On December 23, 2018 the Indianapolis Colts will host the New York Giants. In this Week 16 match-up I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our surging Colts.
The Colts have lost to the Giants once in the past twenty (20) years, that loss coming in 2002. Prior to that the Colts hadn’t lost to the often talked about G-Men since 1993 and going back to 1968 (not a typo, the Vietnam War was being waged) our Colts are 8-3 against these Giants. Unfortunately for us, history has nothing to do with the game on Sunday, unless you consider Eli Manning’s career, as the best of it is far in the past.
Let’s figure out what we can expect in Week 16.
Prior to this year the New York Giants had used a base 4-3 defense since 1993. Twenty-five years later the Giants decided it was time to make the switch to a 3-4, bringing in Indiana native, James Bettcher to be their defensive coordinator.
Bettcher started his NFL coaching career in Indianapolis back in 2012. When Bruce Arians accepted his head coaching position in Arizona he poached Bettcher to coach the Cardinals outside linebackers. By 2015 Bettcher had become the Cardinals defensive coordinator. Upon Arians retirement, Bettcher needed a job when the Giants came calling.
In doing research on Bettcher’s defense, once again, I went over to Cover1.net and found the work of Nick Turchyn. Turchyn has written at great length about Bettcher’s defense and I’m not even going to try to sample bits and pieces and try to make it all make sense. Instead I’m going to lead a horse (that’s you) to water and if the horse wants to drink, I will have given it ever chance to.
James Bettcher’s blitzing Part 1
James Bettcher’s blitzing Part 2
James Bettcher’s use of cover 3 robber
How James Bettcher used various coverages against George Kittle
Here’s the $0.10 tour of those articles: James Bettcher likes to blitz. He brings pressure from both man and zone looks and he likes to blitz his defensive backs. At their core they are a quarters coverage (cover 4) team but they use man to man, pattern matching and various versions of his cover 3 robber.
The Giants give up a lot of receptions in the short middle of the field to running backs and wide receivers but have done a decent job scheming to keep tight ends in check. The Giants also struggle against play action passes. Giving up a high amount of yards per play against play action. With that said they don’t give up a ton of deep passes. They limit explosive plays despite the fact they’re giving up a lot of yards and are in the bottom third of the league in points against.
This Giants defense isn’t great but James Bettcher has been able to maximize the talent he does have on the roster. Bettcher will no doubt do all he can to try and limit our Colts offense. If he has any chance of doing that he’s going to need to spend a lot of time figuring out how he thinks his team might do that.
The Giants are giving up a lot of rushing yards this year and the defensive line deserves some of the blame. B.J. Hill, a rookie DT/DE out of N.C. State, has played very well for a third round rookie. Dalvin Tomlinson has also played well. Defensive end Josh Mauro spent the first four games of the season suspended for performance enhancing drug usage. Since his return he has split time with Kerry Wynn. Neither man has been great and Wynn is currently out with an injured thumb, so it’s unknown if he will be able to play come Sunday.
For a fraction of a second there was a massive hole for the running back to hit. No one played their assignments well and no one defeated their blocks effectively. This was a nice cut by Josh Adams but had the Giants defenders done their jobs, there would have never been a cutback lane to begin.
Like the articles I linked above pointed out, runs to the outside have been largely successful against this Giants front. Though they mentioned outside zone runs specifically, maintaining gap assignments while moving laterally is difficult, this gap scheme run was successful despite Landon Collins’ best effort.
Collins is injured and won’t be a factor on Sunday which will only help the Colts ability to run the ball in this must win game. Even still defending the edges seems to be a problem for the Giants and I fully expect Marlon Mack to have a big day.
Here the Bears caught the Giants being aggressive with the blitz but more than that the offensive line completely nullified the effort of the Giants defensive line, driving them down, away from where the ball is designed to go. Once Jordan Howard saw the edge exposed, he ran to freedom.
This Giants defensive line does have some talent but as of right now they have yet to come together as a unit and are a part of a defense giving up more than 128 yards per game on the ground.
The names you need to know here are Alec Ogletree, B.J. Goodson, Oliver Vernon, Kareem Martin and you may remember Lorenzo Carter from last years draft.
Alec Ogletree would lineup at inside linebacker but he is struggling to come back from a concussion in time to play in the game. B.J. Goodson will slide over in his place. Goodson is a solid tackler and will look to match wits with Andrew Luck.
Oliver Vernon should be considered a hero to all future NFL free agents. He parlayed a single 10+ sack season into a 5 year, $85 million deal with the Giants. He hasn’t come close to that number in five years. With that said he does consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Kareem Martin and Lorenzo Carter will each see time at the other outside linebacker position. Neither man is particularly good at this point in their careers.
Alec Ogletree has four interceptions on the year. They’ve all come against backup quarterbacks. One thing I’ve noticed is the aggressiveness the Giants defense has shown. Often Ogletree was sent on a blitz, rarely did it work this well. Their strategy may shift with B.J. Goodson filling in.
I do expect to see delayed blitzes round the right side, like this one, to test Braden Smith. Ryan Kelly’s ability to identify these things pre-snap will be huge. Also, I didn’t mean to make this an Alec Ogletree highlight reel, but here we are.
Here Ogletree was able to knife through the line and make a stop. Rookie Tae Davis wasn’t far behind and with Ogletree’s injury, Davis, an undrafted rookie free agent, should expect to see more time, which will likely help the Colts in both the run and pass.
The Giants don’t have a ton of talent on defense. They have some solid pieces if they continue to add talent in the future, but there’s a reason they’re near the bottom of the league in every major defensive category.
Janoris Jenkins, B.W. Webb, Grant Haley, Sean Chandler, Curtis Riley and Michael Thomas are the names to know.
You may know Janoris Jenkins as the NFL player with a dead body in his basement, but he also plays cornerback for the New York Giants. Jenkins hasn’t played up to the contract he was given but he is a starting level corner. B.W. Webb will start at the other cornerback spot. Webb isn’t a bad player, but he probably shouldn’t be starting. Grant Haley was called up from the practice squad in October and has since become their starting slot corner and has played well in that role.
Curtis Riley is a safety. Curtis Riley is not good at NFL football. We should all be thankful he will be on the field this Sunday. Michael Thomas, no not the one who catches a lot of passes from Drew Brees, this Michael Thomas plays safety for these Giants.
Thomas is the Giants nominee for the Walter Payton man of the year award. To go along with his solid off the field work, Thomas has played well.
Sean Chandler is a UDFA safety out of Temple who has played in a very limited role, which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me given how bad Riley has looked. As a Colts fan, I’m happy to be confused for at least another week.
Janoris Jenkins has the ability to be a very good corner but his play is inconsistent. When he is at his best he is capable of playing like a CB1.
If this would have been a starting quarterback, this would have been six points. The DB gets roasted off the line and only recovers once the ball is badly under-thrown. If you notice at the bottom of the screen, Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton is left alone near the sideline. Granted Burton wasn’t likely to be an option given the number of reads the QB would have had to make to get to him. The point stands two receivers were wide open on this play.
Mark Sanchez absolutely gift-wrapped this pick-6 and donated it to the Giants. It was less of a good defensive play and more about how bad Mark Sanchez is at football. Even still, the Giants made the play and scored the six.
All in all, I’m not afraid of this group of defensive backs. Even their best healthy player, Janoris Jenkins, isn’t a guy that I think Andrew Luck should avoid. The Colts have seen better secondary groups in most of the games they’ve played this year.
With Landon Collins out, the Giants have very little help from the third level of the defense to aid in the run game. Given what we know about the defensive line and linebacking corps, they’re not going to stop the run at all. The only way I expect this defense to be able to limit the Colts offense is simply if the Colts and the lack of talent at their skill positions rear their ugly head. I truly do not believe there is anyway the Giants can stop the Colts offense unless there are many self inflicted mistakes from an offense that isn’t prone to making a lot of mistakes.