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My favorite quote yet

From QB Eli Manning responding to a question about the Redskins stacking the box this Sunday:

I think we have receivers who can make plays. Guys who can get down the field, guys who can break tackles and we are going to see what the defense is doing and make our adjustments. If I can get us in and out of good plays, I think we have the guys out wide who can be explosive and get down the field and do some great things. It’s not like to hit big plays you have to throw it fifty yards down the field, you just have to hit guys on the move and guys have got to break tackles and you have to be effective blocking up front and throwing the ball. It is a combination, we are going to have a great mix of run and pass, but we have to be able to do both well.”

This is music to my ears, and I’ll tell you why — not only is he saying the receivers on the 2009 roster are fully capable of making big plays, what he’s also saying is something I’ve believed in for a long time: Short passes translate into big plays.

They aren’t sexy, they aren’t necessarily highlight material, but they move the chains, they come with a high completion percentage so they are effective at eating up the clock, they create a stressful situation for defenses because they are hard to stop, and perhaps most of all —  short passes utilized in a dynamic offensive scheme give you the opportunity to score more often.

Some examples from this preseason that highlight the Giants’ commitment to more readily utilize short passes in 2009 and keep the defenses guessing are as follows:

1) Domenik Hixon’s bubble screen for a first down in the Carolina game. A short pass well executed with a lot of moving parts is often a thing of beauty, and this play was no exception. It didn’t make the highlight real of course, not suprisingly — but what this play did do is get the Giants 15 yards further down-field with a fresh set of downs that led to an eventual score. On this particular play you had great blocking by a fullback, a tight end, and two other receivers to open up a lane for Hixon to catch and run for a critical first down, and then some. I love that play call by Gilbride, and the offensive unit executed it perfectly with the Giants’ strengths at work…. blocking and ultimately relying on running the football.

Note: Ahmad Bradshaw ran a similar route in the Giants crushing loss to Dallas late last season. Whats my point? It was the only first down recorded by the Giants in what seemed like 6 months in an otherwise lackluster game… and it’s that kind of play call late in the game with no shot to win that gets you scratching your head as to why it wasn’t called sooner.

2) Danny Ware’s dump-off pass brought in for a score in the Carolina game (this one did make the highlight reel). When you hear the term safety valve in football, the dump-off pass is typically the type of thing brought to mind. However, this short pass to a back in the open field can be deadly when timed correctly, and Ware’s vision and execution on this particular play cannot be overstated. But let me be clear, this short pass need not only be the last option in a play designed to bring the ball elsewhere. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles for example utilize their backs as receivers to that end. If you remember, the play that got the Eagles through to the Giants in the playoffs last year was a simple dump-off to Brian Westbrook, a designed play with ample blockers out front, the pressure on McNabb drew Minnesota’s line in and away from protection… a short flip pass over the line from McNabb and it was Westbrook was off to the races. These are the types of plays that will break your opponents back, because they are virtually unstoppable when the defense is all about the pass rush. It should sound awfully familar too, because these types of plays get executed on the Giants all the time, so the staff is familiar with how it works. But ever since Tiki Barber left, the Giants have largely gotten away from this bread-and-butter threat that plays right into what the Giants do well, block and run. Derrick Ward is gone now, so with Jacobs catching more passes this year, and with the explosive Ahmad Bradshaw and emerging Danny Ware stepping up — I would love to see more of these types of short passes utilized in Kevin Gilbride’s offense.

3) Kevin Boss with a cross. This guy can flat out catch a football, that much needs no ellaboration. Second, he can run extremely well after the catch. And even though one particular play does not need to be highlighted here because we’ve seen it over and over from Boss, particularly short passes to the endzone… but just to be consistent, he most recently turned a routine 15 yard pass on a crossing route into a 50 yard catch and run, putting the Giants immediately into scoring position on the first play of the game against the Patriots. I don’t think crossing routes are actually short passes mind you, and they aren’t bombs down the field either. But above where Manning talks about hitting guys on the move, these are the types of plays that can have a major impact in terms of getting the ball downfield in a hurry. Kevin Boss has practically perfected the art of the crossing pattern, and he needs to have more catches this year, period.

4) Steve Smith and the slant. Again, no specific play needs to be mentioned here because all last year on 3rd down Eli was gunning for Smith, typically on a slant…. and the damage done. The beauty of this quick short pass is that an offense timed down in rhythm using these quick slants to move the ball cannot be stopped, they are deadly plain and simple. Steve Smith does extremely well in the slot, and although the Giants have toyed around with bringing him out wide, they really ought to keep him there this year and leave Hixon and Nicks out wide where they belong. Between Mario Manningham, Steve Smith, and Sinorice Moss running these quick short routes this year, Eli should have plenty of places to unload.

5) The wideout screen. While used sparingly to keep defenses honest (as it should be) the wideout screen has not seen a ton of action this preseason. Plaxico Burress in the last few years was often tossed a quick screen on a blitz and asked to make something happen. While this play is 50/50 at best in terms of effectiveness, I think if you only pick up a few yards per screen attempt its just as good as a closed down rushing attempt. The problem with it is, the Giants need those stubborn runs to sell a playaction pass. In the end though, a first down is a first down and if you’re bread and butter ain’t working for you that day, pull out the screen and try it on for size.


Overall and in general, I’ve seen some things this camp and preseason that has me thinking the Giants offense will be more creative and dynamic this year. they’ve had all off-season and preseason to make adjustments and improve their outlets on offense.  I look forward to seeing the 3rd down conversions and the red zone conversion ratio’s go up if they stay creative and keep utilizing the short passes to get the job done. They sure have enough weapons for it.

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2 Responses to “My favorite quote yet”

  1. […] to specifics — check out the fifth short pass option here in which the Giants can keep the Defense off balance by countering their blitz package with a quick […]

  2. […] of what Eli Manning had to say about his options before the very first game against the Redskins (article): I think we have receivers who can make plays. Guys who can get down the field, guys who can break […]

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