The 2016 New York Giants possess a pass happy offense that looks awfully similar to the 2011 Super Bowl champs.
The 2011 New York Giants were the first team in NFL history to win a Superbowl while ranking last in the league in rushing. While it’s still early in 2016, this season’s team looks to be of the same pass-happy nature.
Averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt in 2011, the 2016 team is averaging, well, 3.5 yards per attempt. It’s not just the numbers that aren’t sexy, it’s how they look on the field. The G-men have began their campaign against two mediocre defenses, and still have struggled to run the ball. Too many times have Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen been hit in the backfield before they can even choose a running lane. Too many times have the Giants struggled to push the pile in short yardage and goal line situations. It’s only two weeks into the season, but the ground attack does not look likely to improve after two showings against fairly porous defenses.
Eli Manning posted career numbers in 2011, falling just shy of 5,000 passing yards. His success was largely in part due to the emergence of Victor Cruz, growth of Hakeem Nicks, and having depth in Mario Manningham as a third option. Jake Ballard came from nowhere and recorded 604 yards and four touchdowns as the tight end. Fast forward to 2016, and it’s not too different.
Sterling Sheppard looks like a legitimate weapon working out of the slot and occasionally on the outside. Jerry Reese is often scrutinized for his draft picks, but may have selected the rookie of the year. Regardless of the defense he’s facing, it’s clear that he has a significant role in the offense and has gained Manning’s trust early on. Odell Beckham has cemented himself as one of the top wideouts in the league, brining us back to Victor Cruz, who looks stronger every week. Cruz now may be the third option, but that’s not an insult given the quality the Giants possess. Big three, meet the big three.
Opposing defenses knew the Giants were going to throw early and often in 2011. That seems like a fair sentiment thus far in 2016. Defenses sometimes know what’s coming and still can’t find an answer. You can double team Odell Beckham Jr., as doubling Victor Cruz was not uncommon in 2011. However, the Giants then and now had enough depth at wide receiver to give defenses fits. It’s simply a matter of picking your poison.
Lost in the fray of the Big Blue aerial attack is their pass protection. The 2011 team allowed just 28 sacks, an average of less than twice per game. Given how often the pass was on, (589 times to be exact) the o-line gave Eli and company enough time to spread the ball around. Through two games this season, the Giants are on pace to give up 32 sacks, not much different from five seasons ago.
The roster today is very different from the roster five seasons ago. Manning remains the one constant (as Cruz may not be the same player he once was), while the offensive philosophy possesses many similarities. Big Blue can throw it, and throw it well. Whether it leads to another Lombardi trophy is unknown, though their 2-0 start has left fans dreaming of football in January for the first time in five years.