There is significant irony for the New York Giants after three preseason games. We have seen quarterback Eli Manning experience tremendous growing pains while adjusting to this new style of offense that Ben McAdoo is attempting to install here in New York. And while there are two more preseason games left to be played and plenty of roster cuts to be made, there is still time for the passing game to get its head on straight. But what has ironically improved quickly for the Giants in this new offense is the running game, something that had been missing from Big Blue’s bag of tricks since the initial departure of Brandon Jacobs after 2011.
Since midway through last season the Giants have been busy auditioning running backs to add a spark to New York’s sluggish offensive production. Peyton Hillis made his way to the Big Apple, along with the return of Brandon Jacobs. John Conner was brought in at fullback to fill in for an injured Henry Hynoski. In free agency this offseason they acquired Rashad Jennings and in the draft picked up Boston College’s Andre Williams in the fourth round.
All but Jacobs are currently on the roster, which means a few heads will have to roll. However, with the sudden "retirement" of David Wilson, the window of opportunity has grown for all these backs to stay on with New York for the 53-man roster, and most have already shown their worth to the coaches.
But it is not necessarily who it is that’s improving the Giants running game, it is more of how Ben McAdoo’s offense has an effect on defenses and their packages. McAdoo’s offensive scheme resembles that of the West Coast Offense, an offense that was used during his time in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers leading the charge. Many of the plays called already this preseason has three or four wide receivers for Eli to throw to, requiring a need for defenses to cover those receivers. As a result, defensive coordinators who were once blitz happy with Kevin Gilbride’s Giants offense now have a greater emphasis placed on their defensive backs and linebackers to monitor Manning’s passing options. Kevin Gilbride’s offense prided itself with utilizing fullbacks and multiple tight ends, giving defenses an opportunity to have a few linebackers and defensive backs crowd the box to try to stop the run or pressure Manning, causing him to either get sacked or hurry his throw.
The McAdoo offense benefits no group of guys more than the offensive line, another nagging issue that the Giants are starting to take care of. What once was a solid line consisting of David Diehl, Chris Snee, Shaun O'Hara, Kareem McKenzie and Rich Seubert has now been supplanted with a new breed of Big Blue Blockers, such as Justin Pugh, Geoff Schwartz, Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton and Brandon Mosley. And with the blitz pressure being scaled back because of the new wide receiver spreads, it gives them more time and concentration to take care of their assignments. This can certainly help an offensive line that allowed 40 sacks last season alone.
If there is one play from this preseason that supports this thesis, just go back to the Giants-Steelers game and play back Rashad Jennings’ 73 yard touchdown run. The Giants are set up in a singleback formation with three receivers out in a slot left with a tight end on the line to the left. The Pittsburgh Steelers are set up in a variation of the Nickel defense. Two of their cornerbacks are playing 10 yards off of their receivers with the two safeties in between them. With five defensive backs the Steelers have in place three linebackers and three down linemen. Eli signals for a trap play under center with Jennings behind him. Brandon Mosley, the right guard, pulls out to the left to supply a key seal for Jennings to run through and he proceeds to the end zone.
Had the Steelers set up in a different defensive package, this play never would have happened the way it did. Even setting up in the basic Nickel formation could have prevented this long run. What this new offense does for the Giants is not only enhance the passing game (which it is supposed to) and open up the running game, but it also allows the Giants to disguise their plays by forcing defenses to leave no stone unturned, in this case, no receiver uncovered.
Ben McAdoo’s offense is still a long work in progress, there’s no denying that, but being able to add a third dimension to your offense is a sign of good and innovative things to come.
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Tags: Andre Williams, Ben McAdoo, Brandon Mosley, Eli Manning, Football, Geoff Schwartz, Henry Hynoski, J.D. Walton, Justin Pugh, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Peyton Hillis, Rashad Jennings, Weston Richburg