Fixing the Little Things

You probably don’t want to believe it yet, but it you go back and look at the tape again (for those who haven’t burned it), the Skins were beaten by the little things last night.  The good thing about this is that a good chunk of them are fixable, coachable errors. Let’s review.

On 3rd and short on the first series of the opening drive, Marcus Washington made a great tackle of Brandon Jacobs one foot beyond the first down marker.  Up to that point, the defense looked ok, even if Jason Taylor was a little off on stopping the run (never his strong suit anyway). One foot the other way and that drive stops in three and out and the Giants maybe never build the momentum that sustained them.

On the first play on offense, Heyer lost his man (I think it was Tuck), but he was picked up either by Randy Thomas or an RB (I could not see the number on the film).  Campbell rolled right into Tuck. Let’s remember that a) Heyer didn’t whiff again even if Tuck did get the better of him and b) Campbell needs to step up in the pocket against a team like this rather than rolling out.

The pressure, combined with Heyer understandably false starting forced Zorn into a shell he never decided to leave.  Two straight (rather successful) draw plays later and we’re punting.

Similarly, on the next drive, we began with a wonderful screen play to Cooley that was called back because Samuels was down the field early.  But part of that was because Cooley was held.  I’d like to think this play would have been huge and perfectly timed otherwise.  I don’t think Samuels can be blamed because he has to go by timing and feel.  If he turns his ahead around to find Cooley, he’s in trouble.

It is at this point when the offense wasn’t doing anything that the tackling got bad.  A slightly disheartened D that had just given up big plays all over the field was less than prepared for the pounding Jacobs was ready to deal out.  It showed a weakness in the defense that coaching and scheming can and will shore up. 

Rocky McIntosh is our least experienced LB and he has a tendency to overplay everything.  Rather than filling his gaps, he rushes them and tries to make big plays.  Jason Taylor is in front of him and is less capable of playing the run than our other linemen.  This combo is scary.  Taylor can get pushed out, McIntosh fills the hole made by Taylor’s exit aggressively, and a good RB makes him pay by either going outside (forcing tiny Fred Smoot to make a tackle) or waiting for McIntosh to over pursue. This happened repeatedly.  Worse yet, the TD Manning had was an embarrassing symptom of the same thing.  In an effort to make a huge play, he whiffed on the least athletic player on the field.  Linebackers dream of the kind of free shot on a QB that he had there.  Manning should have been lying on a stretcher after that play.  Instead, the overagressive youngster looked bad. We need to adjust.  First, by coaching some technique into him (something that seemed to happen as the game went on) and by moving Taylor around more so offenses can’t pick their targets so easily. We can do that.

Next was the two false starts by Antwaan Randle El.  I’d like to say that this was the simply someone anxious to make a big play.  But come on, false starts on the WR position should never happen.  They can see the ball.  If this was anxiousness, we need to fix it.  Now. 

But I think it may be coming from a sense of needing to avoid the jam which is, of course, the best way to stop the West Coast offense. If this is what is happening, we ned more motion (something I don’t remember seeing at all), more formation shifts (again something rarely seen), and more adjustments at the line. It is possible that the Manning brothers gyrations have me spoiled about how easy it is to see an audible, but I felt like the Skins audibled very little for a team that was having so much trouble with the defense.

Another issue is the hands of the defense.  I know Guy disagreed with me, but this team dropped some sure INTs.  I’ll admit the one that Smoot dropped in the endzone came in hot and he wasn’t facing Eli when it was thrown.  But Landry let one go right through his finger tips and Rogers really blew one in the second quarter.  Blache needs to get these guys in more hands drills.  We have to get more takeaways.

The hands were less of an issue for the offense, but Moss dropped a ball late in the 4th quarter which would have lead to a first down in the red zone.  At the very least that would have meant we could have kicked the field goal and made it a one score ball game.  It could have meant we got the TD, too.  He was trying to make a play, and I understand that, but he has to make those catches first.

Finally, there is the play calling and the route running.  I don’t know whether to blame Campbell, Zorn, or the receivers, but on 5 occasions we punted on 4th and less than 2.  The receivers were constantly running hitches inside the first down markers.  Obviously, some of that has to do with what the defense is giving you.  If it is 3rd and 7, the LBs are going to drop 6 yards to keep you in front of them.  At the same time, we have to run routes that are getting us past the markers.  Even if they aren’t open. 

I wish I had the tape for you but the best example was the 4th down play at the end of the game. As Campbell scrambles to buy more time, NBC switched to a camera angle that showed the field from behind him.  He had three receivers, all of whom had run hitches or comebacks.  They were facing Campbell and floating to soft spots in the zone.  Only one of them was beyond the first down marker. Campbell threw to ARE who turned up field with a great move and fell a yard short.  Even if we assume on the left side there was a route stretching the field, how can we bunch three receivers up on roughly the same route at roughly the same depth and have only one of them be useful on 4th down? I’m all for YAC, but on 4th down, counting on it seems like suicide.

Is this failure by the receivers to be aware of the marker?  Is this designed in the play?  Is Campbell failing to recognize who in the pattern he should throw to?  I’m not sure.  I DO know that on 4th down with two minutes left, you throw to the deep receiver and force it in (he was single covered).  What’s the big deal if it is an INT or an incomplete pass?  Either way you turn the ball over.

I’m sure some of Zorn’s conservative streak had to do with the defense and also with it being his frist game.  But what bothered me about it is that JZ was a swashbuckler when he played.  I want that same mentality in the play calling.

Anyway, these are all adjustments that can be made. And if we can make them soon, there’s still plenty of games to win.  Remember, the Giants started last year 0-2 and gave up a bazillion points.  One game does not a season make.  Hail Skins!

-DW

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