Promoted to the front page, many thanks to our friend neithan20000 for this detailed post.
Coming into the season one of the biggest question marks on the team was the return of Morris Claiborne. By all accounts he had a great training camp, but we had heard that story before. He was healthy in pre-season for the first time and played well...but meh, it's only preseason. After losing Orlando Scandrick for the year, pressure for Claiborne to finally live up to his draft status only increased.
And, at least for one game, he delivered.
In fact, he more than delivered. Despite his low PFF score, after watching the first half coaching film I came away thinking Claiborne was the best player on our defense. He was absolutely blanketing the WR across from him. And don't start thinking it was just a scheme change; Claiborne only pressed his man 4 times, and while we played a lot of man, there was plenty of Cover 2 mixed in.
But hey don't take my word for it. Let's go to the tape.
Dallas starts off the game with Mo playing man against Odell Beckham Jr.
Get used to this image. Because Mo was in OBJ's hip pocket all night long.
Here the ball is out by the time OBJ is making his cut. But Mo is still right there with him. By this time the ball has already been thrown underneath.
Mo is probably never going to be known as a big hitter. But here he blankets OBJ, breaks off, comes down and makes the tackle. Can't ask a CB to do much more than that.
This is the 5th defensive play of the game. Mo is lined up against his former LSU teammate Reuben Randle.
Randle does a nice job getting off the line, and looks to have some early separation from Claiborne.
That early separation lasted all of three yards. Look at the difference in coverage between Claiborne (yellow circle), and Brandon Carr (red line). Carr has the more difficult assignment covering OBJ, but he's playing really far off, especially compared to the coverage Claiborne has on Randle.
At the top of the screen Randle has not yet made his break and Mo is just riding his hip pocket (yellow circle). Meanwhile OBJ has made his break and has a nice cushion on Brandon Carr (red circle).
This is a good picture. Both receivers have made their cuts, and OBJ has slowed down to make the catch. Look at the difference in coverage. Even through the cut Claiborne is still right in his WR's hip pocket. OBJ meanwhile has a nice cushion. Carr is there yes, but he has no chance to make a play on the ball.
Play 2 (Quarter 2):
I'm just going to provide the pictures on this one. Claiborne is in man coverage at the bottom of your screen, against Rueben Randle. Two things: Eli never once looks anywhere else. This is a designed play for Randle. Also, it is single high over the top and the safety is shaded towards OBJ.
At this point the ball is in the air.
Like I said, this was single high coverage, with the safety shaded towards the other side of the field. Look at all the empty space behind Claiborne...if he doesn't make this play it's a 30 yard play at a minimum, and probably a touchdown.
So this is interesting. For some reason, Eli doesn't lead Randle down the field, which is what you would expect on a Go route. So I'm not sure if this is just a really, really deep comeback, if Eli threw a bad ball, or what. Regardless, Randle has to break back towards the ball, and again, Mo is right there with him.
And ends up making a great play on the ball, knocking it away and out of bounds. Too many times we've seen CB's try and go for the interception here and miss, allowing the receiver to run away from them. Mo has done that once or twice. But not this time. Great coverage, smart ball skills and an all around good play from #24.
Play 3 (Quarter 2):
Here we have Claiborne manned up at the bottom of the screen against OBJ. There's something interesting to note here. Look at the Giant's formation; 2WR, 2TE, 1RB. This is basically all we've seen from the Giants so far. No real motion, no three receiver sets, nothing. The Giants offense to this point was about as vanilla as possible.
Just an interesting thing about Dallas's defense. We're playing man with our corners and linebackers, with our safeties playing cover 2 over the top. We didn't do this a lot last year, probably because we wanted Church up in run support. I think Dallas is much more trusting of it's defensive line this year, meaning we're going to be able to play more with the defensive backfield.
This was the first press play I saw from Claiborne. It shows why people have said he needs to be playing press more; he simply locks on to Mr. Beckham Jr who can not get a release.
It's great coverage across the board. OBJ still hasn't gotten off of Claiborne's press (yellow circle), and the rest of the receivers are covered tight (blue circle). This should have been a great play for the defense. But notice the lane that's appearing in front of Eli (red lines).
Beckham still hasn't gone out into a pattern (yellow circle). But by this time Eli knows he's got nowhere to throw and can't ignore the huge running lane in front of him. Great coverage, but a rare Eli scramble ruins what should have been a good play for Dallas.
Play 8 (Quarter 2):
I mentioned earlier that New York had been playing a very vanilla gameplan. Here we finally see them in a 3WR set, with Odell Beckham Jr. on the outside (red circle). OBJ is being covered by Claiborne (yellow circle), and Tyler Patmon is playing the slot (blue circle).
New York is trying to free up OBJ by motioning him into the slot (red circle). What's kind of cool here is that Mo (yellow circle), seems to be directing traffic some. It looks like he's directing Patmon (blue circle), where to go.
Here's where things get really interesting. OBJ has motioned into the slot (red circle). Instead of having Mo (yellow circle), shadow him, or just leaving the coverage alone, Dallas has countered by having Mo slide over to cover the previous slot player, and having Tyler Patmon (blue circle), come all the way into the box to provide a blitz look. This leaves OBJ covered by J.J. Wilcox.
And this is where things get really cool. Last year on third and long Dallas caused fits by dropping the entire back seven into zone coverage right around the first down marker. Here we see a variation of this; Dallas has dropped six defenders into shallow zones (with the strong safety playing a little deeper), and have blitzed Tyler Patmon off the edge (dark blue circle). Really cool play.
Play 11 (Quarter 2):
Claiborne is again at the bottom of the screen. This looks like the Giants are in a basic 3WR package with Dallas playing man to counter.
Ah, but looks can be deceiving! At the snap Carr, Claiborne, and Church all immediately begin to drop, meaning that this is a zone coverage.
So...this looks confusing but it really isn't. The two outside corners and one safety are playing a kind of cover 3 zone right at the first down marker, with the linebackers and the slot corner immediately underneath them. That leaves J.J. Wilcox as a single high safety in charge of anything deep.
One interesting thing to note: Odell Beckham, the outside receiver, cuts his route inside very short. This causes Claiborne to immediately look at the slot receiver (red arrow), who appears to be running a deeper route. You can see both Claiborne and the linebacker adjust to this; the linebacker is going to carry the slot receiver just a little ways, enough to allow Claiborne to adjust his zone closer to the middle of the field.
Which we can see better here. OBJ is left alone on his shallow crossing route. The linebacker is carrying the slot receiver deep, and Claiborne is angling his route towards the middle of the field to pick him up. This is great communication and assignment awareness by the defense.
On the last play I talked about the havoc we wreaked when we dropped the entire back 7 to the first down marker in coverage. Well here it is again, with 6 defenders lined up right on the line and J.J. Wilcox patrolling deep. The result? A checkdown pass (red circle), and a punt.
Play 15 (second quarter):
Another 3WR set, and again it looks as if Dallas is in man to counter it, with Claiborne (yellow circle), manned up against OBJ (red circle).
New York wants no more of that matchup though, and move OBJ into the slot. Dallas leaves it's coverage the same, which indicates a zone coverage.
At the snap this looks like a favorable matchup for Dallas. They have a linebacker coming over and a safety over the top, giving them four defenders, to cover the three receivers that New York is sending into the area.
This is a play that New York has run all day, using it's receivers to clear out an area and run a TE or RB underneath (black circle). No big deal...except for one thing. Tyler Patmon (blue circle), freezes. Look at his legs, they are together, completely stopped. I'm not sure if he thought he had the TE or if he just had a brain freeze.
Patmon recovers quick enough, but that tiny delay does two things. One it lets OBJ run past him (and the linebacker who is looking into the backfield). Two, it puts him in the way of Morris Claiborne (yellow circle), who can't follow his receiver cutting inside. Patmon effectively picked Mo.
Which leads to this. Two cornerbacks covering nothing, a linebacker covering Rueben Randle, and a streaking OBJ heading towards the endzone with an angle on J.J. Wilcox.
Thankfully, Eli being Eli, he throws it underneath to the tight end, who can't make the catch.
This was probably the best display of cornerback play I have seen since Terence Newman was in his prime. And not just from Claiborne, the whole backfield was locked in. Still, Mo stood out; he was physical, he was fluid, and he was covering like glue. There were no penalties, no miscues. Outside of this last play (and I do think this was on Patmon, not Claiborne), I didn't notice a single blown coverage in the first half. The Giants helped, with an extremely conservative gameplan, but the backfield took advantage...led by Morris Claiborne.
Hope you enjoyed this guys! I'll be breaking down the second half tomorrow, hopefully I'll have it up by Friday morning! Next week I'm looking to do a video breakdown of Sean Lee, then I'll turn it over to you guys to decide who to examine after that!