Posted 21 December 2008 - 04:38 PM
a little writeup for you guys:
In the biggest game Carolina has played in years, Carolina travels to New Yo...well, New Jersey to play the New York Giants for first place in the NFC and home field advantage. These are the games you train for, you work for, you live for. This game will be a battle of evenly matched, hard hitting run based teams, and the winner likely walks away with a big advantage.
The Giants' defense, under rising star defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, has been solid against the run this year. They're 6th in yards, 4th in points; they're 5th in rush yards and 10th in pass yards. However, the run stat is mildly deceiving, having been ahead in so many games and receiving third best in attempts; they give up 10th in per-play average, a much more average stat. Conversely, their pass defense looks worse because of attempts - they're sixth in net average against the pass.
Their defense is keyed off of MLB Antonio Pierce, captain and playcaller. Pierce never leaves the field and is their most vital piece. Fred Robbins, at NT, voted captain as well, is an under-rated force inside to allow the ends more leeway. A second alternate Pro Bowler, Robbins plays a lot of odd-front on the center and can be disruptive. Without him this past week, the Cowboys had huge broken runs inside. Across from him, Barry Cofield is an unassuming player, neither great against the run nor pass, that rotates in. Backup end Renaldo Wynn comes in for pass plays.
Jeff Otah should be commended for only giving up five sacks when he's still raw, but he draws a huge assignment this week. Justin Tuck will probably require help, having notched 12 sacks on the season. Tuck takes mostly outside routes to the QB, and if Otah has the awareness to notice, crossing back over on hump moves probably won't work. As well, while he's been consistent all year, half his sacks have come in six division games, and had 5 more against SF, STL, and AZ in routs. 70% of sacks have come in the second half. Tuck's outside paths give him good ability on contain, but he doesn't make many plays against the run (3 stuffs) despite his tackle numbers (60, 47 solo). New Pro Bowler Jordan Gross takes on Matthias Kiwanuka, new to end after being pushed to LB in the past. Kiwanuka has 8.5 sacks, three of which came against Pittsburgh, another 2.5 coming in two games against Dallas. Kiwanuka abuses larger left tackles, but most players that have a solid amount of quickness can contain him.
Free agent Danny Clark (6'3, 245) and undrafted 4th-year Chase Blackburn (6'3, 250) start strongside and weakside next to Pierce. Both are primarily run stoppers, but the overachieving Blackburn does play in the nickel.
Rookie Kenny Phillips worked his way into the lineup and has been a solid SS. Michael Johnson, a 2nd year, 7th rounder, is the FS. His lanky frame has picked off two passes, both against SF in a blowout. Neither get sucked into playaction too much, but both get inexperienced. Combo routes, spreading the defense out, and pump fakes could help.
Corey Webster and 2007 first rounder Aaron Ross are the starting corners. Webster has 3 INT and 21 PD, and Ross has 3 INT, 8 PD. Webster is adept at man technique coverage in zone, while Ross is physical and breaks on routes. Of the two, Webster is more likely to pull Steve Smith in coverage; Ross is more likely to take on Muhsin Muhammad. These are good matchups for the Giants, though Ross won't out-bump Muhammad and double routes will be beneficial if Carolina has time. Webster has enough speed to stay with most receivers, but may not for Smith. He'll probably have help over the top but both safeties are young. Ross will anticipate playing deeper on Muhammad, where he won't have help while the Giants roll toward Smith, so it's plausible to see the smoke route revised toward Muhammad a few times early to help move the chains.
Terrell Thomas is the nickel, having ousted Sam Madison, and the second round pick has contributed well. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but lacks the physicality or size to take on Dwayne Jarrett. The team does have an advantage in 3 WR, but they lose a bit of running prowess from that situation, so expect more outside running, dumps to the backs, or motion in passing situations. The team doesn't expect to be less than obvious in running situations, but draws can be used right against the Giants from the guard out since their ends take such wide stances.
The Giants don't have the LBs to pull a safety for a 4th LB the way that Denver and others have situationally tried. They have most of their DL talent on the field, and while they could bring Renaldo Wynn to stack a 5th DL in the game, they don't have much else. Teams have tried various things to counter our goal offenses and our power sets, but the Giants don't have a ton of options due to injury.
Carolina's going to need combo blocks to neutralize the middle of that Giants' D. Putting Ryan Kalil in a position to combo off Robbins and let the guards push him toward the sideline will be a big help, as will Brad Hoover's isolation blocks on the on-side OLBs. Expect a lot more two-tight end, and a fair bit of motion, as Carolina tries to manipulate the Giants' defensive front without spreading them. The Eagles used a lot of two tight end and max protect schemes to keep Donovan McNabb in the clear with enough time, and were able to outmuscle in the running game as well.
From those sets, the Eagles played a lot of small-ball, running and short passing to a high percentage of first downs. In that ideal, Carolina hasn't played as well in the short passing game of late, with some miscues with the TEs and not many balls going to the backs, but it's an effective strategy if they can make it happen, and Deangelo Williams has slowly built up 22 receptions to be the team's 3rd leading receiver. With the Giants' rush, and their expansive array of pressure schemes, it'll be a good time to bring out a few screen packages. And if the Giants will work on stopping Steve Smith first, the run and the short pass should be there.
As well, watch for more Smith in the slot and in motion. Dwayne Jarrett is a better split end than slot receiver, so other than setting up slants and stop routes, Jarrett will probably line up wide in 3 WR and let Smith go in motion to free up coverage a bit more. Look for a few setup tricks, possibly revolving around Smith, early on, and a weakside reverse to Smith from motion.