Sunday, August 10, 2014
Thoughts on Giants personnel groupings
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
For Saturday night's New York Giants preseason game, I set out to chart the offensive personnel groupings for every play. Figuring preseason results are meaningless, my goal was to try to see what the Giants are doing on offense in terms of setup. It struck me that they rotated personnel in and out somewhat liberally in the preseason opener against the Bills last Sunday, so I figured it'd be worth trying to track it if possible. I charted every play that featured Eli Manning or Ryan Nassib at quarterback. By the time Curtis Painter got into the game, I had started writing my postgame observations post. So I don't have those plays charted.
Overall, it wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped it would be. Especially for the first half, the Giants did very little substituting on offense, staying basically in that "11" personnel setup with three wide receivers, one back and one tight end. But there were a couple of things that stood out to me:
Larry Donnell is the No. 1 tight end right now. He was on the field for all but one play in the first half, and on that play there were no tight ends on the field. Kellen Davis appeared on the field four times in the first half, and all four were two-tight-end sets with Donnell also on the field. No other tight end played in the first half.
Marcus Harris, the surprise early camp star at wide receiver, is getting a long look in the slot. Harris was on the field for 18 of the plays I charted, and on 15 of those there was a receiver lined up outside of him. Jerrel Jernigan would normally be the backup slot receiver behind Victor Cruz, but Jernigan is starting right now in the outside spot that's slated for injured rookie Odell Beckham Jr.
Cruz, by the way, played the slot almost exclusively. He was on the field for 12 plays, and on only one of those did he line up in an outside spot. Though there was one other on which he lined up in the slot and motioned to the right side, where there had been no receiver lined up.
The Giants used a fullback on only five plays in the first half, which provides support for the idea that they could build a 53-man roster that doesn't include one, especially if they want to go tight end-heavy. I saw two plays in the first half on which Donnell motioned into the backfield and lined up as a fullback or H-back. John Conner was already in the game at fullback on one of those plays, and there was no fullback on the other.
They got a little more creative with two-tight end sets in the second half. I counted two plays that had Davis and Adrien Robinson on the field together, including one on which they were lined up on the same side and bunched tight to the line along with wide receiver Preston Parker. I'm interested to see more of the bunch formations involving wide receivers, and I wonder if we might once Beckham is in the lineup. They're undersized, for the most part, at wide receiver, and bunching two or three of them together at the snap is a way of helping get littler guys open by creating confusion in the defense.
I counted four more two-tight end sets involving Robinson and Jerome Cunningham, including three in which they were lined up on the same side. So those looks are definitely in the playbook, they just weren't using them much with the first team.
The second-team offensive line was: LT James Brewer, LG Dallas Reynolds, C Weston Richburg, RG John Jerry, RT Rogers Gaines. It was interesting that Reynolds went in at center and Richburg at left guard when the starting offensive linemen came off the field late in the first half, but they switched places once the second half started. Brewer also finished the first half at right tackle in place of starter Justin Pugh and then moved to the left side for the second half.