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Giants Positionless Offense Yielding New Creative Looks

Let's take a look at a couple of new wrinkles installed by the coaching staff this year.

Creative offensive schemes are nothing new to New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, who has built offensive game plans for multiple teams over the last decade and a half. But the more experienced he gets as a coach, the more creative he gets.

Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka has only been coaching for a few seasons but has spent most of that time under Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, another coach with a reputation for being one of the most creative offensive minds in NFL history.

Put those two together and be prepared to be wowed by the creativity that knows no limits.

Last season, there were flashes of creativity from this Giants offensive coaching staff, such as the now famous shovel pass to win the game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 to the leaning on the Wild Cat when the quarterbacks needed to re-set from injury.

That, however, was the warmup act. If early training camp is any indication, the Giants are looking to expand on their formational versatility by further blurring the lines of skill positions to become a more positionless offense.

With players like Darren Waller, Parris Campbell, and Wan’Dale Robinson on the roster, Giants fans knew that creativity would be something we saw out of this offense, but I don’t think anybody was prepared for what we’ve seen so far.

Here we see the Giants working in seven-on-seven drills out of 02 personnel, with the two tight ends being Daniel Bellinger and Darren Waller. The receivers on the play are Isaiah Hodgins to the left, Darius Slayton to the right, and Parris Campbell in the slot next to Slayton. 

Even further, the two tight ends are in the least traditional spots for a tight end, with Bellinger starting in the backfield next to Daniel Jones and Waller running return arrow, motioning backward into the backfield, then immediately running to the flat at the snap. (Return arrow is how former Giants receiver Kadarius Toney scored his touchdown in this past Super Bowl.)

The Giants operated here with the same personnel, except this time, Bellinger is in a traditional Y-tight end role, Slayton motions to be the left receiver, Waller was a flexed tight end, Hodgins was out wide, and Campbell was in the backfield.

The more the Giants blur these lines between positional roles and responsibilities, the harder they become to defend - and they’re showing these formations without even having Saquon Barkley on the field.

Positionless football is becoming more popular in the modern NFL, with players like Deebo Samuel, Taysom Hill, Curtis Samuel, and more seeing increasing usage not just in the running game but as players who line up in the backfield and get carries that way as opposed to just end around and jet sweeps. The Giants are building a skill position group where almost everyone can participate in the passing and rushing game in various ways.

In 2021 under Daboll, Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie played 8.9% of his total offensive snaps out of the backfield. In 2022, Giants running back Matt Breida saw 22.6% of his offensive snaps come as a receiver up on the line of scrimmage. Even Barkley played 9.9% of his offensive snaps close to the line of scrimmage.

Offensive weapons often get called “gadget” players, and for years that came with the implication of “this player is so dynamic we have to get the ball in their hands, but only on designed touches.”

It was thought of as a negative that the player had home-run ability but usually lacked the technique to be a consistent contributor. Percy Harvin opened that up as a wide back in college, then a wide receiver in the NFL that occasionally lined up in the backfield.

Randall Cobb was the next man up to line up all over the formation but could play receiver full-time and find success. Fast forward to players like Cordarrelle Patterson, Deebo Samuel, Taysom Hill, Tavon Austin, Ty Montgomery, and other "positionless" offensive weapons that have become a valued part of modern NFL offenses.

Positional versatility has always been a point of emphasis for Daboll, and it was a point of emphasis for the Chiefs when Kafka was on their coaching staff. Adding Waller to the mix at tight end makes the Giants one of the most versatile players in the NFL, and when Wan’Dale Robinson gets removed from the PUP list, he should also be expected to contribute to this positionless style.

Robinson has the potential to become the next great offensive weapon for the Giants, given his dynamic playmaking abilities with the ball in his hands and his experience playing running back during his time at Nebraska.

The possibilities are nearly endless with the makeup of the current roster. Pair that with the Giants having a rushing threat at quarterback, and Daboll and Kafka should consistently give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.

Having the threat of doing something that defenses rarely see, but have to still prepare for, gives the Giants a massive advantage while still being able to stick to their core principles of running the ball, protecting the ball, and creating explosive plays.

Expect to see the personnel groupings and formations get more creative and exciting as the staff gets more comfortable with the roster and more familiar with what works and what doesn’t.

It wouldn’t shock me if, by the end of the season, we saw a personnel grouping of Barkley, Robinson, Campbell, Waller, and Bellinger to give the ability to have multiple players who can line up just about anywhere and contribute in multiple ways.

It's going to be a fun season to watch, that's for sure!