Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giants: Saints game - tape review

I did some further reviewing of the game tape... ok, so it's not really a tape, it's digital images stored on a hard disk inside my Digital Video Recorder... I know. But saying I reviewed the tape makes me feel like an old school football coach. Here's what I saw.

When the Saints ran effectively against the Giants in the first half, they ran right between the RDE and the RDT and here's what they did that made the simple play so successful. They double teamed the Giants LDT with the C and the RG. They double teamed the Giants RDT with the LT and the LG. That leaves Osi, Giants RDE unblocked by an OL-man. No problem for the Saints - they sent a WR or RB to block Osi and the Giants all pro RDE was completely taken out on every play. Osi is done - his run defense has regressed to pre-2010 levels and his pass rush is one dimensional and too easily blocked by good LTs.

I understand the Fewell approach that Kiwanuka is a good athlete and he can handle playing LB. I also understand that the Giants have rookie LBs and playing an experienced player like Kiwanuka will avoid mistakes. Of course, Kiwanuka is a natural DE and is still learning LB, so I am not sure how much more experienced he is as a LB than the rookies who have played that position through their entire college careers, but that may be besides the point. My point is that Fewell has to be aware of the personnel, the capability and the likely game plan of the opposing offense and adjust his personnel to a system that will work. Playing Kiwanuka at LB against the Saints is a total misfit and a total waste of his talent. Kiwanuka is decent as a LB when he can blitz and defend against the run. He is a little weaker playing in space, defending the TE and the RBs in pass coverage. However, he is totally useless against RBs as quick as Sproles and TE as fast and athletic as Graham. Kiwanuka is also not great at reading and playing screens and the Saints are a very good screen team, further undercutting his value. I'd rather have a fast LB play who has a chance against those guys than play a proud athlete like Kiwanuka who is out of position. Fewell is completely out of his element when it comes to these strategic moves. This week against the Packers, Kiwanuka will be similarly overmatched trying to guard the excellent TE Finley. Hope Fewell learns from the Saints game.

Giving the play calling helmet to Deon Grant is another bone headed move because it makes the Giants defense 100% predictable. If Grant is going to be on the field all the time, it advertises to the defense that Giants will be in nickel coverage all game long. When Saints run effectively, Giants don't have the bulk to stand up to it. Grant has clearly lost a step, so beyond giving away what defense Giants are playing, we have poor athletes on the field. Giants do very little in the way of disguising what they are doing or coming up with anything exotic to make the other QB hesitate. The QB is 100% certain that his pre-snap read is accurate as to what the Giants are playing. On the broadcast Monday night, Gruden showed different creative schemes that Saints were playing: zone on one side of the field, man on the other; reverse cover 2 - where the safeties at first show normal cover 2, then switch with the S coming up to play man and the CB dropping back into zone. Giants never do anything like that. They have two flavors - man with the Tampa 2, or zone coverage where all the DBs read the QB's eyes, and don't pay attention to the receivers coming into their zones.

Another example of Fewell playing the wrong man at the wrong position is putting JPP at DT. No doubt, this is also about getting the best athletes on the field, but there are two major things wrong with it. First, in the middle of the field, the lack of space, the scrum of holding, grabbing and pushing makes JPP just a body. It completely mitigates the special qualities he brings to the field on defense which are his athleticism and size. Secondly, JPP was a raw talent coming out of college. He had played very little organized football at South Florida and had very little experience in the technique of the game. He played sparingly as a rookie but this year has developed some of the good technique that a DE needs. With such little football experience, why do you think you can just plug him in to a new position at DT as if all the players were just interchangeable parts?

Just saw that Osi will be out 2-4 weeks and my assessment is that the defense will improve. Giants should play JPP at RDE full time. They should move Kiwanuka to DE to take some of the snaps that Osi took at DE and move Tuck inside to DT if they need some more bodies at that position. Giants should live or die with their young LBs and should sit Grant down on the bench.

Other things I saw on the tape were that Webster and Ross did not have good games at CB. Saints just looked a step quicker, a lot more organized and focused on what they had to do. Giants seemed hesitant, disorganized and unsure, giving away position and initiative to the Saints even if the players were of equal talent. 

Saints RBs are excellent. All can run, block and catch the ball. They run with an idea of where to go and with a purpose. None of the 3 Giants RBs would make the Saints, even Bradshaw.

I hate to keep saying this week after week, but Eli had a great game throwing the ball. Some of his throws were just outstanding and he had very few bad throws and decisions.

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