Ultimate22 Version 2.0

 

Last year we rolled out our Ultimate22 platform, a way of critically looking at Giants’ game film and quantifying it through an individual player grading system. While there was certainly plenty of value in using the data to support our views, the system was not without its fair share of flaws.  

We struggled to present the data in a timely fashion for several reasons, mainly because the All-22 film would not be released until some point on the Tuesday following that week’s game,. In an ideal world, we would have been able to post all of our grades, notes and comments by Tuesday night. However, our team of 10-12 graders, while extremely dedicated, all understandably had other obligations such as college, work (this blog is not our day job) and family. Grading a single position group (anywhere from 2-6 players) can take up to four or five hours. By the time we were able to present our data (sometimes Wed, but often on Thursday or Friday) most readers were more interested in looking ahead to next week’s game.

Our 2013-14 “Ultimate22 Version 2.0” will reference Pro Football Focus’ premium stats. While they do offer plenty of quality data and analysis free of charge, you are required to have an account with PFF in order to access all of their premium content (a bargain at $26.99 for the season). While we will not be able to rake all of their data (they assess every single offensive/defensive snap for all 32 teams, much like last  years's U22) we do have a working relationship with the guys at PFF where we are permitted to use and cite their data in our posts.

The PFF site offers a detailed explanation of what exactly they look for when evaluating on a play-to-play basis. While much of the concepts are similar to those used in the 2012-13 version of Ultimate22, several fundamental differences allow PFF’s data to differentiate itself (as taken from PFF’s grading page):

The understanding that zero is the average grade-Grades are given for plays which are reasonably considered to be better or worse than the average or expected play. So for example, if the linebacker were to then force a fumble on that tackle, that would constitute a positive play and a positive grade. If the tight end were to in fact drop the wide-open pass, that would constitute a negative play and a negative grade.

Normalization/Player Participation-Once we’ve got the raw grades we could leave it there, but this would lead to a number of problems. For example, because an offensive lineman can only be negatively graded in pass protection, the perfect score in the raw data is 0. However, what if a lineman plays half the number of passing plays of another guy and they both score 0? What allows you to understand the second has done the better job? This is where Player Participation comes in: To fully understand how a player has performed, we need to know how many plays he’s participated in and what role he performed…. We therefore can also provide breakdowns of where each player played on each play and the role he performed (blitzing, blocking, coverage etc.).

Grading strictly based on RESULTS- We aren’t looking for (or grading) style or technique, merely the result of the play. We are looking for the result of that poor technique, not the poor technique itself. If poor technique results in a positive play, that is graded at the same level as good technique yielding a positive play. Did the lineman make the block he attempted, by whatever means?

So as you will quickly come to learn, the PFF data is much of the same of what you saw last year (the grading scale goes from +2 to -2, but in intervals of .5 rather than 1) only a bit more refined and accurate. Not only will this go a long way in providing you with the best data out there (that of PFF), but it will allow us to dedicate our time to posting content to the site, rather than doing the "backroom work" of analyzing film ,providing numerical data, sorting and ultimately presenting the data.

Check back for some more on the new format and an early look at some data. We look forward to hearing your comments here or on Twitter. 

 

Super Bowl 47 Prop Preview

Even if you don't fancy yourself a "betting man (or woman)" odds are you may have peeked at some Super Bowl prop bets in the last few days. The options range from choices like, "who will score the game's last TD" to "will Lebron James score more points on Sunday than the 49ers." Add these to your traditional wagering options (point spread, over/under) and the possibilities for betting are endless. It's a great way to take a break from the constant cycle of the daily Ray Lewis coverage followed by the "Ray Lewis gets too much coverage" coverage. 

Note: All spreads and totals are taken from sportsbetting.ag

Favorite Prop Bets

Who will have more rushing yards– Bernard Pierce -115 (-5.5 yards) vs LaMichael James (-115)

Bernard Pierce (TOP PICK)

This one is simple: James is the 3rd rushing option for the 49ers, while Pierce serves as the 2nd for the Ravens. James has gotten 8 carries in this year's playoffs for just 55 yards while Pierce has totaled 27 for 169 yards. Pierce locks this one up fairly easily as his role in the Baltimore backfield has become fairly large. Just to be clear, as long as Pierce rushes for 6 more yards than James, you're a winner. This is my top play for SB47.

 

Total Tackles (solo+assist):

Ray Lewis OVER 11.5  (TOP PICK)

Whether or not you still think he is a top-flight linebacker, there is no denying that Lewis still picks up tackles in bunches. Yes he makes his fair share of solo stops but no one is better at finding a gang tackle or a ball carrier who is on his way down. It also helps that the official scorer tends to be very generous in awarding tackles (the league's least respected stat in my opinion), especially when it comes to Lewis. Can't imagine him not exceeding this total in his 249th and final career game.

 

First Kickoff is a Touchback

Yes (-170) (TOP PICK)

Yes you are nearly forced to lay 2-to-1 odds, but don't let that deter you. Both Akers and Tucker have very strong legs. Tucker had plenty of touchbacks this season including going 8-for-16 in this year's playoffs (not bad considering the games were played in Baltimore, Denver and New England) and was 3-4 in only indoor game this year (@ Houston) . And while Akers has been a disaster this season in terms of hitting field goals, he too went 5-for-5 on touchbacks in his most recent domed game—the NFC title game win over Atlanta.  

 

Player to score game's first touchdown:

Anquan Boldin (+1000)

Ed Dickson (+4475)

Randy Moss (+1950)

Delanie Walker (+2500)

Outside of Boldin, these are probably not the guys that you'd expect to score the game's first TD. With longer odds than some of the more notable options (Kaepernick, Rice, V. Davis) these choices offer a good return on whatever you put in. Both Moss and Walker are solid red zone options for SF and the same goes for Boldin and to an extent, Dickson. As the Ravens 2nd TE, you would be pinning your wager on the hope that Flacco finds a wide open Dickson off of a goal line PA pass. The long odds make it worth a look.

Week 4 Jump to Conclusions Mat

Sorry for the delay in grades this week. Game Rewind hadn't released the All-22 until Wednesday AM.

Offensive Line

Week 4 grade sheet

…welp. That certainly set the group back. Collectively. The effort didn't seem to be there. Or at least let's hope that was the case. Give it to Philly though, they played fast and aggressive and looked a step faster then the Giants front five all night. On a lot of plays (as you will see in the play-by-play notes) a player was docked in grading for deciding it was time to stop the block. This happened several times as Eagles d-linemen crawled towards Eli's legs. Just what the Giants want. The run game once again was stagnant. This was a product of several factors, a major one being some poor blocking up front. Remember, all it takes is one bad block to ruin four other good ones and that seemed to happen a lot on Sunday night. It will certainly raise an eyebrow if the group doesn't respond this week against Cleveland. No matter what the Niners await in two weeks.

…Kevin Boothe stood out for the group as the low scorer, coming in with a -12 on the game. Beat too many times in both the run and pass. Lost the LOS, let LBs slip at the 2nd level, missing rushers in pass pro, you name it. A game to forget in the young career of Boothe. This is not an attempt to hang him out to dry. He has shown he has what it takes to be a starting G in the NFL. For whatever reason, he didn't bring that to Philadelphia. He was outclassed in what was a disappointing effort for him against a solid defensive front, but surely no better than several the Giants will see down the road. 

…Beatty got bull rushed by Trent Cole a few times in this one. He held his ground for the most part but it was troubling to see the smaller Cole go THROUGH him several times. Cole is one of the best at playing wtih leverage and using his hands to deliver a blow. 

…yes there is no way to know what type of pain David Baas' right hand was in during Sunday's game. But I do know that it was good enough to get most of his snaps there. He had two bad ones at two VERY bad points in the game. He had to receive -2 on those plays.  Lucky for him Eli dealt with both of them but let's hope that is something that stays in Phialdelphia (it can be a real problem….ask our Dallas friends about Andre Gurode).  Other then that Baas played a solid game and was up to the task that the Eagles presented.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

-Steve Gesuele 

Week 4 grades

…after a stagnant first half, the Giants' short passing game came alive in the second half. Victor Cruz is virtually unstoppable when he is allowed to "do his thing" getting free in the middle of the field. This was highlighted on his 14-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Cruz was lined up in the slot to the right of Eli Manning in the red zone. The Eagles knew exactly what was coming so they shaded a linebacker to Cruz’s side to undercut the route and cause and incompletion or an interception. However, a perfectly time pass from Eli zipped right pass the linebacker and the corner and Cruz split the defenders for a quick six. These types of plays may not be as exciting as Cruz’s 80-yard catch and runs but they are what he is consistently best at and what makes him one of the best at the position.

…Domenik Hixon was the fourth 100-yard receiver for the Giants through four games. When healthy Hixon has shown signs of being an impact player and someone who is a gamer. Hixon did a great job coming back to Eli when he was flushed out of the pocket and faced pressure.  

…Ramses Barden had an up and down game that was completely over shadowed by a terrible play on the Giants final drive. It was a frustrating play to say the least but one that Barden cannot shoulder all of the blame for. If there is something to pin on him it is the drop on on the 25 yard line just three plays earlier that would have had the Giants a 1st and 10 on the 25 with just short of 60 seconds to play. Different game.

…The Black Unicorn had a relatively quite game only hauling in one pass for two yards but he made a great play on a catch and run that was ultimately called back for holding. Tough break. Eli was picking apart the outside with in the short to intermediate passing game so Bennett didn’t really get many looks in the passing game in the middle of the field. Once again, Bennett was up and down in protection. He looks great on some run blocking plays so we know he has it in him. But also tends to release or give up on his block early in the play far too often. Pascoe did a fine job blocking and also caught a clutch touchdown pass. 

 

Defensive End

-George Richford

Week 4 grades

…George pointed out the heavy workload the Giants gave JPP in this one. He sat out just 9 of 68 snaps. This is not to say that he can't handle the workload. But as we know this unit has been at their best when they have had depth. Last season that depth came in the way Dave Tollefson as a utility pass rusher, lining up inside, outside and standing up. Kiwanuka also spelled one of the three DEs on a regular basis. There is no Tollefson this year. Yes there is an outside chance that Ojomo provides a few quality snaps this year. Not something to rely on though. This is something that needs to be addressed. Ralph Vacchiano hits the nail on the head with this thought…

"There was a time a few years ago, before he hurt his neck, when Mathias Kiwanuka – even after his switch to an unfamiliar position – was starting to look like one of the Giants’ best defensive players. He’s not that anymore, but he’s still effective as a linebacker and I think has the quickness and ability to be an effective pass rusher if the Giants ever turned him loose. So why are the Giants barely using him? ….This is a passing league now, which forces the Giants into many sets with two linebackers on the field (some with one) and it puts a premium on their ability to cover. That hurts Kiwanuka’s value, since at his core he’s still a converted defensive end. I just with the Giants would find better and more creative ways to use him. Whatever happened to NASCAR, for example? With the pass rush struggling, why not line him up a little more at defensive end and see what offensive line can handle four of them? He’s a good player who can make plays, but he’s not getting much of a chance anymore."

…perhaps with the potential return of Keith Rivers and a flash of strong play from Herzlich, the Giants will be inclined to return Kiwanuka back to his natural position on a more regular basis.

…if it looked like Justin Tuck had a strong first half it was because he did, grading out at a 2. It also seemed that along with others on the DL and the defense, Tuck was gassed as the second half wore on. He recorded a -2 in the second half. People are again starting to wonder if there is something wrong with Tuck physically. Vacchiano addressed this in his game review also.

"You know what the Giants defense looked like in the second half? Like they were worn down. In the first half they did a great job of stretching from sideline to sideline, so whenever McCoy or Michael Vick tried to move outside there was someone there. Then in the second half suddenly the Eagles were consistently beating them to the edge."

 

Defensive Tackle

Week 4 grades

Snee Blowd Up

Week 1 Jump to Conclusions Mat- Offensive Line Edition

Each week we'll be offering some insights and conclusions based on what we saw in the All-22 tape. We'll share some general observations, analysis of key plays (both good and bad) and a look ahead to what the opposing unit has in the week ahead. With that, let's get out our Jump to Conclusions Mat.

…The overall grades for the game may be deceiving as four out of the five offensive lineman had an average grade just above 0 with the exception of Locklear.  This isn’t to say they played a solid game by any means. They have admitted this much. They were serviceable in pass pro and at times the pass pro was above average.

Locklear graded out fairly favorably in pass pro (especially considering he was locked up with D. Ware most of the night) and this showed on the tape. With that being said, Locklear received 11 negative grades in the game, the most of the night for any OL. He was followed by Boothe with 10. Remember, in the finely tuned machine that is an NFL OL all it takes is one part to stop working for the whole machine to fail.

…It didn’t take the All-22 film to find this out, but reviewing the tape confirmed every Giants fan’s suspicions—the run game was putrid. There were several occasions where Bradshaw didn’t hit the front side hole and committed to cutting it back far too soon. More often than not though, Bradshaw was met with a line of scrimmage that had been reestablished in the Giants’ backfield. Continuing from last year the line struggled to establish any type real push and more often than not are playing on their heels. Another thing that the line struggled with against Dallas is locking up linebackers at the second level. Too often were Sean Lee and the rest of Dallas’ LBs allowed to roam free side-to-side disrupting plays without any real repercussions.

…A TALE OF TWO HALVES- The run blocking of the Giants OL was weak overall, with a -2 net grade from the 5 starters.  They were a combined net of -6 in the first half and +4 in the second half, some of which can be explained by how the Giants ran for ~ 1 yard per carry in H1 and 8 yards per carry in H2.  The Giants let passing plays set up the run in the second half.  This offers a more consistent explanation for what took place vs Dallas.  In H1 when the run game was asked to carry a respectable (43%) part of the offense, it failed.  In H2, the run game worked in support of the pass and could manage the reduced attention (only 26% of plays). It wasn't balanced, but it allowed the OL to perform better. This is a continuation of the pattern of 2011, where the OL was able to perform adequately because the pass protection was generally good and the run blocking had a reduced role. The grades from the linemen vs Dallas bear this out early here in 2012.  One game does not make a trend, so we will watch how this develops. 

…1st and goal from the 1 needs to result in six points not three. Has to be. Now that we’ve stated the obvious let’s start dishing out some blame. While it may be warranted to point the finger at the play selection there (no play action on 1st or 2nd down and both runs went outside) or the personnel (rookie TE Adrian Robinson was in on 1st and 2nd down… We understand that you want to keep the D thinking play action, but if your plan is to run the ball on both downs why not bring in Beatty as the extra blocker instead of Robinson?) the bottom line is the guys up front need to get it done in this situation. Gilbride showed faith in the group by calling for two runs.  The unit failed to reward him for it and did not get the job done.

On 1st down Bradshaw runs right and has to flatten out and take it to the sideline as both Snee and Baas were driven back a yard or two into the backfield. While Bennett and Pascoe were both blown up on the front side of the play anyway, the lack of push forces Bradshaw to reroute on the play. Notice how Bradshaw is forced to run laterally way back at the five yardline. Not good.
 

On 2nd down the Giants come out in a mirror of the exact formation from 1st down only they motion Pascoe to the right prior to the snap. On the snap Locklear cut blocks his man (seemingly by design) and Boothe pulls left to lead Bradshaw around the end. The play turns into a disaster when Boothe trips over Locklear in the backfield and the collateral damage from this completely throws off the timing of the run. Boothe NEEDS to be a better athlete here. He knows that Locklear is cutting so it is on him to navigate through the potential damage of such a block. To make matters worse Snee, who was responsible for getting up to the backside LB Lee, completely misses and allows Lee to make the play to bring up 3rd and goal. No matter who is to blame for not scoring the TD, the OL needs to completely shoulder the blame and look at the field goal as a failure on their part as a whole. 


  

We know what happens on 3rd down. Fact of the matter is if the Giants can punch it in on 1st or 2nd down, then we do not have to deal with the possible missed PI call on that play. No time for excuses.  

…The individual OL plays of the game (and the only +2 grades given out) came on back-to-back snaps in the third quarter on the Giants’ TD drive to bring the score to 14-10. The first came in the way of a David Baas pancake block of Sean Lissemore on Eli’s long completion to Domenik Hixon on the crucial 39-yard completion on 3rd and 4. Baas absolutely flattened Lissemore  (with the help of Snee) and left no doubt about who won that battle. Need that kind of mean streak out of Baas in the run game.

On the ensuing play, Ahmad Bradshaw’s  10-yard TD run, Kevin Boothe and Baas executed a double team block to perfection on Marcus Spears. Boothe slips off of the block to engage Sean Lee at the second level and drives him back just enough to allow Bradshaw to see and hit the hole on the way to the TD. If you have the game DVR’ed, check this play out for a perfect example of exactly what the Giants DIDN’T do consistently in the run game—slow down LBs at the second level. Need to see more of this if they want to succeed in the run game. 

 


…Last (unrelated) thought on this one—Jayron Hosley has to make a block on Tyron Smith for Boley at the end of his interception return. Any type of block there works and gets Boley the TD. Yes he is a rookie, yes he is not an offensive player let alone a lineman, yes excuses stink and no matter what we should have punched the ball in with three tries from the one. Bottom line though is if Boley takes the INT in for seven we probably would have had a different game on our hands.

…The Giants offensive line faces a tall task next week, facing a Tampa Bay defensive unit that only allowed 10 yards rushing to a Panthers team that finished 7th in rushing in 2011. They mauled the Panthers’ front five and were able to blow up plays in the backfield with ease. It started all with the two interior tackles- Gerald McCoy (a recent high draft pick and a name we all know) and a lesser known name Roy Miller (Miller was a force against CAR). The DL showed that they plan to be aggressive up front and are looking to make big TFLs. The LBs are also aggressive in firing through the gaps in run defense.

This leaves the door open for big plays on the offensive side. To do so, the Giants need to take advantage with slower developing plays such as counters, draws and misdirections. They can also use this to their advantage in the pass game by mixing in a HEAVY dose of play action (Play action was used only 5 times vs Dallas). It will be crucial for the OL to really sell the run on these plays by firing off the ball and offering the TB LBs a “run read.”

Should be a great test for the Giants’ OL and an opportunity to bounce back from last week’s disappointing performance.

Time for Giants Defense to Man Up

Enough is enough. It’s an issue that’s been highlighted on this Giants blog again. And again. And again. And again. And again. 

The Giants Tampa 2 defense seems to get a bit more porous with each passing week. For whatever reason, this team’s personnel is not built for zone coverage. Whether it be through constantly biting on play action fakes or just sheer inability to adjust and react, the Giants’ back seven continues to look lost in zone. Game after game we see linebackers at the second level allowing receivers to cross right in front of their face for easy completions in the ten yard range.

Even worse are the 15-20 yard dig routes that have become a favorite for opposing offensive coordinators, an enticing play against the soft zone and weak tackling of the back seven. It has become routine to see our T2 coverage allow multiple completions of this route per game. Why? Our linebackers have proven time and time again that they have the inability to read and react quickly enough. Too often they are caught recovering after biting on a play fake or standing flat-footed as a receiver crosses through their zone. Our safeties also seem to have the inability to adjust in zone coverage as it has become commonplace to see them continuing their drops even as passes are completed right in front of them.

It’s one thing when a quarterback like Rodgers shreds your zone (why the Giants would spend a good portion of a game against Aaron Rodgers is a different question).

Drew Brees, same thing.

Tony Romo, that’s fine.

REX GROSSMAN? Unacceptable.

Time and time again Sunday the Giants defense, a group that once made a living off of their aggression, sat back and let Grossman make easy completions all afternoon long.  Here are a few examples of the Giants zone that allowed the Redskins passing attack to come up with some easy completions throughout the game.

14:15 1st Quarter 1st and 10:  R.Grossman pass short middle to J.Gaffney to WAS 45 for 15 yards (C.Blackburn, K.Phillips).

     -The Redskins opened their second drive of the game with a simple play action fake to Helu that got easy bites out of the Giants LBs. Withboth passing options running short and intermediate routes, the Giants safeties continued to drop deeper and allowed Grossmanto easily find Gaffney, who had cut across a 15-yard gap in the Giants zone. Gaffney was brought down by Phillips, whose break on the ball came too late thanks to how deep KP has allowed himself to get.

11:26 1st Quarter 3rd and 12:  R.Grossman pass deep right to D.Stallworth to NYG 20 for 19 yards (K.Phillips).

    -Needing 12 yards the Redskins were in an obvious passing situation here and Grossman had lined up in the shotgun with Helu to his right. Right off the snap the Giants had created a huge window in their zone, with their LBs sitting at four yards and the safeties at nearly 15 yards (and dropped back another 10 at the snap!). At the snap Webster, who was responsible for the deep quarter, had run off with Gaffney on a fly route. Facing only a four man rush Grossman was able to sit back andfind Stallworth. Stallworth’s dig route took him in front of the face of Amukamura and Phillips, who continued to drop deeper despite no deep routes on that side of the field. Easy completion. Huge 3rd and long conversion. Drive continues. 

2:09 3rd Quarter 3rd and 17: R.Grossman pass short left to D.Stallworth pushed ob at NYG 41 for 16 yards (M.Boley).

     -Sure the Giants probably should have been up 7-3 here after Nicks’ drop on an easy TD catch. But they weren’t. And in a season where Eli and the offense have carried this sorry unit, the defense had a chance to make an easy stop and give the offense the ball back only trailing by one score. The Giants rushed three (a puzzling yet predictable decision) as Grossman hit Donte Stallworth just three yards downfield. With the Giants defense in a prevent of sorts, Stallworth was able to take advantage of poor tackling from Rolle and Boley.  While there is no excuse for missed tackles, the Giants have shown no interest in gang tackling and getting “11 hats to the football” this season.  The play gained 16 yards and put the Redskins in a 4th and1 situation that they would go on to convert.  The drive also ended in seven points. The defense MUST find a way to close the door there.  The best way to do that is to man-up andsend heat at a quarterback like Grossman!

3:29 3rd Quarter 2nd and 6: R.Grossman pass short right to J.Gaffney to NYG 34 for 17 yards (A.Rolle).

     -Another play action called and another example of the Giants LBs completely getting sucked in andtaking themselves out of any opportunity to defend the pass. Kenny Phillips, who was positioned near the line of scrimmage (somewhere we rarely see him), committed to neither the run nor the pass but rather stood near the line of scrimmage. A coach of mine used to tell me that if you’re going to make a mistake (as KP did there) you better make it at 110 mph. Kind of how I feel about Phillips’ season on the whole. Grossman found Gaffney who easily broke off a dig route 15 yards down the field as Ross and Rolle continued to drop (another head scratcher seeing that the Skins only sent out two wide recivers on the play) and Grossman found his man for the easy completion when the Giants were desperate for a stop.  

2:13 3rd Quarter 2nd and 7: R.Grossman pass deep right to J.Gaffney to NYG 14 for 17 yards (A.Ross).

     -Another great example of the dig route that has killed the Giants all season. Grossman used play action to draw the attention of Williams, who left Boleyas the only defender at the second level. Gaffney, who to his credit is an excellent route runner, was able to easily cut across the 15-20 yard level of the Giants zone and make the easy catch. Grossman once again had a huge window to throw thanks to excessively deep drops from Phillips and Ross when it was clear that Gaffney was the only threat to them. Stallworth had run a deep flag and was covered by Webster while Santana Moss was in the left flat. Just a perfect example of the Giants’ inability to be quick in their zone coverage (quick to drop, quick to react, quick to break and make a play on the ball) and the reason why…

THE GIANTS MUST FEATURE A HEAVY DOSE OF MAN DEFENSE FROM HERE ON OUT!

The Jets can be the perfect confidence booster for a Giants defense that will take anything. Fewell needs to come out on Christmas Eve with a game plan that features a heavy dose of pressure (BLITZ!) and man coverage forcing Sanchez into quick and hopefully bad decisions. If he beats you this way, so be it. But the Giants CANNOT sit back as they did against Grossman and let a struggling quarterback beat them. Not with the season on the line. A group that has nothing left to lose should play like just that. Andwhile there is no doubt that changes must be made both on staff and personnel wise in the off-season, any signs of life from this defense may allow the Giants to finish their up and down season with a fight.

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