Week 4 of the preseason is typically a snooze fest. None of the 1s play. Since injuries have been piling up, there are guys who were just signed off the street getting quality minutes. This isn’t exactly the quality football that we’re all craving. However, just because 75% of the guys on the field will putting your chips and dip into paper or plastic in the grocery line on gamedays this fall doesn’t mean the schemes change. The backups are out there trying to execute the game plans just like the starters would.
This offseason the G-Men brought in new Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher from the Arizona Cardinals. Expect a fundamental change with the way boys in blue attack the quarterback with Bettcher at the helm. Steve Spagnuolo ran a 4-3 scheme with the Giants last year. Under Bettcher they’ll switch to a 3-4. But ignore that because there is so much sub defense in today’s NFL that I’m sick of hearing what the “base scheme” is. Ever since Big Vince Wilfork (From? THE U) left town the Pats switched over to a 4-3 “base.” But we all know that’s irrelevant. Last year the Pats were in a sub defense 73.5% of snaps, a base defense 25.4% of snaps, a heavy defense 1.1% of snaps, and a bad defense 100% of snaps on February 5th.
ANYWAY, the Giants haven’t just changed their base scheme, they have vastly changed the way they bring pressure. Under Spagnuolo the Giants finished in the bottom half of the league on their blitz rate. That’s 5+ rushers. The Cardinals, on the other hand, blitzed on 37% of all snaps! That was tied for 5th most in the league. And the previous two years the Cards blitzed on 41% and 47% of snaps respectively, which led the league. Bettcher is here to come get your quarterback and your girl.
Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin are starting on the outside for the Giants, and probably wont play, but there is real competition for the OLB position between Lorenzo Carter, Romeo Okwara and Avery Moss. And at the DE position you’re looking at a battle between Kerry Wynn and AJ Francis. This is where I want to focus tonight. Because the Pats have some depth at Oline, even though first round pick Isaiah Wynn’s has deserted the wall and now his watch has ended. Trent Brown has calmed some nerves at LT, Shaq Mason is the newest member of the billionaire boys club despite being directly responsible for the most life altering strip sack since I ripped my speedo at the 8th grade swim meet. But who grabs those last one/two remaining spots? Cole Croston? Matt Tobin? Ulrick John? Luke Bowanko? Yes, those names sound like great literary fantasy heroes. No, they are not great football players. How they hold up against the Giants pressure may well determine their fate. Look at the way the Giants bring the heat.
Kerry Wynn and BJ Hill absolutely abusing the interior lineman on the Lions. BJ Hill gets free with a stunt and Wynn with a simple bull rush even though he’s double teamed.
And on the outside Okwara, who’s actually showing more promise than third round pick Lorenzo Carter, beats a tackle with a speed rush and a rip move. We know the Giants are going to be coming at whoever is taking snaps for the Pats. Hopefully Danny Etling. God knows he needs more than his TWO completions so far all preseason if he wants a roster spot. Woof. But my eye will be on the backup Oline guys, and who can handle the different looks the Giants front 7 give them.
For the Pats I want to highlight two spots. First, lets stay on the line of scrimmage. As many Giants fans will incorrectly tell you, the only reason Elite Manning has 29 picks over the last two years is because their Oline STINKS. The truth, in fact, is that he also STINKS. Well, their line didn’t change too much, minus them pilfering our cookie jar in the form of the big blue monster Nate Solder. That should pencil in Ereck Flowers (From? THE U) to the right tackle spot for the first time in his career. The Giants have been disappointed in him since they took him in the first round, can he improve at all on the right side? It has always been a technique issue with Flowers, and he’s very susceptible to the speed rush. For the Pats, we clearly need more consistent pressure on the QB. Watching Big Dick Nick eat a stake dinner in the pocket during the Super Bowl is something I can never un-see. But I’ve been pleased so far during the preseason. MY BOY Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise JR, the addition of Adrian Clayborn, and the return of Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis bolsters the D-End position.
Here you can see Flowers actually holding his own against TJ Watt in the preseason last year, from the left side.
But look at the way the Pats have improved at getting pressure so far this year.
Clayborn wins with two speed rushes. One is cleaned up by Butler who didn't leave his lane in th middle of the pocket. The other Clayborn handles himself and it gets turned into points. I’d love to see this trend continue against the Giants considering its an area of weakness for the enemy and an area we desperately need to improve.
The second thing I wanted to highlight is the ol’ trusty linebacker mismatch. We know this butters our bread. I could watch Tom Brady split a RB out wide or find a tight end up the seam until I’m weeping blood like Le Chiffre. The Giants brought in Alec Ogletree this year from the Rams to play middle linebacker. He’s been put into a leadership position on this defense almost immediately. He’s going to have the green dot on his helmet every Sunday. He’s great at running sideline to sideline in the flats, and as a downhill run stuffer. Put in coverage though? Not so much.
Now he wont be playing a lot tonight I’m sure, but I’d love to see the Pats stay with this concept on offense. Force these middle linebackers on the Giants into match ups that suit us. Whether it’s a TE, a RB, or one of our three million 5’2” slot guys. Even though the Giants secondary is weak, I don’t trust anyone of our WRs to line up outside the numbers and do real damage. I can’t even get into that problem right now, so instead, lets keep it in the middle of the field where Tommy (Hoyer/Etling…sigh) loves to work.
It should be an interesting one for the bubble guys. There’s a few I’m rooting for and a few shockers coming, we know that. Wake me up on Saturday when we know who’s working the Hannaford Express Lane and who’s at One Patriot Place.