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Film Room: The Good, the Slants, and the Sluggo (Part 2)

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In our first installment of The Good, the Slants, and the Sluggos, we examined the early game success of New York Giants offense against the Philadelphia Eagles defense. In today’s installment, I’ll detail the counter-punches thrown by both teams and what the Giants saw on film that pointed to the Eagles weakness.

We left off at the end of the 1st Quarter with Giants WR Tavarres King burning Eagles CB Jalen Mills on a sluggo. We even double dipped on that play with an article from Locked On Eagles co-host Benjmain Solak (here). There were a plethora of slant plays in this game so I’m not going to post them all. Instead, I’ll highlight the wrinkles utilized throughout the contest.

(2nd Quarter 3:28, 3rd & 4, NYG 29, 20-14 NYG)

At the top of the screen, notice what happens to the slant that is being covered by CB Mills. LB Nigel Bradham (#53) is going to slide under it on a hook zone, clogging the lane and forcing QB Eli Manning (#10) to come off to the flats of the spot concept being run on the left of the formation.

It’s a good job by both offense and defense. Manning could have forced a throw in there if he hadn’t identified the linebacker sliding under the slant and the defense had everything summarily covered.

(2nd Quarter 0:40, 2nd & 10, PHI 13, 24-23 PHI)

The Giants would counter the hook zone with a slant-flat (bottom of the screen), and it’s a good call as a natural counter to a team trying to drop an LB under the slant and aid the CB.

First, it typically forces the LB to void the area that would disrupt the slant read. Second, it creates a natural rub, or “pick”, depending on how you view these types of things.

The routes intersect so close to each other that one or both defenders may need to actively avoid each other, or even a receiver entering their area. This creates the potential for a clean look and yards after catch if a defender is unable to work through the trash and stick to his coverage responsibility. Simple concept, high percentage throw, well covered by the Eagles and LB Bradham.

(3rd Quarter 8:55, 2nd & 8, NYG 25, 24-23 PHI)

So we’ve got the slant, the slot slant, the sluggo, the slant-flat.. else? With the clamps starting to tighten on the Giants offense, they add yet another wrinkle. They run a bubble from the slot to pull the nickel CB Patrick Robinson (#21) and run a slant with WR Roger Lewis (#18) against CB Ronald Darby (#41).

Darby gets sticky here, disrupting the timing of the route with good use of hands and leverage for an incompletion. What further throws the timing of this off is the play action doesn’t suck in LB Bradham, who has danced this dance before and races to cut under the slant, forcing Manning to throw before the small window became completely shut.

(3rd Quarter 4:31, 3rd & 4, NYG 26, 31-23 PHI)

Holding on to a one score lead, the Eagles dodge a bullet. On the left side of the Giants formation, slot WR Sterling Shepard (#87) beats the inside leverage and press of CB Patrick Robinson (#21). A quick jab step from Shepard as he gets to Robinson’s sphere of influence is all it takes for Robinson to get lost in the sauce from Fear of a Slant Planet.

Manning bails out the defense with a throw far to outside, especially considering that Shepard would want to stack Robinson if the route developed any further.

(3rd Quarter 2:16, 2nd & 9, NYG 43, 31-23 PHI)

Next the Giants utilize slant-flat, not with a RB on the flat, but with their slot receiver and their tight end. From a 2×2 formation, they run a mirrored slant-flat concept, which means it’s the same route combination on either side. In regard to mirrored concepts, here’s an excerpt from the Inside the Pylon glossary:

“The quarterback is given some pre-snap reads based on coverage, defensive formation, and the spot of the football, then executes a half-field read based on those pre-snap indicators as the play unfolds. This design can simplify the offensive structure for the quarterback while still giving the offense potential options on each side of the field.”

The looks from the defense on both sides of the formation are similar, with the main difference being the play-action holding LB Mychal Kendricks (#95), which creates a natural window to the left. WR King wins at the line against CB Darby, hitting a stutter release that causes Darby to open his hips to the outside early and providing King with space to catch and run.

(4th Quarter 0:58, 2nd & 11, PHI 11, 34-29 PHI)

With so many busts in the secondary, the Eagles defense had one more chance to right the ship at the end of the game. In their last set of downs, the Giants would go to the sluggo well one more time. With the ball on the right hash and trips to the left side, the Eagles should be on high alert for Double China-7, a play every NFL team runs in the red zone.

The two outside receivers will run in breaking routes, with the inside receiver will run a corner route. The Giants would unsuccessfully run this exact concept on their 4th down play, but they set it up by giving a similar look here. Instead of running Double China-7, the inside receiver runs an in breaking route.

On the outside, WR Lewis runs a sluggo. Darby is in off coverage and Lewis is forced to elongate his fake at the break-point due to Darby staying patient and not biting hard on the slant action. This allows Darby to stay with the route, squeeze it to the outside, get turned, and get the break-up.

In a chess match of all slant pieces, the Eagles would take a beating, but ultimately end up on the winning end. There has been plenty of chatter regarding Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz that would accuse him to coming into the game with a bad plan. This is not unwarranted, especially in regard to the first quarter. Schwartz would adjust and the failures after were mostly due to poor technique and execution.

There were too many break downs in the secondary to show here, further highlighting the overall awful performance. You could argue we should play more two high safeties. I would agree with sprinkling it in, but I consider two high safeties to be a cowards’ defense in most situation and begs the offense to gash you in the ground game. Ultimately, you have to trust your guys on the outside, otherwise you might as well play prevent all game.

At the beginning of the article I promised to show what the Giants may have seen that gave them the confidence to run this specific gameplan. I’ll show one example from CB Jalen Mills getting beat on a sluggo from Redskins WR Jameson Crowder. This example is from Week 14 of the 2016 season.

If you read my Ronald Darby evaluation (here), you’ll notice one of his weaknesses is double moves. If you don’t believe me, watch this Giants game again, or watch Week 2 of the 2016 season against the Jets, it’s all over the tape.

In closing, with the Oakland Raiders quick passing attack coming to town, it will be interesting to see how the Eagles cornerbacks and Jim Schwartz have learned from this game and how they will adjust moving forward. I’d imagine having CB Rasul Douglas active wouldn’t heard, he lives to press. Either way, context is important, especially when placing blame, and even more so when there is plenty of it to throw around. Keep the pitchforks holstered until the Eagles show an inability to adjust.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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