Friday, November 11, 2011

The New York Giants 2011 defense

When I wrapped up my post last night and went to bed, I couldn't help but think that I'd forgotten something...

Thursday Night Football.

Classic. I completely forgot the Raiders are playing the Chargers, so no pick for that game. Ah well. Nobody likes Thursday Night Football anyway and even less people like the NFL Networks coverage, which is partly related to the fact that the NFL Network covers sporting events just about as badly as a multi-million dollar television network could. If you don't believe me, try watching the NFL combine next year. If you can stomach more than 15 minutes of it once the drills start then good luck to you my friend.

As of right now the Raiders are up 24-17 and frankly I probably would have picked the Chargers so maybe it's a good thing that I forgot it.

Moving on and just a quick hat tip and thank you to LongHornScott, one of the many posters over at Barking Carnival Football. Scott linked to this blog in the comments section of one of his articles, so it's only fair to return the favour, with a link to the article in question. In it, Scott breaks down the offensive drives of the Texas Longhorns from their game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, reviewing each play and going into great detail about them, which I imagine readers of this blog would be interested in even if not College football fans per se, thanks to the depth of the commentary and the obvious knowledge on display, including a good verbal breakdown of some of the zone plays. Article here.

Next on the agenda is this article from, which covers comments made by Jets corner Antonio Cromartie ahead of the game against the Patriots this weekend. Specifically this comment;
“Every team is starting to notice that if you bang him around, their timing is knocked off,” Cromartie said via
Gregg Rosenthal then mockingly snorts at Cromarties suggestion, saying that this is hardly a state secret and has been the preferred approach to stopping Welker for years. Which of course leaves the nagging question; if this approach to stopping Welker is such widespread knowledge then why a) has every team since week one not been using it, and b) why hasn't Rosenthal been hammering this point home since week one, laughing at peoples feeble attempts to cover Welker?

I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that he's only just learnt about the approach. Still at least one hard working, poorly paid, delightfully charming, astute and incredibly modest member of the amateur football blogging community has been harping on about this since the start of the year basically (what do you mean "who?"), specifically laying it out in detail here and here.

Right now that's out of the way; the Giants defense.

Or more to the point, what the Giants defense have been doing this season to evolve, building on the success of their usual four man line from last year and now experimenting with three man fronts, blitzing while in a four man front and even five man defensive lines.

We start with a blitz the Giants ran last week against the Patriots. The Giants went to their three man line and ended up bringing a six man pressure on the Patriots, which resulted in Michael Boley looping around the weak side and stripping the ball from Tom Brady. Technically it was called a sack even though Boley doesn't bring Brady to the ground, but then this is something we're seeing more and more of now, likely as a result of the rules regarding hitting quarterbacks (with teams being extra careful when that quarterback is Brady).

Instead Boley - like many contemporary pass rushers - puts one hand out to push the quarterback in the back (to make sure you don't end up hitting him with your helmet) while using his free hand to swat at the ball when the quarterback cocks his arm. Yes, this is what the NFL has come to now. I've done a diagram below and the link to the original video is here. Just be warned that it's getting close to Christmas now and Kay's Jewellers are on a mission with their 35 second adverts (the clip is only 50 seconds long). I actually find the advert amusing for two reasons; 1) it's obviously aimed at Men yet it's the most cheesy, vomit inducing, overly lovey dovey advert that you could possibly imagine and 2) in this economic climate how many football fans does Kay's think have at least $2,500 to spend on an engagement ring?
For the sake of brevity I've focused solely on the front seven guys. Now at the snap, only six of them blitz - everyone except the safety. But I'm guessing that the safety was supposed to be matched up man to man on one of the tight ends, so when he sees that both have stayed in to pass protect he decides to make himself useful with a delayed blitz. Boley's pass rush is that badly drawn dotted line on the left. On a side note, the video also demonstrates clearly what I've been saying about Brady for a while now - that he has a surprising tendency to lock in on receivers right from the snap. Just watch the video again and watch his head.

Next up is a play the Giants ran against Miami. It was first and ten when the Giants decided to do something that's a relative rarity outside of goal line and short yardage situations; they put 5 men down on the line of scrimmage. Video here and diagram below.
This is actually very reminiscent of the old "46 Bear" front made famous by Buddy Ryan with Chicago many years ago and occasionally used by his two sons Rex and Rob, with the Jets and Cowboys respectively. The only real difference is that the players from the left E to the right T would be shifted across one offensive linemen to the right, and the E on the far right would in fact be a linebacker. In the video you'll see that N (Linval Joseph) manages to beat the center one on one and get into the backfield for the sack.

There's actually another play from the same game that really illustrates the point. It was getting late in the game admittedly so the Giants were able to focus in a little more on the passing game, but still, it shows how far the Giants have come in terms of developing their scheme. The video is here and diagram below.
To try and make sense of the morass of lines I've highlighted the two critical ones in red. Basically the blitz of C and B to the right occupies the running back and the right tackle. Meanwhile N steps forward and pushes the center before dropping off into coverage, as the E on the right scrapes across. This causes the offensive line to do something that all defensive coordinators dream about when they blitz; the Dolphins end up with three men blocking one pass rusher. Both the guards and the center all focus in on the E from the right, allowing the other B (highlighted in red) to cut around the blob of protectors and get into the backfield. He gets a hand on the quarterback (Matt Moore) but Moore escapes... only to be hit by the E looping around, who goes from being triple teamed to being zero teamed as all three Dolphins linemen turn to look right. And people wonder why the Dolphins suck this year?

Now they say three's a charm, so we'll stick with the same game, in fact just a minute or so after the play above, and show a third sack. This time there's going to be a much more conventional four man line, but the Giants are going to show pressure up the middle with six guys and then actually bring five. Video is here with a diagram below.
The key to this play is the Giants threatening the blitz with M who comes right down practically between the two defensive tackles. As the nearest man he becomes a high priority threat, along with the two tackles. As a result, the offensive guards and center will slide across to deal with these three potential rushers. The situation is exacerbated when T on the left drives hard inside. This leaves the blitzing linebacker B one on one with the running back and E to the left (Osi Umenyiora) one on one with the left tackle.

In the end Umenyiora simply trucks his man out of the way, leaving him in a heap and cutting inside to make the sack. But this is a great example of how the Giants are building on the very real threat of their front four linemen, using blitzing linebackers - and the threat of blitzing linebackers - to help them create favourable one on one match ups. The fact that they're occasionally lining up guys like Mathias Kiwanuka as linebackers just makes this approach all the more potent.

So there you go. A look at the 2011 New York Giants defense that you might not have seen yet. Just keep an eye on those linebackers next time you're watching the Giants. And of course, as always, if you like what you see please take a moment to hit the facebook/twitter/google like button, whichever one applies best to you, or just let your friends know via e-mail or something.

Oh! Nearly forgot again. The Raiders/Chargers game has finished now with the score staying the same since I last saw it. It appears Kamerion Wimbley had one of those games that he does now and again where he rips off four sacks in one game. Though an injury to the Chargers left tackle kind of helps explain that one away. Rivers looks like he had another bad game. Even Carson Palmer doesn't appear to have done that great. He was only 14/20, and just watching the highlights it looks like some of those deep passes were a bit errant. He seems to have picked up most of his 299 yards on just a few plays. Denarius Moore's done well, 5 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. And Michael Bush, 30 carries for 157 yards and a TD, plus another 85 yards through the air.

Tomorrow I'll do my picks then it's a night off for me before Week 10's games. See you soon.


LonghornScott said...

Hey thanks. I recently stumbled on the blog and it's great stuff.

Chris said...

Thanks Scott.

I liked the fact that you broke down the Longhorns drive by drive. I think sometimes I forget myself that the context of the current drive can make a big difference to a play.

Keep it up man.