As we inch closer to the draft and the uncertainty of the 2020 NFL season, Giants fans can only sit back and wonder what the offense under Jason Garrett will look like.
How will he take advantage of the offense's strengths while disguising its weaknesses?
If I were advising Garrett on designing the idea offense, I would suggest a package that takes advantage of what was a thin group last season: 13 personnel (one back three tight ends). A position that needed upgrading based on depth and injury history (tight end) has a chance to become one of the Giants most fruitful groups.
In my first Giants mock draft, I selected Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant in the fifth round. When you add Bryant to a group that includes Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and recent free-agent addition Levine Toilolo, the diversity of that group combined with an emerging receiver in Darius Slayton, the athleticism of quarterback Daniel Jones, and the magic of Saquon Barkley could make the Giants 13-personnel lethal.
Each tight end brings something unique to the lineup for New York. Engram, the longest-tenured tight end on the team, is a receiving matchup nightmare for defenses when healthy. His athleticism and size make him an impossible cover for defenses and allows him to operate as a receiver at times.
Smith, in his first year in the league, showed glimpses of a guy who could be a receiving threat for the Giants, he has the ideal size and athleticism to be a legitimate number two tight end.
Toilolo, from San Francisco, is your prototypical blocking tight end. He has primarily operated in that capacity in his five NFL seasons.
Bryant, if drafted, is more like a complete or balanced tight end. His ability to block and catch the ball will make him valuable to any team.
These four plays show how the 13-personnel, as run by Garrett in Dallas, can look with the players the Giants have.
This first picture is of a tight bunch formation. You can see the three guys bunched on the right side.
With the Giants, Toilolo would be the inline tight end, Bryant would be the interior H-back and Engram would be the outside close Z.
You can also see in the diagram below that my choice for a second-round pick, (Georgia's Isaiah Wilson) is playing left tackle with Darius Slayton as the X receiver.
This play is going to be an outside zone to the weak side. The reason that it catches the defense off guard is because of how run-dominant they are on the field side of their formation.
Toilolo, being the best run blocker of the three ends, would probably signal to a defense that they are running behind him.
Bryant would then go in motion to the weak side and set himself up to reach the force player on that side. That allows Barkley to get the edge and do what he does best.
Here's a clip from the Cowboys' offense demonstrating a similar concept.
Working off the success of the zone, that sets the offense up to take advantage of the defense's aggressiveness. They can now run a zone boot pass of this formation motion and play-fake.
Jones should be able to use his athleticism to make the flat defender commit, enabling him to "take the easy cheese" and dump it to Toilolo in the flat.
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If Jones has time, he could also look top-down at Engram running the deep out or Slayton running the drag from the backside, then down to Toilolo, an example of which is shown in the following clip.
This next picture depicts another bunched trips set with the tight end and wing, with the third tight end coming across in motion to complete the set.
In the diagram below, Toilolo would once again the inline tight end. Bryant (if drafted) is the wing, although he is hugging the line as much as he can without covering up Toilolo.
Engram is lined up in the slot to the short side of the field and would motion across into the bunch look.
The play is designed to be an inside run, but it gives Barkley some options to bounce it outside or cut it back.
In the clip below, notice the cutback lane that the back does not choose. Instead, he bounces it and the unblocked safety comes downhill to make a play.
There's a good chance that on a similar play run by the Giants, Barkley finds that cutback lane or he is able to make that safety miss when he bounces outside.
The final play (shown in the clip below) is a play-action off the previous play down in the red zone close to the endzone. The personnel says "run-heavy" but watch what unfolds.
The same formation and motion are used to suck the defense to the line of scrimmage, but the quarterback fakes it and comes up firing for the third tight end (Engram, in the potential Giants alignment).
By the way, te Cowboys' play would have been a success if the quarterback had not thrown the football behind his intended target.
Putting it All Together
The 13-personnel group is likely going to be a big staple of the Giants offense this year and with good reason.
Given the versatility of Engram and, if he's drafted, Bryant (or any tight end with a compatible skillset, for that matter), it is not hard to imagine those guys on the field at the same time.
There's no shortage of formations for three tight ends, several of which are illustrated below which would utilize their skills and take advantage of Jones' and Barkley's athleticism.
As you can see by the black circles that represent the tight ends, it would not only be difficult to personnel the grouping but even more confusing as to where each end would line up and what that would mean for the play.
The more you can get defenders thinking, the better opportunity your offense has for success.
(Video clips via NFL Game Pass)