Mike Sullivan is the new offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers moving into next season. He was the quarterback's coach and wide receiver's coach for numerous years for the Giants. He is reportedly bringing a variation of the Giants offense to Tampa. This is an offense that has won two Superbowls in the last five years. So what can we expect?
Breaking Down The Personnel
The Giant's offense has produced pro-bowlers in Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Hakeem Nicks. A good argument could also be made for why Victor Cruz should have been a pro-bowler last year. In previous years, the Giants had a big body in Plaxico Burress. The offensive line is not at a disadvantage, but is not overly great. The running backs in Bradshaw and Jacobs are adequate backs. They are inconsistent at times and can disappear in games, but they can get the job done when fed the ball.
The commonalities in this offense is a wide receiver who can be isolated on the outside and a nifty slot receiver who can be maneuvered around. The passing game is complemented by a tandem of power backs who love to take turns pound the ball.
How Do We Match Up?
The Bucs have a strong-armed quarterback in Josh Freeman. His big arm will come in handy. The newly signed Vincent Jackson is the big body receiver the team has been missing. His signing will move Benn and Parker to the slot. While Benn is a large question mark in the slot, Parker showed last year he was capable of working the middle and making some crucial first downs.
The signing of Carl Nicks has given the Buc's offensive line potential to be the best in the league. Compare it to the Giants and we have an advantage; boasting three pro-bowlers over the Giant's two. The new meaty middle of our line will give Freeman longer in the pocket and a place to step-up into. It will also allow us to continually send help to Trueblood without worrying about the rest of the line crumbling. Having longer time in the pocket is going to be key for the new offense to thrive.
Legarrette Blount is currently the back of the future. He fits the mold of the power-backs the Giants had last year. What has yet to be decided is who will be the second back for the Buccaneers. Is it going to be another powerful back to mirror the Giants, or is it going to be a smaller speed back? Schiano has continually used the phrase of wanting a "bell cow" at running back. This is an area where the Buc's offense might steer off course from the Giants. Their running backs split carries near dead even at 52/48. In a bell cow system, the feature back will be getting 70%+ carries.
Analyzing The Scheme
In today's NFL, no offense is purely running one system. They are often mixed and matched while swapping in unconventional personnel and formations. We have recently seen the tight end explode into being a split receiver who has a mismatch on whoever is lined up on the other side. This kind of evolution has made what-offense-is-what a blurred mess. However, we may be able to point a finger on the Giants.
They run what I consider an altered form of the run and shoot adapted with power formations.The run and shoot has had a shaky past in the NFL. The 1992 AFC wild card game between the Oilers and the Bills goes down as the most infamous moment in the history of the run and shoot. The Oilers, who ran the run and shoot, blew a 35-3 third quarter lead to lose the game. They called only four runs in the second half compare to twenty-two passes. This was the biggest weakness of the run and shoot. It was largely based on spread formations and lacked a powerful running attack. This is where the Giants offense beaks the mold. They still use the spread formations and potent passing attack, but also back it up with a power running game.
So What Is The Run And Shoot?
The run and shoot is an offense that bases itself in the ability to adjust routes to the defense mid-play. This is not a revolutionary concept. The west-coast offense thrived on its quick passing attack that utilized multiple option routes. Where the run and shoot earns its bread and butter is deep down the field. It takes multiple receivers and sends them screaming down the field allowing them to find soft spots deep in the defense. For example, a slot receiver running deep up the middle will be given several options: against cover 3 he will run the seem, against cover 2 he will manipulate his safety and beat him to the inside, against man free he will run a dig to gain separation in man. Now take that single receiver going deep and multiply it by three. Having several receivers reading and adjusting routes gives the quarterback more space and open receivers to hurl the ball down field to.
How Does It Apply To The Giants
The Giants were second in the league last year in percent of attempted passes of more than 20 yards. They were second to the one and only Tim Tebow. Of Eli Manning's 589 regular season attempts, 18.5% of them were over 20 yards. This totals a number of 109 and an average of seven a game. That is almost an average of two a quarter.
Lets put it all together. The Giants love to isolate their #1 receiver and have trips to the other side of the field. Look at this play. They will isolate Nicks alone to the single receiver side. On the other side, two deep routes are run along with a check down. What the Giants are looking to do is manipulate the defense pre-play and during the play. If the defense only commits a single defender the Nicks, he will dominate his one-on-one match up a majority of the time. If the defense commits several defenders to Nicks(a safety over the top), Eli will look to the trips side where he will most likely have the slot receiver coming open deep. Go to 1:35 on this video. Switch the two slot receivers routes and it is the exact same play. Nicks gets his one-on-one and wins.
How Does It Apply To The Bucs
Greg Schiano has famously stated we are going to "play great defense, win the special teams battle, and be a physical offensive football team that takes shots down the field.” This is the offense that is going to allow him to take those shots. Vincent Jackson is going to be our Hakeem Nicks. We are going to look to isolate him at times. We are going to rely on him to win those one-on-one matchups and make big plays. Josh Freeman is finally going to be able to use his big arm. Last year, 94% of Freeman's attempts were less than 20 yards (Eli was at 83%). To take all of these shots down the field, Freeman is going to need better protection than he got last season. This is where the revamped offensive line comes in. Our pro-bowl guards are going to give him that pocket to step-up into.
The Buc's roster seems to be falling in place with our projected offense. In hindsight, our free agent signings of Nicks and Jackson were deliberately made so that this offense can work. It will be very interesting to see how Schiano and Sullivan adjust the offense to meet our own goals and needs. Can Parker or Benn be our playmaker in the slot? Will Jackson be able to win on the outside consistently? Will Freeman be able to adjust to the new offense and show his potential? These questions are in the future's hands, and that future looks bright.