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Film Study, Pt. 2: Self-scouting the defense

Every week, we break down the tape and tendencies of the Giants’ opponents. Since the bye week is traditionally a week to self-scout, we have turned the microscope inward on what has happened over the first 10 weeks of the season. We review the tape of each game on the day after, so I’ll focus on larger tendencies from the offense and defense in separate stories.

All of the statistics in this story are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Here’s a look at the defense:

* The Giants rush defense is ranked 23rd in the league at 122.7 yards per game, but it is ranked 11th overall in rush yards allowed per play (4.05). Teams are rushing the ball against the Giants 47.3% of the time, the 4th highest rate. That is largely because teams have had leads in the second half and go to a run-heavy attack.

* The Giants have allowed too many explosive runs. Only two teams have allowed more than their nine rushes of 20 or more yards. They have also allowed 35 runs of 10 or more yards, tied for the sixth most in the league.

* The interior of the line has played well against the run. Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill all hold the point of attack and are rarely blown off the ball or out of their gaps. Leonard Williams has been a welcome addition and is stout against the run. Linebacker David Mayo has been good against the run and is sound in his responsibilities. Many of the big runs against the Giants have come on the edge, or because of breakdowns at the second level. 

* Opponents are not passing frequently on the Giants but have been effective when they do. The Giants are allowing the second-most yards per pass play in the NFL (8.27), behind only the winless Bengals.

* Only two teams have allowed more than the 40 pass plays of 20 or more yards than the Giants have given up. The Giants have allowed 12 pass plays of 40 or more yards, which leads the league. According to PFF, 20.4% of opponents’ passes have gone for 15 or more yards, which is the second highest rate in the league. Opponents have a passer rating of 95.8 on passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air.

* The Giants have 24 sacks, tied for 15th in the NFL. The Giants, however, are only pressuring opposing quarterbacks on 32.5% of their dropbacks, which is the sixth lowest rate. After blitzing more frequently earlier in the season, the Giants have only sent extra pressure on 27.1% of opponent pass plays since Week 4, which ranks 20th in the NFL. They’ve limited their blitz tendencies because opponents have a passer rating of 120.7, 5th worst in the NFL, when the Giants blitz. This season, opposing quarterbacks are 65 of 93 for 934 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception against Giants blitzes. They’ve only created 10 sacks on those 109 dropbacks.

* Markus Golden has been the team’s best pass rusher, with eight sacks, six quarterback hits, and 15 hurries. Dexter Lawrence has provided 20 pressures, including 2.5 sacks and two quarterbacks hit from his inside pass rush. Leonard Williams has added five quarterback hits in just two games with the Giants. Lorenzo Carter has 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits coming off the edge. Rookie Oshane Ximines has two sacks but has been inconsistent generating pressure down by down. As a blitzer, inside backer Alec Ogletree has one sack and two quarterback hits.

* The Giants have only played man to man defense on 30% of their snaps. Coordinator James Bettcher has been forced to limit his secondary’s exposure because opponents have completed 58 of 88 passes for 728 yards with 7 touchdowns and two interceptions against man to man defense. The Giants have performed better in zone.

* Against Janoris Jenkins, receivers have caught only 27 of 53 passes thrown in his direction for 385 yards and three touchdowns. He has four interceptions and 11 passes defended.

* Over the last two weeks, Corey Ballentine has taken over for Grant Haley covering receivers in the slot. It is a new experience for the 2019 6th round pick who had never played the slot until this season. It is a work in progress as he adjusts to his opponent having a two-way go with no sideline to help in coverage.

* Jabrill Peppers is a playmaker. He is constantly flying to the ball, playing with 100% effort and tackling with the type of power that makes offensive players remember him. He is second on the team with 71 tackles, has three forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown. He also has five passes defensed, two quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He is an effective pass rusher, and he has flashed the ability to cover the tight end.

* The Giants have improved their situational defense as the season has gone along. They are allowing a 40.8% third down conversion rate (20th in the league). On third and fewer than four yards, the Giants are tied as the 4th best defense in the league (45.8% conversions). On third downs between four and six yards, they have struggled, allowing opponents to convert at a 55.6% rate, which is the third worst number in the league. The Giants are holding opponents to a 50% red zone touchdown rate, which is 9th best in the NFL.

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