As promised, I’ll be looking at a potential defensive game plan for the Skins. We’re first going to talk about Giants tendencies.
The Giants run a very conservative, power offense. While Eli Manning is the media focus (let’s face it, he’s a Manning), the focus of the offense is the three headed backfield lead by huge Brandon Jacobs. According to Pro Football Prospectus 2008, the Giants ran in short yardage and goaline situations a league leading 78% of the time. They seldom go to 4 receiver sets and and they run tons of draws and screens. When Eli does throw, it was often out of play action (they were top 5 in use of the play action) and they spread the ball around both starting receivers and the TE getting nearly equal attention.
Given that, here’s the plan:
1) Don’t buy the Hype that Eli is a “different man.” Long before the Super Bowl, people discussed the idea that Eli was maturing as a QB. The evidence for this was a few late wins (including one against the Skins). But statisitically, it was more of the same. In 2006 Eli threw for 3244 yards, 24 TDs, 18 INTs for a completion percentage of 57.7%. In 2007, Eli threw for 3336 yards, 23 TDs, 20 INTs for a percentage of 56%. In other words, same old Eli.
2) Rely on Laron Landry’s ability to play center field and stack against the run. With Jeremy Shockey gone, the Giants only have one deep threat in the form of Plaxico Burress. We can put eight men in the box and play cover one much like we did the end of last season and we shouldn’t have to fear the play action pass as long as Landry understands his role.
3) Keep them in 3rd and long as much as possible and blitz when we get there. Accoridng to the Prospectus, Eli was the worst starting QB in the NFL when pressured. Not only does he throw a lot of INTs in that situation, but he has a tendency to throw rushed and at the feet of his receivers. The Skins did an excellent job of timing blitzes last year rather than blitzing constantly. We have very good blitzing DBs and we can make good use of them today because there is only one WR that can be scary.
4) Catch the mistakes Eli makes. Eli makes some mistakes. His 20 INTs are evidence. But what is amazing is that during last year’s playoff march, a shocking number of INTs were dropped by the Pats and Cowboys. It is imperative that the defense keeps every one of Eli’s mistakes to take pressure off the offense and to help the aging line get off the field as much as possible.
As you can see, it is actually a simpler plan for the D. It is mostly mental, and it relies on the reality that this unit is better than the Giants unit. If we can keep getting off the field quickly and the Offense stays on the field and lets the defense rest, we should be fine. Hail Skins!