Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. It’s the common sermon preached by offensive coordinators every offseason. They find the secret to running a successful offense every year. They’re going to run a faster pace, use some more no huddle and cut down on turnovers.
Most of the time, it just ends up being coach speak. But other times, there's a difference made.
For the 2014 New York Giants, that improvement could have just come from simple regression. The Giants offense struggled so much last season, ranking 31st in numberFire’s Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), but given their offensive talent, you'd expect them to bounce back naturally. The Giants, though, are likely to become one of those harder, better, faster, stronger offenses with a new offensive coordinator in former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo. After seven years of an offense created by Kevin Gilbride, McAdoo could be just what the Giants need.
McAdoo is expected to bring a West Coast style offense to New York, but he’s been quick to say he’ll be implementing a combination of multiple offensive styles to best utilize the players on the roster. That could be another instance of coach speak, but it’s preferable to “this is my system and this is how I’m doing things.”
Either way, any type of up-tempo style would be a change from the type of system the Giants have implemented over the past few seasons. They also don’t have to become the Philadelphia Eagles or Denver Broncos in terms of pace to speed up, as the Giants ran the fourth-fewest plays on offense during the 2013 season.
McAdoo oversaw four starting quarterbacks last season in Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace. The Packers only went 8-7-1, but a season can go disastrously wrong when a combination of Flynn, Tolzien and Wallace are asked to throw 280 passes. What this does show is an ability to prepare and adapt with very different types of players.
It’s a smaller scale, but not completely dissimilar to what Mike McCoy did as an offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos. McCoy ran what amounted to three completely different offenses for the widest range of quarterbacks one could imagine in Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton and Peyton Manning. When McCoy took over as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers last season, he was able to identify the strengths of quarterback Philip Rivers and build an offense around those strengths. As a result, Rivers was able to focus more on pre-snap reads and getting the ball out quicker, which resulted in a league high 69.5 completion percentage and a 3.3 percent decrease in his sack rate from the previous season (from 8.5 to 5.2 percent). It also led to a 145.87-point swing in Passing NEP.
Eli Manning could see a similar turnaround as the biggest beneficiary of McAdoo’s new offense, though likely not to that scale. Manning’s struggles in 2013 are well documented, mostly surrounding his 27 interceptions. While he’s had two other seasons with 20 or more interceptions, last season was the first outside of his short rookie year in which his interception rate was higher than his touchdown rate. An emphasis of getting the ball out quicker - a staple of West Coast passing - will certainly help cut down on some interceptions. And, maybe more importantly, it will help cut down on the number of sacks taken. Last season, Manning was sacked on a career high 6.6 percent of his drop backs.
In terms of actual plays, the biggest difference that could help limit interceptions and sacks might be an increase in the screen game. Without Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield, the Giants lacked a reliable pass-catcher, and a consistent use of wide receiver screens was a foreign concept in Gilbride’s playbook. Any influence screen game should also help the production of Rashad Jennings and Victor Cruz.
The Giants also have enough talent at receiver in Rueben Randle and first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. Randle’s place in the offense could be the biggest question mark with a reliance on well-timed patterns. He wasn't on the same page with his quarterback too often last year, as Randle would cut one way with Manning expecting him to run another.
The split in the running game will need to be something monitored throughout training camp. With David Wilson medically cleared for football activities, the Giants now have three backs who could see a decent workload (sorry Peyton Hillis).
Wilson and Jennings seem to be better fits for a quick, one-cut rushing style on a majority of downs. Neither has been a featured back for a full season, with Jennings’ 164 rushes last season coming as the most for either in a season. Wilson has yet to have a positive impact on the running game, having negative Rushing NEP the past two seasons. Rookie Andre Williams is a bigger back who could be stealing all the touchdowns on the goal line, something the Giants haven’t had since Brandon Jacobs (the first time), but might not contribute much more than that this season.
The current tight ends on the Giants roster have a combined two seasons with a Reception NEP above 20 (a bottom-tiered score), one from Kellen Davis and one from Daniel Fells. But neither of those seasons exceed a Reception NEP of 30. However, Adrien Robinson sits atop the depth chart with three games played, and no receptions in the first two years of his career. Before becoming the quarterbacks coach, McAdoo was Green Bay’s tight ends coach from 2006 to 2011. He helped the development of Jermichael Finley during that time, would could be a benefit for a young player such as Robinson.
Change for the sake of change isn’t always a great thing, but there weren’t many things in football last season that needed more change than the Giants offense. With Ben McAdoo running a more efficient system, the improvement for almost all offensive players could be noticeable immediately. For a team that was surprisingly good on defense - sixth in Adjusted Defensive NEP - a step forward under McAdoo on offense could bring the team out of the mediocrity that was the NFC East in 2013.