Smart, tough, and fundamentally sound.
That was New York Giants head coach Joe Judge’s response when asked what he wanted his offense to look like this season, and that’s been the goal the team has been working ward ever since it reconvened back in April.
It was also a goal of Judge’s last year, the first with a new coaching staff trying to figure out what its players did well and what they didn’t. And it’s a goal that the Giants say they’re always going to continue working toward.
“Yeah, we're still building some stuff, but throughout camp you’ve seen it progress and seen the things that work well for us,” said receiver Sterling Shepard. “We’re trying to hone in on those things that work well for us. We’ll add some new stuff as time goes on.”
The Giants haven’t been able to go all out in adding new stuff, largely due to the injury-related absences of running back Saquon Barkley, receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The Giants offense might now have been able to work on everything it intended to address in the summer, but some hints emerged regarding what some of the staples of the offense might be this year.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but until the Giants offensive line settles in—if it settles in—expect a reliance on the quick passing game-- quick out routes, bootlegs, and check downs--to move the ball.
In the small sample size, we saw of quarterback Daniel Jones running the offense, 14 of his pass attempts (63.6%) were thrown between zero and nine yards; four (18.2%) were in the medium range (10-19 yards), and the rest consisted of one deep ball (a completion) and two balls thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
The hope is that the deep ball will eventually open up, but as Judge said, the first four weeks or so of the season are kind of like an extension of the preseason.
Teammates who didn’t take as many reps together during training camp because of injuries are more likely to be out there working together.
So it makes sense for the Giants offense to rely heavily on the shorter passes until everyone builds up a comfort level with the offensive line and Jones gets on the same page with those receiving targets who missed the bulk of training camp.
Right now, it’s unknown when Kadarius Toney will be able to get on the field in any type of full-time role, as he’s still recovering from his bout with COVID-19. But when he does, expect to see misdirection plays—jet sweeps, end-arounds, and screens—to keep defenses honest.
Even if Toney isn’t fully ready by opening day, the Giants will probably look to run these plays with Sterling Shepard, C.J. Board, and, if healthy, Evan Engram, all of whom have the chops to pull it off. And let’s not forget Saquon Barkley, who once the Giants remove the bubble wrap from and declare good as new, as a potential weapon in this regard.
The idea of running these types of plays is to create one-on-one matchups that favor the offense Imagine Barkley ending up a smaller defensive back on a misdirection play—scary, right? Now imagine when a healthy Toney starts lining up in the backfield and is the target of screen plays that, if appropriately blocked, will have defenses begging for mercy. That could be quite the scenario.
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Evan Engram's Deployment
The Giants are likely holding their breath that Engram’s calf injury will not cost him any missed time. Engram lined up all over the formation in his lone preseason snaps—inline, in the slot, and out wide—and was often put in motion.
One of the things the Giants have done poorly in past seasons is not taking better advantage of Engram’s unique skillset. He is not at his best when being asked to block a guy 30 pounds heavier than he is—never was.
But get him in space against a smaller defender, and that’s a matchup he should win every time. And it was nice to see, albeit a small sample size, Garrett having Engram lineup all over the formation a lot more rather than pinning him down to that inline spot or simply asking him to run shallow crossing routes every time he ran a route.
The Giants’ preseason offense was vanilla enough not to give away any tricks that might be up Garrett’s sleeve, but at the same time, it did offer the slightest hint into what some of the staples might be this year.
“To me, it’s always about playing to your players’ strengths, and we’ve got to find out that formula,” Judge said. “We’ve got to find out what that recipe is with these guys as we piece them together and when we go out there and operate.
“There’s always something you go in with your base playbook and what you’re going to install and what you’re going to build on, but then you start finding out little by little as you go through the season what you really do well.”
He’s correct, of course, in that the team might look to do one thing only to find out another concept is a better fit, especially once all those missing pieces return to the field.
“You don’t really have the answers at this point in the year. You’ve got to go with your base fundamentals of what you’re doing. You’ve got to build on and really think more about the players you’re playing with and what they do well, then some magical scheme that you’ve got,” Judge said.
“I mean if we all had Mr. Coach Klein’s magical playbook from The Waterboy then we’d all be pretty good, but it’s really about the players on the field. That’s what we’ve got to go ahead and rely on, is what they do well.”
“I don’t know if I have a real broad expectation of, ‘This is what we should be,’” Jones added. “I think we’re more focused on what we’re doing day-to-day and executing and preparing, and we have the ability to do a lot of different things, to attack a lot of different ways. That’s what we’re working on.”
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