Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Giants: First look ahead to Falcons

Kiwanuka played a great game against the Cowboys and had a big hand in controlling their running game. It's not just that he made plays against the run, he made several stops in the backfield, dropping Cowboys runners for a loss a few times. He showed very good timing in shooting the gap and tackling those Cowboys RBs. On one of them, he also had to shed the block of the FB who tried to block him and he swatted him away like a gnat. His size as a DE type is useful in that regard and his athleticism and speed allow him to beat the OL-men who don't have him as a primary responsibility. In passing downs, he will have trouble shadowing a TE in a pass route, but that's why Giants have Boley back there, who can handle most TEs. Against the pass, when Kiwanuka blitzes, he relies on his strength as a pass rusher and can really be disruptive.

The reason I bring up Kiwanuka's work in the Cowboys game and his progress as a LB is that he could be a very important player in the Falcons game this weekend. Falcons have a potentially explosive passing game, but rely heavily on their running game with power back Michael Turner carrying the load. Turner has good speed and can make some long runs, but is primarily a solid power back. This is right up Kiwanuka's alley and Giants will need a good game from all the LBs to fill the running lanes and stop the Falcons offense.

Early thoughts on the Falcons are that in some ways they are similar to the Giants. They have a potentially powerful passing game with a strong armed QB and two excellent deep threats on the outside in Julio Jones and Roddy White. They also have Gonzalez at TE who still has something left in the tank. I don't think he is quite the deep threat he used to be, but he is a good balance to the Falcons outside speed. Their running game over the year has been better than the Giants which makes their offense more balanced than that of the Giants.

On defense, the Falcons, like the Giants can be thought of as somewhat vulnerable. Their DB-field is not very good and they don't really have a shut down CB. Consequently, they tend to play a lot of zone to protect against deep balls. They have a great pass rusher in John Abraham, but not so much depth around him.

With this macro view of the Falcons, it seems that the Giants should be afraid of their offense, but should be able to move the ball and score some points against their defense. The Giants clearly played their best two defensive games of the year in the last two games, so the question is: were these two exceptional games, aberrations and deviations from the  norm of a weak Giants defense? Or, was their improved defensive play a result of the fact that the Jets offense is weak and the Cowboys shaky OL had trouble blocking the Giants DL. Can we be optimistic and say that the Giants defense had a revival with different defensive schemes from the DC and the return to health of Tuck and Umenyiora. The truth probably lies somewhere in between - but it is clear that to stop the Falcons offense, Giants DL has to do a good job stopping the run and has to get after the QB. Sorry about this very simplistic analysis - this is the type of prattle and nonsense you get from all the talking heads on the football pregame shows. You know - stop the run, get them into obvious passing downs and then rush the passer. Football 101. Unfortunately, I think it could be that simple.

The additional thought I could add is that the Giants do need a good game from their LBs to push upfield in the running game. The LBs also need to do a decent job on the TE Gonzalez so that the CBs and S's can pay attention to the speed on the outside. Giants have been playing more man under / cover 2 and that means that they have to figure out which CB will match up against which WR. Giants should use Corey Webster against Roddy White and Aaron Ross against Jones, making sure to give help to Ross. Jones is a little erratic, but has tremendous speed and can easily break a long one if you're not in good position. Jones is particularly dangerous after the catch and Ross may have to give a little bit of a cushion, because Jones is mostly a pure deep threat and does not always run great routes.

More detailed analysis on the Falcons later in the week,

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