Friday, January 06, 2012

N.Y. Giants ~ Rushing to the Center of the Problem

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE



Atlanta Falcons


NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:   Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performances.


This is it.  This game (and the playoffs in general) are exactly the reason why I spend all the time I do talking about Kevin Gilbride and his implementation of the Running Game.  This is the time of year it matters most.  In order to expect the running game to perform well in January, you have to start pounding on Labor Day.  The Offensive Linemen need to be in step with their backs; and the backs in step with their Linemen.  By late December, they should all be moving as one.  It's choreography of a savage nature; but choreography none the less.  And I have a saying that is perfect for this situation > Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performances.

The Giants are about to take-on one of those high powered dome teams in the winter wind of Giants Stadium.  Both quarterbacks are capable of exploiting one-another's Secondaries.  So more and more, it's looking like the team with the better running game will win.  Another way of saying that is which ever QB gets his hands on the ball least, loses. 

Then again, the Giants haven't had this problem the last two seasons, for they haven't made the playoffs since the 2008 season.  For Giants Fans and the club as well, this season has been something of an anomaly.  The Giants' once formidable running game officially ended when Jerry Reese released Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert prior to the season.  This year, the Giants have rushed to form the least potent ground game in all of football.  At least that's what the stats say.  And to the less trained eye, the stats do not lie.  But to the more learned Giants Fan, we know what's really at work.  Don't we? 

The problem with some of us older Giants Fans is that all this passing makes us break out in hives.  We were raised on Smash-Mouth Football.  But I will say this, maybe by necessity or maybe by design, Coach Gilbride has actually done better this season when compared to last.  He's actually shown more (...slightly more) commitment to the Running Game this season.  And I appreciate it Dude. 

Using last week's game against Dallas as reference, the Giants held on to the ball nine more minutes than Dallas did.  Yet both teams got off almost the same number of plays and were almost equal in total yardage for the game.  While Dallas elected to run the ball sixteen times all game, the Giants can thank twenty five rushing attempts and several more scrambles by Eli Manning that a) - kept the clock moving, and b) - kept the ball in our hands.  So, credit the Giants' nine more minutes of possession to the running game.  Another way of saying it is called keeping the ball away from Matt Ryan.  But I prefer Smash Mouth, thank you.

Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have had exactly one game each in which they've rushed for 100 yards.  While Ahmad Bradshaw has missed substantial time to foot injuries, Brandon Jacobs rumbled for 100 yards when allowed to rush the ball "twenty" times.  What's important is we know, because they have demonstrated to us at times, both backs are still very capable of devouring yardage with power.  Fortunately for them, Eli's elite season has covered up the running game's short-comings.  But the point is we know our backs can still run. 

So lets get right to the heart of the Giants problem with the running game as it stands right now.  Ask yourself, which Offensive position touches the ball the most?

As established, this is the first season without certain future Hall of Fame Center Shaun O'Hara and Left Guard Rich Seubert.  When Will Beaty was lost early for the rest of the season, the job of Left Tackle was given to Kevin Boothe.  To replace O'Hara, the Giants brought in former 49er Center; David Baas.  And with him at Center, to a large extent, the Giants running game has come to a screeching halt.  There has been no yardage to be had by running off-center.  There has been no surge off the line of scrimmage.  As a result, both Bradshaw and Jacobs have found it nearly impossible to find daylight up the middle.

When David Baas was sidelined with concussion symptoms, Kevin Boothe slid over to Center and Mitch Petrus was given the responsibility at Guard.  And for three consecutive games, the middle opened up and to a certain extent, so did the running game.

Now here's the thing -  with or without David Baas at center, the Giants have been able to run consistently well between Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie, and between David Diehl and Kevin Boothe/Mitch Petrus.  Even more yardage and success has come when the Giants run outside either Tackle.  That's been there all season long.  But the middle turned into an East Rutherford Tar Pit until the Giants inserted Boothe at Center.

Upon reinserting David Baas into his starting role, the middle of the line caved in on both Jacobs and Bradshaw again.  Against the Cowboys, we suffered short yardage shrinkage after Coach Gilbride called for plays up the middle again.  I can't stress enough this is not a Brandon Jacobs issue.  Defenses are pushing our Line backwards and meeting the rush at the line of scrimmage or worse, two and three yards into our backfield.  And I will say again, that wasn't the case when Booth and Petrus played together.  I'm also not going to pin fourth and failure-to-go on Coach Gilbride either.  There's a fine line between placing blame with coach or player.  But it's clear to me, David Baas has not been up to snuff.  It's not that he's bad, or isn't worth playing.  I'm not here to knock him.  It's just that Kevin Boothe has played better while Mitch Petrus responded quickly with quality play at Guard, and as a result, the running game found much more daylight up the middle.

Eli Manning has had a career season, and thank goodness.  Because with the running game in a state of suspended animation, Eli, Nicks, and Victor Cruz are all we've had.  But as I pointed out with the Dallas game, just because the running game isn't amassing huge swaths of acreage, that doesn't mean the running game is without it's purpose and overall game effectiveness.

Will Eli Manning win this game for us (if in fact that's what's in the cards for us)?  Most likely.  But a good running game can help us control the game, keep the ball in our hands, and minimize exposing the Giants' Secondary to Matt Ryan.  We've had a bad habit of letting teams hang around causing Eli to play hero.  That's partly a defensive issue.  But it's also partly due to the running game being slowed down to an NFL low.  

The Falcons may very well turn around and try the same tact with Michael Turner, who's far from being a slouch.  You just don't hear about him much because nobody cares about Atlanta sports; not even their own city.  <   That's called Smack!  But it stands to reason, in spite of Eli and Ryan, which ever team is able to run the ball more successfully will win.

I can not ask Coach Gilbride to not attempt running up the middle.  Yes, there are beams of daylight behind other parts of the Line.  But the middle still must be mastered in order to run successfully and more importantly, for first downs sake.  What I CAN ask the Giant powers that be is that they start Kevin Boothe at Center; Mitch Petrus at Left Guard; and David Diehl at Left tackle.  I ask that because that combination has been the most effective enhancement to the running game by far.  In Eli we trust.  But tradition has always been in December/January; in Giants Stadium; it's smash-mouth we celebrate and crave.  Me?  I'm a pragmatists.  I'd settle for something in between right now.

I'm just going to say, C'mon Coach  - be creative and try keeping the Offense on the field.  That's not to say the players are off the hook.  The Giant receivers need to catch and hold on to the damn ball!  They lead the League in dropped passes.  That will no do Sunday.  Additionally, the Giants were lucky to recover Brandon Jacobs' fumble against Dallas.  Turnovers also will not due.

At Tight-End, I'll be honest, if Jake Ballard is going to be hobbling around, I don't need a hero.  I'll take my chances Eli can utilize a very gamely Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum.  They teamed up on four catches last week.  If we can depend on them for four or five catches Sunday, and make their blocks, they will have served their purpose very well.

That's it.  The playoffs are a triumph of the Will, if I may.  We know the Giants have a killer instinct in them.  But sometimes the dog in them shows up instead.  There's never a good time to have a bad game.  But a good old fashioned game where they just line up across a man and out-muscle them would be great.  Smash-Mouth is an attitude.  And that's the part that gets lost on Kevin Gilbride.  His mind his forever fixed on the perfect pass play.  But even a blind dog can feel the warmth of daylight.  So run Coach; Run To Daylight.

We know what Eli, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will be attempting to do.  Via Con Dios on that one Boys.  Eli was even the key component to last's week's rushing effort.  Were it not for Eli's legs, the Giants do not rush for 100 yards against Dallas. 

All I ask for Sunday is that Kevin Boothe be given the start at Center, and that Coach Gilbride runs the ball thirty times.

...And "Run with Power!"

Let's Go Giants!


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