Standing to the far left is New York Giants‘ star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. To the right is Sterling Shepard and behind the line of scrimmage is Saquon Barkley. Quarterback Eli Manning gets the snap and hands off to Barkley…but wait, it was all a distraction; Beckham Jr. is bolting down the sidelines and Shepard is cutting inside on a post route. There’s too many options to choose from as Barkley splits out into the flat, Manning looks up the middle of the field to see tight end Evan Engram breaking free into the secondary; he slings the ball 30 yards down field to his man in stride.
Engram takes it all the way to the endzone.
Notice how I didn’t mention Engram until the final moment…that’s how many weapons the Giants have, and how creative head coach Pat Shurmur will make this offense look in the months ahead.
Let’s run a different scenario for the Giants’ offense:
Manning takes the snap from the shotgun, he looks left to Beckham and quickly hands the ball off to Barkley who’s skilled in gaining speed from a sitting position. Pressure breaks through on the right side of the line, Barkley quickly plants his left foot and begins his journey towards the right boundary; he shakes a tackle – thunderous thighs cracking through shoulder pads like a war-horse running through battle. He tight ropes the sideline and takes off up-field. That was the last we heard of Barkley…legend has it he’s still running.
The interesting part of these scenarios is that they’re different, not the same slant patterns run over and over like Ben McAdoo become famous for. Shurmur runs the ball on the first two-downs to ensure that the defense is on their toes, wary of the dangers of allowing Barkley with too much space. They’re forced to play close to the line of scrimmage, where Engram can embarrass tight ends and Beckham can toy with corners in man-coverage.
We will see the real Eli, where his accuracy shines through with a safety net in Nate Solder at left tackle and weapons on every corner of the field. A quarterback is often only as good as the pieces around him, and there’s no excuse for Eli anymore, just an opportunity to prove to his doubters he’s still capable of succeeding at the professional level.
Let’s run one more:
The Giants are on the opponent’s 17 yard-line, there’s 10 seconds on the clock and it’s third-down. The crowd are on their feet and screaming at the top of their lungs. Eli looks towards the sideline where Shurmur is staring him down as if they’re telepathically communicating (yes, there’s a mic in Eli’s helmet). The ball snaps, Eli drops back in the pocket…Barkley jumps in-front to stop a blitzing linebacker in his tracks. The Giants’ veteran quarterback knows that pressure is coming but continues to focus on his receiver’s routes. He looks up to see Beckham running a fake button hook with room in the back of the endzone, he pump fakes to draw the safety away and lofts a high fade up to the right side. Cody Latimer backs up into the endzone, preparing to make the game-winning catch. He jumps up over his defender and secures the ball, just barely getting his feet in bounds.
Now, you’re probably thinking… “I completely forgot about him!” Like I said, the Giants have weapons at every corner. The opposing defense has two linebackers close to the line to restrain Barkley, and Beckham is double covered, Engram is still breaking into his route, but Latimer faces man coverage. He knows this is his time to shine despite the better options that surround him.
Now, that’s creativity – putting arguably your worst offensive option in the position to make the play. Allowing the defense to think you’re going to go one way but you’re actually going another. This is what we have to look forward too… Welcome to a ‘NEW’ York Giants era.