Opponent: New York Giants
Head Coach: Ben McAdoo
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sullivan
Quarterback: Eli Manning
Primary Running Threats:
Rashad Jennings - #23
Shane Vereen - #34
Primary Receiving Threats:
Odell Beckham Jr - #13
Sterling Shepard - #87
Victor Cruz - #80
Larry Donnell - #84
Shane Vereen - #34
With Ben McAdoo entering his third year on the Giants' staff (his first as the team's head coach) the Giants have mastered McAdoo's West Coast offense, and have become one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL. With the addition of 2016 second-round pick Sterling Shepard, and the return of Victor Cruz, along with Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants feature a trio of dynamic wide receivers that can win in all areas of the field.
The emphasis on the quick passing game has made Eli Manning a much more efficient player. Getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry has reduced his turnovers, and helped to mask the offensive line issues that have been rampant in New York for a number of years.
Creating Space In The Middle Of The Field
When you watch the Giants offense on tape, it becomes very clear they are a base 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) team, that wants to create opportunities to throw the ball on in-breaking routes in the middle of the field, and let their wide receivers make plays with the ball in their hands.
Here the Giants have 11 personnel on the field, in a Trio Left Gun Far formation which sets the tight end and two receivers to the left, and the running back offset to Manning's right. On this play, the Giants have their #1 wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. aligned in the slot as the #2 receiver to the left.
The slant-flat combination run by New York on this play is an extremely simple route concept that every high school team in the state of Texas will run several times Friday night. This combination is one that the Giants run extremely often, especially when they're aligned in a 3x1 set.
One thing to note about game plans in the NFL is that when a team moves it's number one receiver into the slot, or the backfield, or some other alignment outside of their normal outside position, they do it with purpose in an attempt to get them the football.
Notice the alignment of the defense, with JJ Wilcox in the deep middle of the field and all the CBs aligned in press; Eli's pre-snap read will tell him the Cowboys are in Cover-1, giving him man coverage all across the field, with Wilcox playing over the top of the seam or post routes in the middle of the field. Knowing that, he'll know that he is likely to see either 5-man pressure or have a "Rat" player underneath in the middle of the field. The quick out route by Larry Donnell will cause that "Rat" player, in this case LB Anthony Hitchens, to widen to his right by a step or two. This step is all Manning will need to get the ball by him to Beckham on the run in space.
This is a concept that can work very well versus man coverage because the slant route allows the receiver to run away from his man, as well as against zone because of the bind it can put an underneath defender in as the two routes take off in opposite direction creating a horizontal stretch on the defense.
In studying the two regular season matchups against Dallas in 2015 I saw them run this combination probably eight to ten times a game, as well as a couple of times in their preseason Week 3 dress rehearsal matchup with the Jets.
Attacking Down The Field
Even the most conservative offense will acknowledge the need to take shots throwing the ball down the field occasionally, if for no other reason than to let the defense know you're willing to attack that deep part of the field.
This slot fade concept is one that has been growing in popularity in the league as well as the college and high school game. Here the Giants are again in 11 personnel, in a 2x2 "Doubles" Formation. Here Beckham is aligned wide to the offense's left, which draws safety J.J. Wilcox outside of the hash marks to that side of the field.
Once again, the press alignment by the Cowboys corners, combined with Wilcox deep will tell Manning that he is likely facing man Cover-11 which is the same as Cover-1 with the deep safety shaded to one side of the field. With Wilcox aligned outside the far hash, he has no opportunity to make a play on a ball thrown outside the numbers to the near side.
Running the fade from the slot, as opposed to a go route from an outside wide receiver when taking a deep shot gives the quarterback more room to fit the ball in down the sideline creating separation for the wide receiver as the ball comes over his head. Also the slot fade puts the receiver against a slot defender who is likely less comfortable taking off deep down field and trying to high-point the football or make a play on a back shoulder ball.
Of course this is a small sample of the types of things the Giants will bring to Sunday's game. However, these examples should provide a good idea of the way the Giant's will attempt to attack the Cowboys' defense with quick throws. In spite of their relative struggles against the Dallas defense in 2015, their plethora of weapons inside and out should put Eli Manning in position to move the ball well in Week 1. Dallas' secondary will have their hands full, but must disrupt the timing of the underneath routes by Giants' receivers and get their hands on a couple of footballs.