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Tale Of The Tape: Breaking Down Rolando McClain Vs. Giants

An All-22 tape breakdown of Rolando McClain's game against the New York Giants.

Wesley Hitt

Last week when I asked the BtB community who they would like to see a tape breakdown of, the result was overwhelmingly in favor of Rolando McClain. And it's easy to see why. McClain has been a monster at middle linebacker for Dallas, regularly making huge plays. I had broken down the linebackers after Week Two against Tennessee, and was excited to take another look at McClain.

I was even more intrigued after watching the game. McClain didn't stand out to me this week as much as he had been. It wasn't that he as bad, it was more that he had no impact. So let's look at the tape; were my eyes deceiving me or did Rolando have a down game?

Play 1: Run play. McClain plays backside contain as Durant shoots into the backfield and makes a tackle.

Play 2: Run play, tackle in the backfield by the defensive line.

Play 3: 3rd and long. 8 men on the line, showing blitz. Run play, McClain gets blocked out of the play.

Play 4: Nickel formation. Durant blitzes, McClain playing a shallow zone. Quick throw to the sideline.

Play 5: 4-3. McClain drops into a shallow zone, no receiver in his area.

Play 6: Nickel formation. Run up middle, McClain does a nice job getting off his block. Gang tackle.

Play 7: Nickel. McClain blitzes, gets picked up by the RB.

Play 8: 3rd and long. As you can see in the pictures below, Dallas is playing very aggressive; eight men are lined up in the box. McClain (yellow circle) is coming in on a blitz, and Durant (red circle) drops back into coverage:

Giants play 8 (1)

Giants play 8 (2)

McClain plays a little game with the defensive tackle. The tackle crashes hard inside to occupy the guard and center, while McClain loops around. At the same time J.J. Wilcox is coming on a blitz through the same gap. It's a great design, and at least one of the rushers was going to come free. Unfortunately you can see Eli Manning, (red arrow), is already getting rid of the ball. I talked on Rabble and Landon's podcast about how quickly Eli was getting rid of the ball and the effect that had on our perception of the team's pressure. This play is a good example of that.

Giants play 8 (3)

Play 9: 4th down. 4-3 defense, Giants jump offsides and end up punting. Based on the rest of the game, it's safe to assume Coughlin wasn't attempting to draw the Boy's offsides as they went for it on 4th down multiple times during the game.

Play 10: Dallas comes out in a nickel formation and McClain comes in hard on a blitz:

giants 10 (1)

giants 10 (2)

I'm really not sure what the Giants 77 is doing; he never actually blocks anybody. But his presence saves Eli from a huge hit, as McClain goes a bit wide to get around him. Look at McClain's feet in the picture below and you can see that he has to slow down some and change his angle to close in on Manning:

Giants 10 (3)

This was a really weird play to see in full time. McClain looks confused for a moment, like he thought Eli had already thrown the ball. Ultimately though, he closes in, and Eli is forced to throw the ball away.

Play 11: Nickel. Another blitz from McClain, this time from the other side. McClain is picked up by the tackle.

Play 12: Nickel. Run to the outside. McClain and Durant chase it down for a minimal gain.

Play 13: Nickel Formation:

giants 13 (1)

The first thing you'll notice is that McClain is standing still after everyone else is moving.

Giants 13 (2)

See how Durant is moving in (red arrow), along with Henry Melton, (69)? Bad idea. I'm not sure if McClain isn't moving because he was slow off the ball, or because of film study, but he's the only one in position to make a play on the Giant's end around to Odell Beckham. You can see in the picture below that he's in perfect position, (and already moving), to make a play in the backfield. Also notice the red circle? That's George Selvie, crashing in hard from the outside.

giants 13 (3)

Both players are in great position to make plays. McClain has basically cleared the wash and moving at a good angle to intercept Beckham in the backfield, and Selvie has gotten off his block and is starting to move up-field.

giants 13 (4)

And then everything comes apart. Selvie just isn't athletic enough to make the play on Beckham, who gets around him in the time it takes Selvie to square his shoulders to the backfield. And for some reason McClain, who so far has taken a good angle, squares up into the backfield, (he may have been held some by a Giant lineman). He and Selvie are now perpendicular to Odell Beckham, who easily clears the edge for the big play:

giants 13 (5)

giants 13 (6)

In all fairness Selvie is the one who eventually runs Beckham down from behind and makes the tackle.

Play 14: Dallas is lined up in a Nickel formation. This is a pretty routine run up the middle, and at first it looks like McClain is in a good position to fill the hole and make a play:

play 14 (1)

play 14 (2)

However McClain gets knocked out of the hole by the Giant's TE. Luckily J.J. Wilcox is there to clean up the play.

play 14 (3)

Play 15: Nickel formation. Shallow zone. Eli scrambles and throws the ball away.

Play 16: McClain isn't on the field.

Play 17: Nickel formation, 3 and 17. McClain and Durant play about ten yards deep. The Giants send four receivers into patterns, with five players in primary coverage for Dallas, (three corners and the two linebackers).

play 17 (1)

play 17 (2)

You can see McClain is locked in to one of the underneath receivers and Durant is watching the other. However, Durant is also drifting towards the sideline to help cover the outside receiver. This leaves the middle wide open and an easy catch for the tight end. McClain sees this happening, and comes is on the move for the tackle while Durant is still flat footed near the sideline:

giants 17 (3)

Play 18: Fourth and one. Nickel defense. McClain rushes the passer and gets good pressure on Eli who throws up a prayer. Unfortunately that prayer is granted, and Wilcox gets flagged for pass interference, (it looks like Wilcox plays it clean, however Church definitely gets there early).

Play 19: Nickel formation. This was the Giants one long run. We can see that both Durant and McClain read the play well and react quickly to the run:

play 19 (2)

McClain, (yellow circle), is in good position to fill one possible gap, while Durant is quickly filling in the other.

Giants 19 (3)

Above it seems as if both players have effectively filled their respective gaps. But look at their feet. McClain has his plant foot outside and behind, he is ready to both take on a block or react to a cutback. Durant however, has his plant foot towards the play, meaning all his weight and momentum is going backwards, and he actually ends up taking a few more steps towards the sideline, leading to this:

giants 19 (4)

Durant isn't actually blocked out by the fullback, as he overruns the hole and the fullback just seals him off. McClain meanwhile has filled his gap, but can't navigate the wash to get over and make a play.

Now this is a look at Rolando McClain, but I want to take a second to see what our safeties are doing on this play. We can see that they both, (Church in yellow, Wilcox in red), start out playing extremely deep, (something we also saw in the Saints game).

Giants 19 (6)

At the snap Church drops back into coverage and Wilcox starts coming up in run support. Wilcox has two main gaps that the running back could attack; he should be splitting the difference as he comes up, but instead comes up straight.

giants 19 (7)

The play ends up with Wilcox out of position to make a play. Church is still able to come up and make a stop, but misses the tackle.

Giants 19 (8)

Play 20: Nickel formation. Run up the middle. McClain bounces to the outside of his blocker, no impact on the play.

Play 21: 4-3 formation. Play action. McClain comes up in run support initially then drops into a shallow zone. TD to Odell Beckham.

Play 22: 4-3 formation with Durant lined up over the TE.

Giants 22 (1)

Giants run play action and all three of Dallas linebackers fall for it, leaving the TE free for an easy release:

Giants 22 (2)

I'm really not sure what happens here. It looks like Kyle Wilber, (red circle) is rushing the quarterback and has no coverage responsibility. I can't tell if McClain, (yellow circle) is rushing as well or if he is supposed to be dropping back in zone and has just gotten lost in the wash. Which means it's impossible to know if Durant (blue circle), is futilely chasing down the TE because that's his (blown) assignment, or if he's covering for McClain not being in his zone. Regardless, the play action fools all of our linebackers and leads to an easy TD.

Giants 22 (3)

Play 23: Nickel, run up the middle, McClain blocked out.

Play 24: Nickel. Durant lined up on line. McClain has good man coverage on TE, pass goes other way.

Play 25: Nickel. McClain plays a shallow zone coverage.

Play 26: Nickel. McClain plays a shallow zone, picks up receiver, good coverage.

Play 27: Nickel formation. Like the end-around earlier this play is a good demonstration of McClain's football intelligence. The Giants set up like they're passing. Durant drops off into coverage; McClain turns his hips but is looking into the backfield, (one of his biggest strengths), and doesn't drop; which is a good thing because the play is a draw.

Giants 27 (2)

McClain gets blocked by the Giants TE, and it looks like this is going to turn into a big gain. The CB is blocked, and there are no other Cowboys to be seen, (Church is offscreen, coming in, but not likely able to make a play).

Giants 27 (4)

Giants 27 (5)

Luckily you can see in the above picture McClain is able to get off the block and he makes the tackle. This is a huge play; if McClain doesn't get off this block this could have been a 20+ yard rush for the G-men.

Play 28: 3-3 formation, three man rush. Draw play. McClain reads the whole way, steps up and fills the gap.

Play 29: 4-3 formation. Run up the middle. McClain reads it, and hits the running back in the backfield. RB is able to spin out of tackle and picks up six yards.

Play 30: Play action. McClain plays run, then drops into a shallow zone. Eli under pressure is forced to scramble then throws to George Selvie who can't hold onto the throw.

Play 31: 4-3. Off-sides on New York.

Play 32: McClain not in.

Play 33: 4-3. Run off the left guard. McClain and Wilber chase play down and combine for tackle.

Play 34: 4-3. Off-tackle run, McClain chases it down for the tackle.

Play 35: 4-3. Pass, McClain plays a mid, middle zone.

Play 36: 4-3. Run play. Terrell McClain hits RB in backfield, steals the ball, and the running backs milk money. Ref's upset about bullying, give Giants the ball back.

Play 37: 4-3. Giants flagged for offsides.

Play 38: 4-3. Run off right tackle. McClain sets edge and forces run back in, tackle by Tyrone Crawford for no gain.

Play 39: 3rd and 18. Nickel formation. McClain rushes passer, gets lost in the wash.

Play 40: 4-3. Giants run off left tackle. McClain crashes the middle, no impact.

Play 41: 4-3. Run to the right side. McClain makes tackle near the line.

Play 42: 4-3. McClain rushes the passer, is picked up by the guard and running back.

Play 43: 4-3. Run play, McClain comes in and fills gap.

Play 44: Nickel formation. Both Durant, (red) and McClain, (yellow) drop into coverage. This is an interesting play because it highlights something McClain does very well and that Durant does not here. You can see a receiver attacking Durant, and Durant dropping back with him:

Giants 44 (1)

Good coverage so far by Durant. Notice how his head is turned but not his body? That's something that McClain does very well; he actually runs with TE's down the seam, he doesn't backpedal. But notice what Durant does next;

Giants 44 (2!)

Now he's completely facing the quarterback, and is in a backpedal stance. This leads him to lose the wide receiver who gets behind him; Durant stops in his drop, and the result is an easy pitch and catch for the QB.

Giants 44 (3)

Play 45: 4-3. Quick throw on a WR screen.

Play 46: Nickel. Run play, McClain makes tackle in backfield.

Play 47: McClain not in.

Play 48: McClain not in.

Play 49: Nickel, run up the middle. Tackled by DT on the line.

Play 50: Nickel. McClain drops deep middle, has good coverage on TE in seam.

Play 51: Nickel. McClain shallow drop, incomplete pass.

Play 52: Nickel. Toss outside, McClain reads it whole way, tackles running back for a loss.

Play 53: Nickel. McClain covers flat.

Play 54: Nickel. Quick pass to the TE, McClain no impact on play.

Play 55: Run up the middle, McClain blocked out of play by guard.

Play 56: Third and one, nickel formation. McClain reads the run perfectly and has the play stopped in the backfield, but somehow misses the tackle. First down Giants.

Giants 56 (1)
Giants 56 (2)

Play 57: Nickel, McClain plays a shallow zone.

Play 58: Nickel. McClain blitzes, blocked by guard.

Play 59: Nickel. Carries TE down the seam, good coverage.

Play 60: This is another interesting play in that it highlights how coverages have to act in harmony. McClain is playing a middle zone coverage, and Carr is playing man coverage on the outside.

Giants 60 (1)

A few things to notice. McClain is obviously occupied by the receiver being carried into his zone, so he stops his drop. Meanwhile Carr is playing an outside trail technique because he thinks he is going to have help inside.

Giants 60 (2)

Instead it's an easy reception for the wide receiver. Watching this live it's easy to just blame the reception on bad coverage. But that's not the case. This was good play-calling, forcing the linebacker to help with the immediate threat in front of him while leaving the cornerback, (who is expecting help), on his own.

Play 61: 4-3. Shallow zone, incomplete back of the endzone.

Play 62: 4-3. Shallow zone, incomplete pass.

Play 63: Third and five on the six. Nickel. Shallow zone, incomplete pass.

Play 64: Fourth and five on the six. McClain drops left into a shallow zone. Pass goes to the shallow zone on the right of the defense.

Play 65: Nickel. McClain plays a medium zone, but starts drifting to the right. Receiver comes in from the left to the vacated area for the completion.

Play 66: Nickel. Zone coverage, pass completed in front of the linebackers, they converge on the tackle and Durant strips the ball.

What It All Means:

McClain didn't have a bad game, but he didn't have a great one either. There were a number of missed tackles and that was concerning because it's not something I've noticed before. On the other hand, on two occasions McClain showed great football intelligence, sniffing out the end-around, (even though he didn't make the play), and a draw, (stopping a huge play). He wasn't a liability in coverage, but gave up a few completions. McClain has played a lot of snaps over the last few games, and I wonder if he's starting to wear down. It will be interesting to see if the coaches limit his snap counts against the Redskins with Bruce Carter returning.

Author Note: Be on the lookout for another film review tomorrow; I'm going to break down some of Tyron Smiths' plays and a few other odd's and ends that stood out when going over the tape.

Okay BtB, who do you want to see reviewed next?

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