Andre Brown has been a Godsend for the New York Giants.
In what essentially amounts to a lost season, Brown has come back from Injured Reserve to give the Giants something that they sorely lacked: an elite rushing game.
In three games this year, Brown has produced 59 Defense-adjusted Yards Above Average, equal to the number produced by 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson, according to Football Outsiders.
If Brown had enough carries to qualify, his 10.5% DVOA would rank 7th in the NFL, trailing LeSean McCoy, who is 6th.
For fans of more traditional stats, in three games, Brown is the team’s leading rusher by 70 yards and is averaging a more-than-respectable 4.5 yards per carry. Brown’s success on the ground has added that second dimension to the Giants offense that has allowed Eli Manning to put up some better stats in recent weeks.
It is no coincidence that while Brown was hurt, Manning threw 15 interceptions, and has thrown two since he returned.
Last week, against a Dallas run defense – which now ranks 31st in the NFL in DVOA – Brown had his best game of the season. He carried the ball 21 times for 127 yards and contributed four catches as well. His 6.0 yards per carry were the most by a Giants running back since Brandon Jacobs had 4.8 in his 106-yard game against Chicago on Oct. 10.
Speaking of Jacobs, he carried nine times for 75 yards, including a 37-yard scamper, the longest of the season for any Giant, and the longest run for Jacobs since a 73-yard run on Dec. 13, 2010 in a 21-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
But despite the success on the ground, the Giants lost the game 24-21 on a last-second field goal from Dan Bailey, with an assist from Kevin Gilbride’s play calling.
Brown and Jacobs were getting anything they wanted on the ground from the atrocious Cowboy run defense, yet the Giants passed the ball 30 times, while running the ball 30 times.
Usually it is good to have a good mix of run and pass, but when Manning has a game where he goes 16-30 for 174 yards, and your running game combines for 202 yards in the same amount of plays, you probably should have run the ball more.
What’s even more maddening than that, is that the one time the Giants shouldn’t have run the ball – 3rd-and-goal from the 10 yard line – Gilbride called what has to be his favorite play – the shotgun draw.
Ed Valentine of Big Blue View did some investigating and found that it was a play that Manning checked to after reading the Cowboy defense. So giving Gilbride the full benefit of the doubt, it never should have been an option for Manning to check to.
It’s not so much that I’m upset with calling a shotgun draw on 3rd-and-10, but I’m upset with calling it in the red zone. On your own 25? Go ahead and call it when you see that you have a single high safety because the way that Brown was running there was a good chance he could beat his one man if the blocks got set up. On your opponents 10? No.
The reason is on a draw play like that, ideally the other three defensive backs will be occupied with the receivers that they are covering and not realize the ball has been handed off until it is too late. By that point they’re 25 yards or more down the field on the sideline while the back just has to juke around (or outrun) the high safety for a big gain.
Running that play from, say, your own 25, you have 70.8 percent of the field to work with. On the opponent’s 10? You have 16.7 percent of the field to work with. There’s physically less room for the other defensive backs to be taken out of the play, and less ground for the high safety to cover, so as soon as he reads run, he can come up and make the stop.
It’s the same reason that passing inside the red zone gets harder the closer you get to the goal line.
But I digress.
This week the Giants running game will face a tougher foe in the Washington Redskins, who despite their well-publicized trials (and tribulations!) have managed to be fairly average against the run this year.
Their -5.0% DVOA against the run is 17th among NFL defenses, but their non-adjusted VOA is 7.0%, which places them 31st, so they have had some bad luck.
As far as the Giants are concerned, this might be a week to pass the ball more, with the Skins posting a 18.7% DVOA against the pass, 25th in the league.
I would expect to see the run used as a means to set up the pass, especially play action if there is early success.
18 carries, 92 yards, 1 touchdown
Joe Vasile | Featured Columnist
Joe Vasile is the voice of the Fayetteville (NC) SwampDogs and host of “Ball Four” on WTSR in Trenton. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.