It's been a long time, (literally since 2017!), since I've posted an article here at Blogging the Boys! But I'm happy to be back, and I hope that I never stay away that long again.
So...I'm hoping to post fairly regularly, health and work permitting. So before I dig into my early takewaways, let's do some bookkeeping!
I hope to do this "5th quarter" article ever week, either Sunday or Monday night. It will be five quick observations about the game.
On Wednesdays or Thursday I'm hoping to have looked over the All-22, and write a quick list of more in-depth takeaways from the game.
Friday or Saturday night I hope to have a film-study of our opponent up, just in time for the game!
I won't be able to put out as many video breakdowns as I used to do, they're just too time consuming. But I will try to do 3-4 over the course of the season, if the interest is there. So, without further ado....
Here are my five quick takeaways from the game. Remember these are initial impressions, and subject to revision after watching the film again!
1. Let's Talk About the Game plan:
A huge complaint from the Linehan ears was the belief that Linehan did not gameplan to attack our opponents weakness. Today we got to see an example of an offensive coordinator both game-planning for an opponents weakness, and for the inevitable counter.
It was pretty obvious after our first drive that the New York Giants wanted to protect their young corners, so we saw a lot of Cover 2 early on. And to ensure that the safeties were focusing on helping the corners, the Giants played a lot of Tampa 2, where the MIKE, (Alex Ogletree fro the Giants), drops into the deep middle, effectively making Cover 3 coverage.
Unfortunately, at this point in his career, Alex Ogltree is a huge liability in coverage. And that was exploited brilliantly by Kellen Moore on the 2nd drive.
With the Giants showing this Cover 3 look, Kelllen Moore began attacking the short middle of the field. Of the 11 plays run on this scoring drive, 3 out of the 8 passing plays were targeted to the TE or slot receiver in the short middle of the field. This included a pass to Blake Jarwin on the 10th play of the drive.
Then on the 11th play of the drive, Dallas ran Blake Jarwin up the seam, for a 28 yard touchdown. To ensure that the middle would be clear, Dallas ran play-action, drawing Alex Ogletree towards the line of scrimmage. With the safeties both cheating towards the sidelines in Cover 2, this was an easy pitch and catch for the TD.
Kellen Moore used the exact same scheme to again beat Alex Ogletree in the deep middle of the field later in the game. This time Randle Cobb ran a post from the slot. The Giants were again in Tampa 2, and Dallas again ran play action to draw in Alex Ogletree.
Then the counter came. The Giants began abandoning the Cover 2, going towards a single high look. When that happened Moore would run a trips or bunch formation, giving a WR single coverage on one side. If the defense played man, Dak would nearly automatically go deep to the single side.
This type of gameplan won't work every week. But this week Kellen Moore saw a weakness, and devised an attack and counter attack against it.
2. Clean Pockets:
How much of a difference does it make having Fredbeard back? This was an offensive line clinic; especially in pass protection. Early on the Giants were bringing all kinds of blitzes, and with Travis Frederick back making line calls, the Great Wall of Dallas had no problem picking them up.
Special shout out to both Zeke and Tony Pollard. Both backs did a great job in blitz pickup. Zeke in particular had an excellent block on a long pass play.
3. Where's the Rush?:
This is probably the observation I'm most hesitant to make; I'm really going to have to go back to the film for confirmation. But my early impression was, our defensive line was not as aggressive with stunts as the normally are. They ran a loop with D-Law, where he would either loop in behind the tackle, who slanted outwards, or he would slant hard in, with the tackle looping behind. Both worked fairly well, (both times I saw this particular stunt, they got pressure on Manning). But outside of that, it looked like there were no games, stunts, or slants.
I'm wondering if Marinelli decided to go conservative this game, trusting his defensive backfield to hold up to the pass, and attempt to limit Saquon Barkley. It appeared to me, on at least a few occasions, that our D-Line was two gapping; attempting to occupy blockers to allow our linebackers free lanes to the ball. If that's the case, it's a big departure from our defenses usual status quo.
4. Speaking of the Status Quo:
We blitzed LVE at least twice by my count. That's an interesting wrinkle for the defense; Jaylon Smith normally handles the blitz duties. LVE got pressure on both blitzes, although he wasn't able to record the sack.
This brings up a lot of interesting possibilities for Dallas. If LVE can turn into a threat on the blitz, they can begin to hide blitzes and coverages. They can show both LVE and Jaylon blitzing, and then be able to drop either back into coverage.
It's just one more tool in the defensive toolkit. Picture this; defense is in third and short against a team that is a threat to run or pass. The offense comes out in a three wide set. Dallas could potentially stay in their base defense, trusting both Jaylon and LVE to cover, and having one blitz. So they can now bring pressure with five, and still cover and play the run.
5. Going Deep:
This may be the most important takeaway. Dak Prescott was on point with his deep balls...and not just deep in routes. He hit deep sideline passes, the deep seam, and he did it with multiple receivers. In fact, I believe he was perfect on balls traveling more than 15 yards downfield, (but I would have to double check). We talked a lot last year about how close he was to a lot of deep passes to Michael Gallup, and how we hoped they could connect on just a few more this year.
After one game the deep ball looks to be not just something to challenge the defense, but an honest to goodness strength of the team.
Those are my five main takeaways! As always I love your feedback, and encourage everyone to post and debate in the comments!