Ben McAdoo must have looked at all of the new toys he has on offense and considered upgrading his diner menu-sized playbook to a full-fledged encyclopedia on the Giants’ sidelines for 2017 — or at least adding that 24-hour breakfast and dessert page to the back.
In Sunday’s third practice of camp, McAdoo showed a tantalizing amount of looks with his first-team offense to demonstrate how his plethora of new personnel may enable him to operate when the real games begin.
Hypothetically, for example, on one snap McAdoo could call the numbers of running back Shane Vereen, wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr., and tight ends Evan Engram and Will Tye. But the next he might switch to runner Paul Perkins, Marshall, Beckham and Sterling Shepard, and tight end Rhett Ellison.
Or Engram might stay in and flank out wide. Or McAdoo could take a receiver or tight end off the field in favor of adding one of his two competing fullbacks, Jacob Huesman or Shane Smith. And on and on.
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None of this is revealing any Giants formation secrets. The point is to highlight just how many more variables McAdoo is working with in year two as head coach, and how that might translate to an encouraging level of unpredictability that Eli Manning’s 2016 unit severely lacked.
“If you have the players you feel like that can execute what you need to get done, you use it,” McAdoo said Saturday of his full playbook. “If not, you put it on the shelf and you pick and choose what you use each and every year. We can play doubleheaders for three years with that playbook if we need to. It’s all there if we need it. But we have to let the players determine what we use and what we need.”
With more options, however, comes more pressure for McAdoo, too.
His offense sputtered to a 26th league ranking in points per game last season while rarely deviating from a three wide-receiver set and failing to run the ball. Victor Cruz unforgettably revealed after a Week 5 loss in Green Bay that the Giants offense was struggling to figure out the Cover-2 — one of the basest defenses in the league, with two high safeties.
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McAdoo rarely made excuses, but it was no secret that he would have liked a fullback to open more options in the run game, and that he didn’t have the elite skill at tight end or the size at receiver to combat certain opponent looks. Manning’s protection on the line, of course, was a major issue, as well.
McAdoo, therefore, bristled any time someone broached the subject of his calling plays on offense while also coaching the team. As offensive coordinator, after all, he had improved the Giants’ offense from 28th in points in 2013 under Kevin Gilbride to 13th in 2014 and then sixth overall in 2016 before last season’s regression.
Critics may have seen it as McAdoo spreading himself too thin as a rookie boss. The head coach was simply calling the offense he felt his personnel — in the context of his team’s makeup, with a dominant defense — was required and able to execute.
In 2017, however, McAdoo’s offense is going to be expected to produce both inside the building and out, no matter how left tackle Ereck Flowers performs after his latest vote of confidence from GM Jerry Reese.
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Reese drafted Engram (6-3) with the 23rd overall pick in April’s draft and signed Marshall (6-4) and Ellison (6-5) in free agency. Co-owner John Mara said Friday, “I’d like to see some of our young guys get us excited about what they can do,” a nod to players like Perkins, Shepard and Engram stepping up.
The players will have expectations, too, and there is only one football, and McAdoo will have to get it into the hands of both Beckham and Marshall while also establishing a running game to keep defenses honest.
Then there is the issue of assembling the roster in the first place. McAdoo will have some difficult decisions to make to retain the personnel groupings he values most.
Adding a fullback, for example, probably eliminates a tight end. Does that push a player like Tye out with the presences of Engram, Ellison and 2016 draft pick Jerell Adams? Or is the Giants’ depth at receiver, with Roger Lewis Jr. making a strong deep catch on Sunday and King continuing to impress, going to impact what happens at running back for Shaun Draughn, who opened camp on the physically unable to perform list?
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McAdoo revealed on Saturday that “every day” his coaches “go in and they rank the players each and every day at their position.” And of course, these are good problems to have: more weapons, more options, more plays, more ways to hurt a defense.
Still, while McAdoo coaches the entire team, the offense is his baby, and it won’t be considered good enough with this personnel if the Giants’ offense again is their Achilles heel.
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- new york giants
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