatly.
Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers were consistently lined up as the lone safety 20 yards behind the line
The Giants defensive game plan was perfectly suited for the 2020 Broncos. However, with Teddy Bridgewater stepping in for Drew Lock, the offense had a whole new identity. In 2020, Teddy Bridgewater ranked 26th of 35 Qbs qualifying QBs in air yards per attempt. This stat measures how deep a QB is throwing the ball on average, not taking into account the yards after the catch. Meanwhile Drew Lock, Denver’s QB at the time, ranked 3rd in the league, only behind Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson. Drew Lock’s offense relied heavily on the deep ball, however it quickly became clear this was no longer part of the Broncos game plan. On the Broncos 3 touchdown drives, there was not a single pass completed for over 20 yards. However, the consistent peppering of 10-15 yards down the field was more than enough for them to march into Giants territory time and time again. The lack of halftime adjustments allowed the Broncos to abuse this coverage, and ultimately led to the G-Men being outscored 17-0 in the second half, until Daniel Jones ran across a last second garbage time touchdown. If the defense continues to lack the ability to adjust and adapt, it will be a long season for Giants fans.