PFF Preview 2011 – New York Giants

| August 29, 2011

The New York Giants were 9-4 at one stage last year and, with a convincing lead in their week 15 matchup against the Eagles, seemed poised to claim another NFC East crown. Then came the comeback. After that heart breaking loss to their rivals, Philadelphia, the Giants couldn’t match the high powered Packers’ offense going down in a blowout and seeing their playoff hopes in tatters.

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Still hope remains for the blue side of New York especially considering their offensive skill players and defensive line. They boast one of the best front fours in the business and that’s even after losing starting defensive tackle Barry Cofield.


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Five Reasons to be confident.

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1. Deep at defensive end

There aren’t many teams that could survive the retirement of Michael Strahan without much of a drop off. Justin Tuck leads the group, excelling both against the run (+9.9) and rushing the passer (+9.7). 2010 first round pick Jason Pierre-Paul will probably be the starter week one with Osi Umenyiora sidelined by injury. JPP offers great versatility, sliding inside to defensive tackle in the nickel. He’s been on a tear this preseason and will look to carry that forward when the Giants open at Fedex Field in a couple of weeks time. Umenyiora himself, although a tad overhyped, is no slouch either and joins them to form a dangerous trio. Mathias Kiwanuka is also back, adding depth to a position already stacked to the teeth.

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2. Walling off the right side

Ahmad Bradshaw gained a combined 763 yards on runs to the right of centre last year. In contrast, he gained just 474 on runs to the left. Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie form one of the more formidable duos in football. The former allowed his QB to be knocked down just twice all year (one sack, one hit) and finished eighth in our pass blocking efficiency rankings for guards and centres. McKenzie, meanwhile, amassed a +7.9 pass blocking grade (sixth overall amongst tackles) and finished second in the same study amongst right tackles.

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3. A slippery customer

Speaking of Bradshaw, he ranked as our fifth most elusive back last year. It seemed like the Giants might lose one of their most dangerous offensive playmakers this offseason but instead they retained him at a reduced rate. Mark it up as a win for the G-men. He doesn’t only contribute with the ball in his hands either. Bradshaw is far and away the best pass protecting back in the league, giving up an unbelievably low three pressures in 159 pass blocks. Only Quinn Johnson, who played just over half the snaps in pass protection as Bradshaw, ranked higher in our pass blocking efficiency article. It’s a surprise such a complete player was such a low priority for NFL teams.

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4. Touchdown machines

Although the Giants’ offense might be built on the running game, it needs quality receivers to take advantage when opposing defences commit eight in the box. That’s where Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks come in. Manningham averaged 5.7 yards after the catch per reception, good for 15th in the league, and had ten forced missed tackles. He was especially good on long balls. Nicks, while less explosive, was also more polished finishing with a higher receiving grade (+6.1) than his counterpart. Even more impressive perhaps is the fact the two combined for 20 touchdowns. Manning only threw 31 all year.

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5. A quarterback who can take advantage

Eli Manning receives his fair share of criticism, some deserved, some not so much. In a couple of the studies we did this offseason, he turned out to be one of the better QBs when going deep and an expert at beating the blitz. His QB rating really doesn’t tell the full story as a number of perfect passes fell into the hands of defenders because of drops. The 25 picks he threw last year is almost certainly an anomaly and that figure is likely to come down in 2011.

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Five reasons to be concerned

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1. A struggling secondary

Even before Terrell Thomas went down for the year with injury, the Giants’ secondary was a cause for concern. Only Kenny Philips (+9.3) played well a year ago. Starting strong safety Antrel Rolle finished with the worst coverage grade amongst all safeties. On the outside Corey Webster is a talented player but has never lived up to his all-pro year in 2008. Thomas’ replacement, Aaron Ross, struggled in the slot and, when forced to start in week 17 against Washington, had probably his worst game of the year (-3.2 coverage grade). Another possible replacement, Bruce Johnson, was also lost for the year. The Giants will surely look to make a veteran addition.

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2. Less confident on the left

While New York’s right side is set, there are question marks about the left. David Diehl, perennially miscast at left tackle, has been moved inside to guard where he should fare better. “Should” is obviously the operative word because he’s yet to show NFL ability. Sliding in next to him will be third year pro William Beatty. In time at tight end in heavy sets, Beatty has had a significant problem with penalties, committing six in just 168 snaps in 2010. He’s had a mixed preseason but will probably end up being an upgrade over Diehl on the blindside.

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3. Severely lacking at tight end

The Raiders probably overpaid for Kevin Boss but that won’t stop the loss hurting the Giants. Travis Beckum (-4.9) struggled in both run and pass protection last year. He also had just 13 receptions. Bear Pascoe (-2.4) is better in pass protection but just as bad in the ground game and offers nothing through the air.

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4. Finding a slot receiver

Steve Smith may have missed the first few games because of injury but he’s another of the departed players who the Giants are likely to miss. He proved to be the perfect third down target and provides nice versatility having played in the slot and out wide. Possible replacements include Domenik Hixon, although he’s coming back from injury, or Victor Cruz. Neither player is proven. It also seems as though New York have given up on former third round pick Ramses Barden and rookie Jerrel Jernigan isn’t likely to see much time in his first year.

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5. Replacing Cofield

The loss of Cofield to the Redskins was a blow but it’s less of a concern considering Chris Canty (+12.9) and Rocky Bernard (+7.1) are returning. The Giants like to rotate their interior lineman however so second year pro Linval Joseph is likely to see a good number of snaps. It remains to be seen whether he’s ready. He didn’t show much in just 63 snaps last year and looked a little lightweight against the run in New York’s first preseason game. At least he’ll be surrounded by talented players giving him a chance to succeed.

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The NFC East is going to be a tough division this year. The Cowboys will be better with Romo back and even the Redskins seem much improved. The Eagles are obviously favourites but the gap is certainly narrow. Divisional matchups will be huge and it may be the healthiest team that ends up representing the East.
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