Scouting report: Inside the Giants
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Leslie Frazier is 2-0 as interim coach, and the Minnesota Vikings showed some glimpses of what was expected of them before the season in Sunday's win over Buffalo. This week will provide a much sterner test. Sam Monson from ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the New York Giants.
There is nothing complicated about the offense run by the Giants. They run a man-blocking scheme up front, and they will pull guards and expect their linemen to get to the second level to work on linebackers, opening up specific and designed holes for their running backs to exploit. They are one of the few teams around the league that likes to use a fullback a lot, and at the moment, they are running with a converted tight end, Bear Pascoe (6-foot-5, 260 pounds), in place of injured starter Madison Hedgecock (6-3, 266).
Before injuries set in, the Giants were keen on multiple tight end sets, and they still use some. But their second tight end, Travis Beckum (6-3, 239), is a much better receiving option than he is a run blocker, so occasionally, they will bring in extra linemen as additional tight ends.
On defense, the Giants run a pretty vanilla base package, though they do like to use a strong safety, often bringing an eighth man into the box and allowing the free safety to cover over the top. Their corners play a lot of man coverage, but they will play zone at times, especially underneath.
The Giants get creative when it comes to defensive subpackages, and they have a lot of rush-sets to bring out to get after the passer. They will use their entire eight-man rotation on the defensive line and most of them will see significant snaps during the game.
The Giants are at their best when they can be a running team, and this season, HB Ahmad Bradshaw (5-9, 198) is having a very good year. Bradshaw is incredibly strong for his size, often making additional yardage where there is none to be made. He will occasionally pass up a gain of a few yards if he sees a defender coming, looking to avoid the player rather than use his strength and take what is there. The Giants also use Bradshaw to pass-protect a lot, and in 123 snaps pass blocking, he has surrendered only two pressures on the quarterback.
RT Kareem McKenzie (6-6, 327) is having an excellent season. His pass blocking is good, but it is as a run-blocker that he is excelling, comfortably topping PFF's grading for run-blocking tackles on the season. McKenzie is physically dominant and can drive defenders out of the hole. The Vikings will be hoping LE Ray Edwards can play, because DL Brian Robison, who filled in last week, might find himself overmatched in the run game if he has to face McKenzie all day.
It's hard to single out any one player from a Giants defense that is playing well overall. Three defenders with the highest PFF grades -- DE Justin Tuck (6-5, 274), DT Barry Cofield (6-4, 306), and DE Chris Canty (6-7, 304) -- are all on the D-line. With the Vikings O-line starting to look patchwork, they are likely to have their hands full with that trio, who all like to work on the interior of the line, often using stunts and twists to get blockers out of shape.
Strengths and weaknesses
The strength of the Giants is their defense. Their entire front seven is playing well -- not to mention the rotational players, also giving a good account of themselves) -- and they have the kind of depth that means they can always keep a fresh body out there to disrupt an opponent's offense. Teams are unlikely to shut down the Giants defense -- the questions are, how do you handle the pressure they can bring, and can you ride out the storm and execute your offense?
On the other side of the ball, the Giants may be incredibly strong at right tackle, but the other side is a major problem, even without injury concerns. LT David Diehl (6-5, 319) is somehow earning a lot of Pro Bowl votes, but in truth, he is a poor pass protector and looks very much like the guard he was originally. Backup G/T Shawn Andrews (6-4, 330), a dominant guard for the Eagles, was once a dominant college left tackle. He has looked OK filling in at left tackle -- until he ran up against the Eagles' Trent Cole, that is -- and might be the best option the Giants have at the position.
One of the reasons the Giants get creative with their sub-packages on defense is the poor play of CB Aaron Ross (6-0, 197). Ross is the nickel corner for the Giants and he covers the slot primarily when he plays, but he has been poor in all facets of the game this season, and the Giants seem to be trying to minimize the number of snaps they need him to play. If the Vikings can force the Giants into nickel and dime packages, they can look to exploit the matchup they get with Ross covering a slot receiver such as Percy Harvin.
The bottom line
Minnesota is coming off a pair of wins against bottom-dwelling teams. The Giants are legitimate contenders despite a host of injuries, and they have a defensive front that is a problem for anybody. The Vikings will need to find something special to make it three in a row.