How Ben McAdoo’s New Offense Will Fly
For the first time in his entire career, Eli Manning and the New York Giants will be changing their offensive scheme. For only the third time in Manning’s career, with the last change coming in 2006, Manning will have someone new calling the plays.
No matter where you look, you will find our content devoted to the importance of an offensive scheme and coordinator in fantasy football. Last month, my colleague Gary Altheiser made an argument for what he refers to as “the most underrated position in fantasy football”, while I took a look at different scheme changes last season, and our head czar Mike Clay devoted a feature to offensive scheme changes in our official Draft Guide that went on sale last week. I believe that factoring in offensive schemes and play calling is often the difference between a winning and losing manager.
Before OTAs began, many predicted that the offense would be a hybrid between the Packers’ west coast scheme that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo learned from and Tom Coughlin’s vertically attacking offense. With eight OTA practices in the books, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far and how it will affect the fantasy outlook of the team’s skill position players.
Early indications point to the Giants implementing an offense very similar to the west coast offense that the Packers ran. According to beat writer Jordan Raanan, the offense features “a ton of screen passes, quick-timing horizontal pass patterns, and three-step drops.” This style is designed to get the skill position players the ball in space so that they can make plays after the catch. According to beat writer Dan Graziano, a personnel evaluator familiar with McAdoo predicted what he thinks we will see. “McAdoo will give them different concepts in the passing game — shorter passes to supplement the running game and more midrange routes to move the chains,” said the inside personnel evaluator.
Of course, this is very different from Kevin Gilbride’s offense that featured a lot of deep shots and expected its receivers to make plays down the field. In the running game, Rashad Jennings told Bleacher Report that McAdoo’s offense features a variety of stretch, zone, and power running plays. This is also a change from Gilbride’s offense that featured mostly power blocking plays in the run game.
McAdoo wants to attack and keep the defense on their toes the entire game. Justin Pugh has already taken notice to the pace and tempo of the offense. “The philosophy that McAdoo is installing in the offense is something that we did at Syracuse, the fast-paced, no-huddle, attack the defense I love it,” said Pugh. It’s a lot different than the offense that we ran last year where you are huddling up and it’s run the ball, run the ball. Watching Green Bay, we’ll probably do some of the similar stuff that they did.”
Pugh added that the Giants want to “get to the line quick, get the play call, and attack.” This is a far cry from what we observed under Gilrbride. Many who follow the Giants wondered why Manning was always rushing to beat the play clock by just a few seconds. Gilbride liked to avoid the no huddle so that Manning would have a chance to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, this style also led to Manning committing four delay of game penalties in 2013 and burning countless timeouts as the play clock ran down.
The Giants were 27th in plays from scrimmage in 2013, compared to the Packers who finished 11th, despite relying on two journeyman backup quarterbacks for multiple games. According to our data, the Packers ran 86 more plays on offense than the Giants. McAdoo’s offense will be based less on the idea of reading and reacting at the line of scrimmage and more on the idea of attacking at a fast tempo. This is great news for the fantasy outlook for every skill position player. Volume leads to more opportunities, and opportunities lead to fantasy points.
Personnel And Formations
McAdoo’s offense will feature a variety of personnel packages and formations that don’t always have players lined up in a traditional sense. Prince Amukamara has noticed the variety already. “It’s fun because they bring out a lot of different formations to line up against and, like the Packers offense, it’s more about gun-slinging and quick throws”, said Amukamara when asked about the offense.
While McAdoo has installed a multiple offense, so far his OTA practices have featured three wide receivers on almost every play. In a “spread out” offense, as described by the beat writers, it will be interesting to see if his offense features the same three wide receivers or if there is a rotation behind Victor Cruz between Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, and Odell Beckham Jr.
Red Zone Efficiency
Last season, the Giants finished 30th overall in red zone scoring percentage (touchdowns only) at 47.2 percent, down almost 7 percent from 2011 and 2012 when they finished in the middle of the pack. Dan Salomone of Giants.com did an incredible analysis detailing McAdoo’s success designing plays inside the opponent’s red zone while with the Packers. In McAdoo’s first season as quarterbacks coach of the Packers, he was tasked with designing the red zone plays. The Packers finished with the third-best red zone scoring percentage (touchdowns only) at 68.1 percent.
I would be stupid to say that Manning is as efficient throwing the ball as Aaron Rodgers, but he too can throw with zip and accuracy—the two most important traits in the confines of the red zone. It’s not like the Packers won with size at the skill positions, as Rodgers’ main targets consisted of James Jones (6-foot-1, 34-inch vertical), Jordy Nelson (6-foot-3, 31-inch vertical), and Jermichael Finley (6-foot-5, 27-inch vertical).
Instead, McAdoo’s red zone offense was successful due to design. The Packers scored touchdowns featuring different personnel and formations. They scored touchdowns using four wide receivers with one lined up in the backfield, three wide receivers with a tight end and fullback on each side of Rodgers in the backfield, full house backfields featuring a tight end, fullback and running back, among other personnel groupings and formations. This is a far cry from the Gilbride red zone offense that relied on traditional 11 personnel looks and tight single back formations inside the five-yard line.
The two players with the most to gain are Randle and Robinson. In 2012, Jones scored 14 touchdowns for the Packers while spending a vast majority of his snaps as the X receiver. Randle told Giants.com that he has lined up primarily as the X receiver thus far in OTAs. At 6-foot-3, Randle provides better size than Jones, and he scored three touchdowns inside the red zone in 2013 in a year where the offense threw for just 18 touchdowns in total. At 6-foot-4 with a 39.5-inch vertical, Robinson projects as another potential target, and three of his touchdowns at Cincinnati in his senior college season came inside the red zone.
The Screen Game
Just like the Packers offense, McAdoo wants to feature the screen game right away. In his introductory conference call, McAdoo said that the offense will feature a variety of screens and that this aspect would become “the focal point” of his offense. So far, the beat writers have noticed “a ton” of screen passes during OTAs, including ones designed to the tight ends in addition to the receivers and backs.
I pointed to David Wilson a week ago as a player who deserves more buzz because this new scheme is tailored to his skill-set. Plenty of screens and plays designed to get players the ball in space fits perfectly with Wilson’s speed and elusiveness. Wilson, of course, hasn’t gain clearance for contact yet, leaving Rashad Jennings in a position to gobble up most of the first-team snaps.
In 2013, on just 36 receptions, Jennings forced 8 missed tackles. Although he saw just 39 targets on his 212 snaps in route, Jennings caught 36 of those targets for 292 yards and finished in the top 20 in YPPR (yards per route run), with a YPPR of 1.38. Jennings seems like a great bet to take advantage of the offense’s focus on the screen game.
Can Adrien Robinson Emerge As Your Sleeper TE1?
The battle at tight end is realistically between Adrien Robinson, Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell and Xavier Grimble, as they have gotten almost all of the first-team reps during OTAs. If Robinson can emerge as the starter, he has the most fantasy upside. Of course, I am basing this assumption almost entirely on his 6-foot-4 and 270 pound frame combined with his 4.58 40-yard-dash and 39.5-inch vertical. It doesn’t hurt that his competition can’t compete athletically and hasn’t had much success from a production standpoint either.
We have learned that McAdoo will use his tight ends unlike anything we had seen from Gilbride in the past. Collectively, the beat writers have noted that the tight ends have lined up on the line of scrimmage, in the slot as a receiver, and in the backfield. According to beat writer Connor Hughes, “One particular formation had a TE in the normal position (Robinson), and then one (Daniel Fells) in the slot. That certainly isn’t something that has been seen recently.
Robinson seems to have the early edge at tight end, and he has usually been the first one on the field with the first-team offense. Coughlin has taken note of Robinson’s hard work and success picking up the offense so far. “I think [Robinson’s] done a really good job, in terms of just learning again, not many mental errors. I’ve been really impressed with that,” Coughlin said.
Phil Alexander at NumberFire found that since 2006, the average NFL offense has aimed 20.16% of their pass targets at the tight end position. Over the same span, the Packers check in below the league average at just 18.37%. While these numbers seem damning at first, I would suggest that other factors were in play that led to the low totals. The Packers have had a bevy of talent on the outside at receiver and in the slot with Greg Jennings, Nelson, Jones, and Cobb. More importantly, Rodgers never developed a solid chemistry with Jermichael Finley, and Finley’s knack for dropping passes may have caused Rodgers to think twice before sending a pass in his direction.
Either way, Robinson’s greatest opportunity in fantasy football will come in the touchdown department and more specifically inside the red zone.
With a faster pace, Giants players should improve across the board in fantasy football. How much they can improve will likely be determined by the additions they made along the offensive line, Will Beatty returning to form at left tackle, and Manning adjusting to the new scheme.
Manning is likely to match or exceed his career high in pass attempts, offering him extra value through volume. He has several players with dynamic post-catch ability in Cruz, Beckham Jr., Jernigan, and Wilson. How quickly they can adjust to the offense and what kind of roles they carve out should have a direct effect on Manning.
Cruz’s ability to finish as a borderline WR1, like we saw during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, will depend on the improvement of Randle and whoever wins the battle for the other outside wide receiver spot between Jernigan and Beckham Jr. Cruz’s stats took a tumble last season as the Giants failed to pose a threat with either Nicks or Randle on the outside, because teams were able to double-team him frequently.
Randle is a smooth route runner who can beat defenders vertically with his route running while also succeeding over the middle with his size. He is actually a very good fit for the west coast offense. Heading into his third year, he should be expected to make jump. As mentioned above, he could become the go-to player inside the red zone.
If you want to know any of my other evaluations on skill position players, continue the conversation, or yell at me for something I missed, you can find me on Twitter @DanSchneier_NFL. You can also add me to your network on Google+ to find all of my past material.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our new Mock and Companion Draft Tool! Utilizing our updated player projections, run a quick mock draft and see where this year’s crop of free agents are coming off the board in early fantasy football drafts.