A Giant defensive problem: Dealing with the 49ers unbalanced line

When New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained 18 yards on his first carry, this appeared to be a harbinger.  The Giants defense was going to give up a ton of rushing yards.  Another game in which the defense cannot stop the run.  Although Green-Ellis got off to an auspicious start, thankfully, the Giants defense held him in check.  He gained 52 yards on the ground.  Despite giving a total of 106 yards on the ground, the Patriots running game was not a factor. The Giants defense did a good job and did not give up another long run.  On the other hand, this week, the Giants defense will have a major test.  They will face a formidable 49ers rushing attack which is 6th in the league averaging 137.6 yards per game.  What has made their rushing attack so potent is the use of unbalanced line formations.   What is an unbalanced offensive line?   Well, let us define a balanced line.  A balanced offensive line has a guard, tackle and a tight end to one side of a center. 

 

 

And ESPN’s Bob Davie explains the advantage of using an unbalanced line:  

There are several reasons why an offense will utilize unbalanced formations.
First, the unbalanced line can cause confusion for the defense. Many defenses
align their personnel based on where the tight end is aligned in the set.
Putting a tackle over creates confusion for defenses on initial alignment.
Secondly, it can cause personnel mismatches. By putting a tackle at tight end or
creating a four-man surface, the offense causes mismatches with big offensive
tackles aligned on smaller linebackers. This can be a big advantage in the
running game. Thirdly, the unbalanced line forces defenses to adjust. Obviously,
there are many types of unbalanced formations and every one causes the defense
to deviate from their normal adjustment and plan. This forces the defense to
spend valuable practice time adjusting to formations that the offense may or may
not use.

How does this pertain to the Giants?

First, the Giants have been playing a 4-2-5 base defense.  This means they are playing two linebackers and FIVE defensive backs.(three safeties)  But with a team like the 49ers who use an unbalanced line, this Giants base defense may not work.  The 49ers will have much BIGGER people on the field.  Remember, the NFL is about mismatches.  In this case, the 49ers will have the upper hand.  So, what is Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell going to do?  Is he going to stay with his base 4-2-5 defense?  Or is rookie MLB Greg Jones going to get more playing time?  In other words, are the Giants going to play more 4-3.  
And NFL Films guru Greg Cosell talked about this on the Shutdown Corner podcast. (49:04 mark)  According to Cosell, when Jones has been in a game, he has not played well this year.  So Cosell thinks the Giants may stick with their 4-2-5. This could be problematic for the Giants.  Thus far, the Giants have had difficulty stopping the run. They will playing a team who Cosell characterized as having a diverse and multidimensional run game.  49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh uses a plethora of formations.  He is doing it to offset the flaws in his QB Alex Smith’s game.  For the most part, after watching film, Cosell noticed Harbaugh has designed a lot of one read throws for Smith.   For the Giants defense, they must stop the run.  Win the battle on first and second down.  Force the 49ers into 3rd and longs.  Make Smith beat you.  

In summary, the 49ers will plan on running the ball on this Giants defense. Wear the Giants defense down. If the Giants defense is worn down, their pass rush will not be as effective.  More importantly, the 49ers need to keep the ball away from Eli Manning and the Giants offense.  If the Giants can slow down the 49ers run game, eliminate turnovers, and cut down on penalties, they will win this game.  I do think a Giants defensive touchdown is going to be the difference in this game. 
      

  

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