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Eagle Eye: Giant Concerns For Defense


The New York Giants' offense is operating at a high level right now. Quarterback Eli Manning is running the offense like a well-oiled machine, and he has them ranked in the Top 10 in the entire NFL in points (26.4 per game), yards (373.6), passing yards (282.4) and third-down percentage (44.4) through the first five games. This is an offense that can attack you vertically down the field with speed. Odell Beckham Jr. is an explosive playmaker at the receiver position, and Rueben Randle has really come into his own now in his fourth year in the league. Dwayne Harris, who the team signed early in free agency away from Dallas, is a versatile piece for them as well, and tight end Larry Donnell can still beat you down the seam. This is very much a downfield passing attack.

Many of the concepts, however, you see the Giants run are of the quick game variety. Manning has been getting the ball out consistently at the top of his drop, and he's been carving defenses up and down the field with decisiveness and accuracy. They do this with a lot of different "West Coast Offense" concepts, a couple of which I want to show you here.

This first play is what I've always known as "Tosser" or "Double Slant." We broke down this concept in our "Anatomy of a Play" feature last year. It's constructed to get the ball to that outside receiver quickly on a slant. In this case, the player is Beckham, who explodes into the open field, splits two defenders and takes this play 67 yards to the house on this quick-hitting pass play. This is what makes this passing game so dangerous. The Giants have a quarterback who gets the ball out quickly and receivers who are able to create with the ball in their hands. There's an additional factor to this scheme that makes it next-level, but we'll get to that in a bit. First, another pass concept.

This is a play called "Slant-Flat," another route concept that you'll see at every level of football from middle school on up. We have a more thorough breakdown here. It's another quick-hitting play that reads whatever defender(s) are in the flat area. Here, Manning sees a linebacker playing catch up against running back Rashad Jennings out of the backfield. He dumps it off, Jennings breaks a tackle and he's off to the races for a 51-yard touchdown. Again, it's a simple concept that gets the ball in playmaker's hands quickly, but when you have players who are able to create with the ball in their hands it makes an efficient play seem lethal.

Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has been there for two years now after coming over from Green Bay. He brought that Packers system with him to New York. The beauty of what they do is that they run all those simple concepts. They have the playmakers who can create off of them, but they like to run complementary plays off of those concepts. This is where coaching comes into play, with things like play-design, knowing what opponents will do when you line up a certain way and knowing how the players who line up on the other side try to beat you.

Take this play against Washington for instance. When Randle releases at the bottom of the screen, this looks like that Slant-Flat play I showed you above, right? You have a flat route from the No. 2 receiver. Randle breaks inside on his third step as if he's running a slant. DeAngelo Hall, a veteran corner, is affected just slightly by that in-break, giving Randle enough time to stab back up field and get vertical. This isn't a slant route. It's a sluggo (slant-and-go). Randle is able to reel in this pass from Manning for a 30-yard gain. The sluggo is a perfect changeup to the double slant and slant-flat combinations. Let me show you another example.

This is a basic "Stick" concept from the Giants against Buffalo. You have a vertical route on the outside, an out-breaking route from No. 2 and a "stick" or "option" route from the No. 3 receiver. Now, the Bills blow the coverage on this play, so Harris is wide open, but the Giants have run a good amount of stick so far through five games.

This is Beckham in the slot. Keep in mind that they move him all over the formation, including the backfield, so that will be a challenge for the Eagles' defense. When he releases at the snap, he breaks outside as if he's running that stick route, but then he breaks back inside toward the post. This is what people call a "Stick Nod" route from Beckham, and he makes two defenders miss in space on his way to a 31-yard gain. This play encapsulates the trifecta of what makes this offense dangerous: (1) the execution of simple pass concepts by Manning, (2) the playmakers on the receiving end who can create with the ball in their hands and (3) the brilliant design of complementary plays that build off of those "simple" concepts. All three of those factors come into play when defending this Giants team, a squad that has won their last three games but could easily be 5-0 on the season.

In the run game, the Giants feature a lot of zone running, but they still have their classic gap scheme runs in their arsenal as well. You'll see one- and two-back Power plays. There's Draw plays and Counter plays, but the one that Tom Coughlin has always run in high volume is the Iso Lead.

What you get on the Iso Lead is a fullback (Nikita Whitlock) leading the way for the running back. You'll see this a lot with second-year man Andre Williams in the backfield, because this run allows him to keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and stay downhill with a head of steam. They love running this play to the weak side of the formation as well, so it will be Jordan Hicks who is square in the sights of Whitlock on this play at the second level.

Williams isn't the greatest athlete, but you better pack your big-boy pants when you get ready to face him. He's a very physical runner who looks to impose his will on defenders, and he'll try to embarrass guys in one-on-one situations. Just ask Washington safety Trenton Robinson, who gets tossed outta the club by Williams in the hole on this run. The complementary plays from the passing game carry over to the run game as well for this Giants offense, as they're a strong play-action team because they marry concepts with their top run plays so well.

On this play, it looks like it could be a Lead play to the weak side, with Donnell in the backfield leading the way for the running back. But Donnell isn't leading, he's actually releasing on a vertical route. He takes this pass from Manning for a big play and a first down. The Eagles will need to be disciplined. They will need to tackle well, and they will need to be able to pressure Manning with four (or fewer) defenders to keep this offense bottled up on Monday Night Football.

Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.

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