How should the New York Giants game-plan offensively against the Cleveland Browns?

New York Giants, Colt McCoy, Wayne Gallman

The New York Giants learned that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett contracted Covid on Thursday, shutting down team facilities and pushing practice to Friday. In Garrett’s absence, TE coach Freddie Kitchens will take over as the offensive play collar in week 15 against the Cleveland Browns, his former club. Kitchens was the head coach for the Browns in 2019 but was fired after a tumultuous season on offense, ironically due to his playcalling. Second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield had a tough campaign, throwing a career-high 21 interceptions and a career-low 22 touchdowns.

Mayfield is having a far better 2020 season under Kevin Stefanski, but Kitchens has a similar story to former Giants coach Pat Shurmur. Kitchens was a solid offensive coordinator in 2018, helping Mayfield take a significant step forward in his development, focusing on first reads and quick passes to avoid being sacked. I imagine he will deploy a similar mentality with the Giants against the Browns, who have a solid pass rush unit.

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Against Arizona this past weekend, the Giants allowed eight sacks and fumbled the ball five times, a simply unacceptable performance that must be fixed moving forward. One way to avoid pressure on the quarterback is to get the ball out of his hands quickly and commit to the run game. The offensive scheme will not change regarding the concepts that Garrett has instituted, but the different sequence of play calls will be different under Kitchens.

We should expect reliance on the run and quick, timely throws by whoever is playing quarterback, whether it be Daniel Jones or Colt McCoy. Jones held onto the ball far too long against Arizona and missed a ton of reads, which was seen in our film break down this week of the wide receivers.

I wouldn’t expect the offense to blow the top off of Cleveland, who is allowing 28.3 points per game. They have a below-average defense, which they compensate for with a high octane offense that averages 26.8 points per game. However, the Giants’ lowly offense is in the bottom two in the NFL, averaging 18.3 points per contest, but has an above average run game, averaging 116.5 yards per game.

Overall, I would expect the Giants to rely on their strengths, committing to the run and handing the rock off to Wayne Gallman. This will not only keep the defense off the field but wins time of possession for the offense. Big Blue doesn’t have a downfield style scheme capable of picking up chunk plays, but rather a first down reliant unit that focuses on short-yardage and consuming time off the clock. This works well in some scenarios, but given how offensive the league has become, the Giants are quickly being left behind.

A change of pace under Kitchens might be a positive thing, and hopefully, he can reinvigorate a unit that scored just seven points against the Cardinals in week 14.