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What to expect from Giants' new schemes

DANIEL-JONES-JASON-GARRETT

No one can say for certain when the Giants will debut their new schemes on the practice field, let alone in games. Until then, fans – and opponents – will have to wait.

Joe Judge, however, just provided the best glimpse yet as to what anybody can expect. The first-year head coach spoke to the media on a video conference last week as his team settles into the new normal of a completely virtual offseason program.

On offense, in order to look into the future for quarterback Daniel Jones, it is best to look back. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is a former Giants backup quarterback who recently completed a 10-year stint as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He was Dallas' offensive coordinator from 2007 until his appointment as head coach midway through the 2010 season.

"I think schematically, the easiest way to describe it to the outside world right now is it's going to be similarly based off what Jason has done in Dallas over the last 10 or so years," Judge said. "There are going to be some similarities carried over from that, but it has to cater to our players we have on our roster currently. Right now, we're installing all of the base concepts and the shell of the offense.

"I think really you'll see throughout training camp as it takes form with the character of our team and as different players emerge. Really along with that, it's going to take shape throughout the season as well. We're going to be a team that focuses a lot on game plans and whatever we have to do game by game. That might be running the ball every play or throwing the ball every play based on the opponent. But we're going to make sure we're not too rigid in what we're doing that we can't adapt by game plan."

It's easy to see why Judge wanted Garrett on his staff and why he would want to take large parts of his schemes to the Giants.

The Cowboys consistently had one of the NFL's most productive offenses under Garrett. In 2019, Dallas had league-high averages of 431.5 yards a game and 6.5 yards per play. The Cowboys were second in the NFL in passing yardage (296.9 a game), fifth in rushing (134.6), tied for second in third-down conversion percentage (47.1 with 96 success in 204 opportunities) and sixth with an average of 27.1 points a game.

The top-rated offense in the recently-concluded season marked the eighth time the Cowboys finished in the top 10 with Garrett as either coordinator or head coach. They were second in 2007 and 2009, 10th in 2010 and 2013, sixth in 2012, seventh in 2014 and fifth in 2016.

Judge described it as "not a true west coast system" but rather as a culmination of what Garrett has compiled while playing and coaching.

Garrett began his coaching career as the Miami Dolphins' quarterbacks coach from 2005-06. The head coach at the time was Nick Saban, who returned to college football and won five more national championships at Alabama. He won two of those titles with Judge on his staff before the special teams assistant moved on to Bill Belichick in New England.

"There are a lot of 'cousin concepts' in every offense," Judge said. "When me and Jason talk about the offense, there is a lot of familiarity in the terminology and the verbiage that he uses that I've heard when I worked at Alabama under Saban. A lot of that comes from crossover of offensive coordinators that they work alongside in Miami together. Within this league, you really kind of study the head coaches and coordinators. You talk a lot about coaching trees, but it really comes into the influences that you've worked under or played under. Normally, once you work under somebody, you develop your own style, but you borrow a lot from that person that you just left, whether that's as simple as verbiage, terminology, philosophies on route-running, pass protections, all those things there."

So what does that mean for Jones, a second-year quarterback learning his second offense in the NFL?

"I would say … there are going to be some similarities with Daniel, but I would not say it's a carryover in any way, shape or form from his rookie year," said Judge.

Meanwhile, the defense is under construction with Patrick Graham as the new coordinator and assistant head coach.

Graham joined the Giants with 11 years of NFL coaching experience with four teams, including a previous stint with the Giants and time on the Patriots staff with Judge. He has coached in the playoffs in eight of those seasons and has been part of teams that have won seven division titles, two conference championships and one Super Bowl (XLIX). Most recently, he served as the Miami Dolphins' defensive coordinator in 2019.

"We'll be a team that's multiple by game plan and how we have to match up and attack the opponent," Judge said. "The elements of the defense, you can really look through and what it will closely resemble will really be the other stops that Patrick has been along his way that I have been there as well. The New England system, some of the Houston system, the Tennessee system, the Miami system. Those families of defense will be the biggest influences that go into ours. Of course, ours will be mostly dictated by the players we have in the games."

Last but certainly not least for a head coach who came up through the ranks as a special teams coach, what will those units look like? Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey was one of six former Giants coaches retained by Judge.

McGaughey completed his second season as the Giants' special teams coordinator in 2019. He was previously a coordinator for three other teams and was the Giants' assistant special teams coach from 2007-10.

The Giants' special teams have consistently been among the NFL's best under McGaughey. In 2019, the kickoff coverage team led the league by allowing an average return of 18.1 yards. The punt coverage team was tied for fifth as opponents averaged just 5.7 yards a return. Conversely, the Giants were fourth and 10th, respectively, in the NFL in punt (9.8 yards) and kickoff (23.5 yards) return average. Punter Riley Dixon was ninth in the league with a franchise-record 42.3-yard net average. He set the previous mark of 41.8 yards, set in 2018.

The special teams performed impressively in McGaughey's first season as coordinator in 2018. Aldrick Rosas had one of the finest seasons by a kicker in Giants history as he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and named second-team All-Pro after making 32 of 33 field goal attempts and 31 of 32 extra point tries. The 32 field goals were the fifth-highest total in Giants history.

Rosas' .970 field goal percentage was a Giants record and was just 1/100th of a percentage point behind NFL leader Robbie Gould.

"I will be involved with all three sides of the ball," Judge said, "but T-Mac is the special teams coordinator here."

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.

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