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Vanquishing the Giants: What the Bucs need to do in order to beat New York in Week Eight

The Bucs are headed to the northeast on Monday night to face the Giants. Here’s what they can do to show the nation what kind of team they are.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws a pass in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys
| Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After two incredibly impressive performances from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Green Bay and Las Vegas, they look to add to their win streak against the New York Football Giants.

The 1-6 Giants are hosting the Buccaneers at Metlife Stadium on Monday night, looking to slow down an offense that has scored 30 or more points in four out of their seven games. They’ll also be looking to pick up their pace on offense to potentially humble this highly-touted Buccaneers defense.

Despite the Giants lackluster record, they are still in the running for the abhorrent NFC East, so they’ll definitely have something to motivate them outside of their underdog status. This isn’t a team that the Bucs should overlook, either. I mean, they did lose to them last season.

While the NFL definitely has a clear separation between good and bad teams, the phrase “any given Sunday” can define any given week, even when the games are played on Monday. In fact, the Giants have had some fairly impressive outings against superior competition.

In Week Two, they nearly beat a Chicago Bears team that beat the Bucs in Week Five. Against the Rams, they were 20 yards away from potentially sending the game to overtime. With performances like this, even though they ended in losses, they’ve definitely shown that they shouldn’t be written off.

While everyone outside of New York (and probably some within it) thinks that the Bucs will easily handle the Giants, they still have to show up and play the game. So, what can the Bucs do to avenge last years’ heartbreaking loss to this team? Let’s find out.

Offense

Take advantage of the aggressive D-line

If this Giants’ defense is good at one thing, it’s at stopping the run. While they find themselves out of the top 10 in stopping the run by total yards, they are the fifth best team in yards per attempt, allowing only 3.7 yards per rush.

Looking at Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, the Giants are ranked 11th in DVOA against the run at -15.4%. This essentially means that when the Giants are faced with a run, they will force their opponent to perform 15.4% worse than the average team in a similar situation. To learn more about DVOA, check it out here.

This is primarily because of their fairly good defensive line. The primary defenders that line up on the inside are Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and B.J. Hill.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), three of these four defensive linemen rank inside the top 20 for interior linemen, with Dalvin Tomlinson (my personal favorite) leading the way at 12th overall. Outside of these guys, they also have PFF’s 6th overall ranked linebacker in Blake Martinez.

While Martinez has struggles against the pass, he is PFF’s second ranked off-ball linebacker against the run. While I don’t like to use PFF for everything, as I’ve said many times, it really can help to provide some perspective.

After going through the tape, the biggest thing that stands out is how good these interior linemen are at penetrating and getting upfield.

Here’s a look at that:

On this run, the offensive line is zone blocking to the right side of the screen, and the defensive line (with the exception of Williams) takes the gap to the same direction.

I have Tomlinson circled here because he drives the center right into Jeff Wilson Jr’s (30) lap for a huge tackle for loss.

This play from Tomlinson is fantastic. He puts his strength on full display and just absolutely bullies this guy. Even better for New York, the rest of the line also played this pretty well.

Dexter Lawrence (97) slants as well but he doesn’t penetrate upfield as far as Tomlinson or Williams, but, he ends up occupying two linemen which frees up space for Blake Martinez (54) on the cutback.

While they didn’t need Martinez to make the tackle here, he was in great position to do so if the ball ended up making it past Tomlinson.

This type of penetration and aggressiveness is great...until an offense is able to counter your strengths for a big play, like the 49ers do here:

This is just a play action screen that the 49ers call up and it ends up nullifying the Giants’ defensive line perfectly. All four linemen slant to stop the run, then go into their pass rush once they notice that it’s play action.

After this, all engaged offensive linemen peel off and set up a wall for Wilson Jr. to run behind. Not a single rusher felt it right away, and once they did, it was way too late.

While the Bucs offense doesn’t typically feature play action screens, they’ve still run them and I think this week would be a good week to test a few out.

Not only play action screens, but standard play action as well. I know I clamor for play action from this team quite a bit, but it’s only because they’re so good at exploiting matchups with it.

Matching Rob Gronkowski on one of these Giants’ linebackers or safeties is a matchup that the Bucs should want a lot of.

Just throw the ball

As I said before, the strength of this Giants’ defense (and the whole team pretty much) is stopping the run. Outside of this, they just aren’t very good.

Taking another look at Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, we can see that this Giants’ defense against the pass ranks sixth worst with a 20% DVOA, meaning that they are 20% worse than the average defense against the pass in similar situations.

The only stellar player on that defense against the pass is James Bradberry, who the Bucs faced twice a year while he was with Carolina.

Outside of him, I say just throw the ball in that direction (unless he is playing off coverage or something). I don’t mean air it out every single play, but I don’t want to see the Bucs overthink it and try to establish the run if it isn’t working.

They’ve shown that they can drop back 45 times and blow-out a team even when the run isn’t working too well. So, let’s see that again if rushing success isn’t there.

While the Giants overall defense, and even secondary, is better than the Raiders’ respective units, I’m confident that Tom Brady and this offense can put up lots of yards through the air. They did allow Nick Mullens to throw for 343 yards after all.

Defense

Put pressure, pressure, and more pressure on Daniel Jones to force turnovers

Daniel Jones is an interesting quarterback. On one hand, he did put up 336 yards, two touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns on the Bucs in 2019, on the other, he is responsible for 11 of the Giants 13 turnovers in 2020. Out of these 11 turnovers, seven are interceptions (#3 in the NFL), and four (T-#1 in the NFL) are fumbles.

In some ways, he reminds me of Jameis Winston. Not based on the talent or the overall skillset, but instead because they both have a bad habit of trying to make too much happen, especially when they drop back to throw.

Whether it be through taking a sack after holding the ball for way too long, or through trying to thread a pass into a tight window, both of these quarterbacks just won’t stop turning the ball over.

In 2019, we all saw what Winston displayed in terms of turnovers, and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, we can see that his aggressiveness percentage was 16.8% on the season. Aggressiveness in this context is defined as the percentage of pass attempts that are to receivers whose defender is within one yard of them when the ball arrives.

Compared to Winston, Jones has an even higher rate of aggressive passes in 2020, attempting to fit the ball into incredibly tight windows on 17.3% of his throws. On top of this, he holds on to the ball too long and gets hit far too often, which has often resulted in fumbles.

Alright, let’s stop comparing him to Jameis and look at an example of Jones trying to make too much happen:

The Giants were trailing by eight points with 2:05 to go against a strong Los Angeles Rams defense. With 52 seconds remaining, they find themselves in the red zone and have a chance to score and tie up the game.

In steps Jones to ruin any hopes the Giants had of going into overtime.

Jones does a good job of finding an opening in the pass rush and taking off, but instead of running through the wide open middle of the field, as shown by the first arrow, he throws a dumb interception that iced the game for LA.

The second set of arrows is pretty much there to give some benefit of the doubt to the second year quarterback. He sees his receiver flash open (barely) and tries to fit the ball into a tight window for a first down.

If we look at the dashed line, that’s pretty much the ONLY place he could’ve thrown it to complete it. Instead, he threw it inside and the corner just undercut the route.

What could’ve been first and goal, or even a touchdown if some tackles are missed, is now a game losing interception. Unfortunately for the Giants, this is what Daniel Jones has shown time and time again. Fortunately for the Bucs, they’re pretty good at forcing turnovers.

While Jones didn’t face a lot of pressure during this throw, he still threw a bad one. It can get even worse when pressure is in his face, and this happens a lot.

The Giants’ offensive line isn’t good. They allow pressure at rates that lead the league, with Jones facing pressure on 29.2% of his dropbacks according to Pro Football Reference. Now, they might even be down a few of their starting linemen, opening the door for even higher rates of pressure from a Bucs team that already applies a lot.

Jones is young and his processing isn’t to the level of someone like, I don’t know... Tom “The GOAT” Brady? Mix slow processing with high rates of pressure and you get sacks, fumbles, or horrendous throws.

If the Bucs are able to take advantage of a lackluster offensive line and put pressure on Jones with four, they’ll be put in a good position to force a lot of turnovers, and potentially shut this offense out of the end zone.

Keep Jones from picking up yards with his legs

Even though Jones throws a lot of bad interceptions and fumbles a lot, he’s not all bad and he’s still learning. He is by far not the worst thrower of the football, and he can definitely run the ball.

The Giants’ rushing attack is pretty much in the hands of Jones himself, especially after losing Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL early in the season. While Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman have been trying to take advantage of higher snap shares, they just can’t get it going behind this offensive line.

Jones however, is leading the team in rushing with 296 yards on 31 total attempts. This isn’t all from scrambling either, the Giants like to draw up designed runs for their athletic quarterback.

Here’s a look at that:

On this particular run, the Giants scheme up a fake split zone that springs Jones for about 20 yards.

You can tell it’s not a read option because the tight end coming across the formation fakes the kick out block, and then bounces out to the edge to clean up anything in the way. If that tight end gets a better block downfield, Jones might’ve been able to break a long one.

In either case, this just shows that not only do the Giants like to run these kinds of plays, but that they can be successful. In fact, this is similar to the play that resulted in an 80 yard rush, subsequently ending with the trip heard ‘round the world against the Eagles last week.

Even outside of these designed runs, Jones can get out of the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs. The linebacking tandem of Lavonte David and Devin White should be enough to stop these scrambles, but it really all depends on the call.

Putting one of these guys in a spy can potentially stop this, but then you have one less man on the rush or in coverage. It is a delicate balance, really. But, I expect Todd Bowles to design a scheme that can slow down the scrambles, despite giving up the go-ahead points on a scramble just a year ago.

Conclusion

I don’t expect this to be a difficult game for this red-hot Bucs team, however, I fully expect the Giants to compete and potentially slow down this high-powered offense.

Looking at the way things are now, the Bucs defense should be the star of the show, while the offense takes a little bit to get going. I know that they LOVE to establish the run early in games, but the Giants’ defensive line is going to make that quite difficult, especially because the Bucs run primarily between the tackles.

No matter what happens early on, I really want to see Tampa Bay just air it out. That’s where a lot of the success is going to come from anyway, unless the offensive line is unexpectedly dominant in the run game against this talented Giants’ front.

When the Bucs defense is on the field, we should see a lot of pressure on Jones, forcing him to throw a bad pick or two, or even fumble a few times. This is a big game for Shaq Barrett. The second year Buccaneers pass-rusher needs to get home more often than he has so far, especially against the line that the Giants will be bringing out on Monday night.

Finally, if the Bucs can stop scrambles and designed quarterback runs, this Giants’ offense won’t have the big explosive plays they need to get their offense going.

What do you think the Bucs need to do the beat the Giants? Is this even a game they should worry about? Let us know in the comments below!

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