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2013 New York Giants: Blitz Tactics

Whether they’ve opted for conventional defensive looks or a variety of blitz packages, the Giants haven’t generated sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Thus far in 2013, Perry Fewell has queued up 37 blitzes on 123 QB drop backs for a 30% blitz rate. Sacks have not been the result, but these disguised looks have been moderately successful in rushing/disrupting the passer.

On opening night, the Giants blitzed Romo 13 times on 51 drop backs – he completed 10 of 13 passes (77%) at a pedestrian clip of 5.8 yards per completion. When they didn’t come with extra men, Romo completed 26 of 36 passes (72%) for 7.9 yards per completion. Their two sacks happened to come using the conventional rush (Pierre-Paul, Tuck/Joseph).

Against Peyton Manning, the Jints blitzed on ten of 43 drop backs – Manning completed 40% of those ten attempts for 56 yards. When not blitzed he completed 26 of 33 (79%) for 251 yards. No sacks recorded.

The Giants blitzed the unique Cam Newton on 14 of his 29 drop backs – he completed 7 of 12 passes (58%) at over 14 yards per completion and scrambled for a first down. The pressure phased Newton as he took a long sack from Mathias Kiwanuka and got picked off deep in his own territory by Aaron Ross. When not blitzed he completed 8/15 (53%) at 15 yards per.

Should the G-men turn up the defensive pressure at Kansas City?

Facing an agile QB

Despite heavy doses of the shotgun formation, Alex Smith has already been sacked 10 times this season. In his career, he’s been sacked 206 times in 83 games. Mobility attributes aside, Smith is not the coolest cucumber in the pocket. He’s faced the blitz on 25 occasions, completing 17/22 passes for 176 yards, escaped on three QB runs and taken four sacks. When facing pressure of any kind (the blitz doesn’t always hit home), Smith has completed 10/26 passes for 126 yards, including 1/3 for six yards at Jacksonville in week one. He is more prone to run when afforded a clean pocket (13 runs) than he is to escape the squeeze (3 runs).

The screen game and Jamaal Charles

For teams that can’t manufacture big plays against vanilla looks, an overaggressive blitzing defense can be just what the doctor ordered. It opens the door for chunk gains that would otherwise be unavailable given their personnel. While with the Eagles, Andy Reid embarrassed the Giants with screens to Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, carving up big yardage by consistently testing the discipline of their front-seven and correctly diagnosing blitz situations. However, Reid has kept the RB screen in his back pocket in the early going: the Chiefs have run five screen passes to Charles (all shotgun), culminating in 26 total yards (long of 19) and two incompletions. Instead they’ve split their speedy back out wide with greater frequency and run more WR-type screen action.  Overall, Charles has 18 receptions of 24 targets. (Montee Ball burned the Jints with a 15-yard screen pass on 3rd and 14, the only play of note.)

Weapon of choice

Does the reward of rattling Smith outweigh the risk of unleashing the Chiefs greatest weapon in Charles? The blitz would also play into Reid’s new-found fondness for the WR-screen.  Optimally the Giants would like to get in Smith’s face without sending linebackers or defensive backs, but that formula just hasn’t materialized up to this point. Sunday afternoon would be an opportune time for the front-four to make noise in the backfield. The Chiefs possess a deep and creative playbook, making them a dangerous team to blitz with regularity. Fewell and company must walk a fine line.

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