Week 14 was a reality check for the Giants. After one of their biggest wins in years against Seattle the week before, the Giants fell on their faces against the Cardinals. While it’s been a positive year in many respects, Sunday’s loss to Arizona was further proof that this offense still needs a lot of help. There is simply not enough talent and speed to take the Giants to the next level, and the Cardinals Defense was able to easily take advantage.
We focus a lot on scheme here. We love to show you subtle strategies, whether it’s an exotic blitz, or a well-disguised coverage. The chess match between coaches gives us lots to chew on each week. Against the Giants on Sunday, there was nothing fancy needed from Arizona. They simply blanketed the Giants’ receivers and gave Daniel Jones no throwing windows to exploit. Jones was sacked 6 times. (Giants QBs were sacked 8 times total). Much of that damage was a result of the offensive line. However, much of it was also due to the lack of separation by Giants receivers, which forced Daniel Jones to hold the ball. With the threat of his legs gone due to his hamstring injury, Jones was a sitting duck.
This was a 3rd-and-5 in the 1st quarter. The Cardinals played man-to-man across the board and rushed 4.
Focus on the help defenders. The deep safety to the bottom of the screen raced to the underneath middle of the field to help on any shallow crossing routes. The deep safety to the top of the screen helped out on tight end Evan Engram, the Giants’ best matchup chess piece.
The 3rd-and-5 situation certainly dictated some of the decision to use their extra defenders where they did. But the Cardinals felt perfectly comfortable leaving their cornerbacks in 1-on-1 coverage on any vertical routes to the trips side against Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepard.
You don’t have to just take our word for it. The Cardinals told you exactly what they think about the Giants’ receivers based on their coverage choices and where they dedicated help on this play. Giants receivers don’t have the speed to consistently threaten downfield and create separation, as you could see here. The result was a coverage sack.
This theme repeated itself throughout the day (as it has for most of the 2020 season). The below 3rd-and-4 resulted in 1 of 5 sacks (5!) by Haason Reddick. Again, the Cardinals played man-to-man across the board. Do you see any separation by Giants receivers here?
To be fair, the pressure by the Cardinals hit home pretty quickly, as a stunt up front prevented Jones from having the ability to step up in the pocket and avoid Reddick’s rush from the outside. Had he avoided the rush, where would he have gone with the ball, though? Cardinals DBs had Giants receivers smothered.
This particular play is also puzzling because of the route concepts, which we wrote about earlier in the season. The Giants’ route combinations don’t consistently work off of each other or put the defense in conflict. This was another 3rd down where Jason Garrett decided to just spread out his receivers and see who could win their 1-on-1 matchup with a vertical route. If your receivers are Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski, this approach makes sense. But Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram?
That said, the Giants’ pass catchers might not be a premiere group, but they aren’t awful. There are some nice pieces in there. And they sure as hell were able to get open a lot more often in 2019. But it’s clear that this group needs more. Not to mention, you can’t understate how significant the loss of Saquon Barkley was to this offense. His impact as both a runner and as a matchup piece in the passing game have been sorely missed.
The NFC East is still in reach for the Giants, and fans should enjoy the remaining run this team has in it during the 2020 season. You finally get the sense that this franchise is headed in the right direction. Make no mistake, though, 95% of New York’s team-building capital has to be put into the offense this offseason. The Giants need to give Daniel Jones help by adding weapons and improving the offensive line. They need to see if they have the right quarterback to lead them into the future. We think Jones is the guy. But another season like this where the offense is limited around him will hinder his development and put him on the Sam Darnold path. The Giants can’t let that happen.
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