Garrett was oft-ridiculed for some decision-making as the Cowboys coach over the last decade, though he wasn’t necessarily always Dallas’ primary play-caller.
Still, expect the Giants offense to look a lot like the one Garrett led in Dallas over the last 10 years. At least, according to Judge.
The Giants coach spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday since rookies and veterans integrated together earlier in the week for video sessions — via Zoom — in lieu of typical offseason workouts.
Judge specifically addressed what the Giants’ offense would look like under regime, and all indications are that it will be a far cry from Pat Shurmur’s West Coast-based offense of the last two years.
(The most interesting part of each quote is bolded.)
JUDGE: “I think schematically the easiest way to describe it right now to the outside world is: It’s going to be similarly based on what Jason has done in Dallas over the last 10 or so years. There’s going to be some similarities catering to that, but it’s got to cater to our players on our roster.”
What it means: This part of Judge’s quotes are what jumped off on social media, in part because of Garrett’s reputation as a play-caller, at least among fans and media types. Whether that critique is warranted, that at leads provides a clue about what the Giants will look like on offense this year based on what the Cowboys have done, especially since drafting running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in 2016.
The takeaway: The Giants will likely be giving the ball to Saquon Barkley. A lot.
The Cowboys ran the ball, on average, 29.1 times per game since 2016. Only the Ravens (30.7) and Bills (29.8) rank higher, and Dallas actually had a better yards per carry average (4.65) than either of those teams.
Individually, Ezekiel Elliott has the most rushing attempts (1,169) of any running back since 2016, and by a fairly significant margin, with 133 more than the second-place Todd Gurley. That’s despite missing six games in 2017, too.
Barkley, clearly, will be busy.
One caveat: The Giants’ offensive line could be a significant downgrade from a Cowboys unit that was elite for most of Garrett’s tenure. They’ll be likely relying on a rookie at left tackle (Andrew Thomas), and either Nate Solder (11 sacks allowed in 2019) or Cam Fleming (never a full-time starter) at right tackle. Will Hernandez is coming off a rough year at left guard, and it’s unclear who will even start at center.
In terms of the passing game, the Cowboys had a vertical offense, with an eye toward getting the ball down the field, including to their tight ends. Per Pro Football Focus, only four quarterbacks had more passing attempts of 20-plus yards last year than Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw 76 such passes, completing 35 of them.
As for the tight end spot: Even at 36 — and in an offense featuring Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb — tight end Jason Witten was still targeted 83 times last season. Only nine tight ends were targeted more times.
Evan Engram, if he’s healthy, could be in line for a heavy target share this season, even with Darius Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard returning.
Of note: Since 2016, the Giants have punted 334 times on fourth down. Only three teams (Jets, Cardinals, Dolphins) have punted the ball away more times.
JUDGE: “Right now we’re installing the base concepts and the shell of the offense. I think really you’ll see throughout training camp that it takes form with the character of our team as different players emerge. It’s going to take shape throughout the season as well. We’re going to be a team that focuses a lot on game-plans, whatever we have to do game by game. That may be running the ball every play or throwing the ball every play based on the opponent. but we’re going to make sure we’re not too rigid in what we’re doing that we can adapt by game plan.”
What it means: This is fairly straight-forward, but it should be noted that the Giants are attempting to overhaul their offense amid the strangest offseason, possibly, in NFL history. Everything is being “installed” via Zoom right now, and even Judge admitted that real evaluation can’t be done until the team is on the field.
This is an offense that will be primarily led by a second-year quarterback (Jones), third-year running back (Barkley), second-year wide receiver (Slayton) and rookie left tackle (Thomas).
If training camp even starts on time, things might get bumpy early in the season.
JUDGE: “It’s not the true West Coast system. One thing that Jason does that’s really outstanding, is it’s really his system that has been formed over years collectively from where he’s played and coached under. Those are part of the conversations we’ve had when we talked about joining the staff and we’ve talked along the way, is it’s really a collection of what Jason has put together throughout his own career.”
What it means: It should be noted that Garrett hasn’t technically been the primary play-caller in Dallas since general manager/owner Jerry Jones stripped those duties away from him in 2013. Since then, the play-calling duties have fallen to Bill Callahan, Scott Linehan and, most recently, Kellen Moore.
So, don’t expect the offense to look quite like it did back in 2012 when Garrett was fully running the show.
“There’s no question (the offense) has evolved,” Garrett told the Giants website in February. “There’s no question the language over the years has evolved and grown. But that’s part of the system. You don’t want your system to be stagnant. This is the only way we can do it, this is the only way we can call it. You want it to grow, you want it to be flexible. I think that’s one of the basic premises of the system we’ll put in.”
JUDGE: “There’s gonna be some similarities for Daniel, but I would not say there’s carryover in any way, shape or form from his rookie year.”
What it means: This was touched on earlier, but the Giants are choosing to scrap most of what Jones learned, at least schematically, under Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula last year. It’s a risky proposition in a shortened offseason, but understandable considering Garrett will want to fully install his offensive philosophies.
NFL Network’s had an interesting take on this philosophical decision from Judge to eschew what Jones already knows …
That might also explain, at least in part, the Giants’ decision to claim quarterback Cooper Rush off waivers from the Cowboys last week. Rush has been with the Cowboys for the last three years and should understand his offense, in theory, as well as anyone in the building. Or, in the … video chat?
Anyway, it’s going to be a challenging offseason for Jones, and it should help to have Rush around to help.
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