You don’t get to the level of respect that Sean McVay has reached by overlooking NFL defenses, either the coaches or the players. McVay knows first hand that his own defense this season has holes that teams have been able to exploit, but he doesn’t expect them to break against quality opposing offenses. Even the number one offense in the NFL by DVOA.
The Rams are preparing to face the Giants this Sunday and though New York is winless and has struggled to defend against the pass, McVay told the media on Wednesday that preparing his offense to beat their defense has been “a real pain” so far.
Rams coach Sean McVay on preparing for the Giants: "This is a real pain getting ready for this defense.''— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) September 30, 2020
Stats tell an incomplete picture of how the Giants have played on defense up to this point and that should first and foremost include what teams they’ve faced up to this point. Not that such information will always be helpful to McVay’s argument that New York is a difficult test, relatively speaking, but this is important context:
The Giants gave up 26 points and 349 yards to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
17 points and 304 yards to the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
36 points and 420 yards to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3.
In Week 1, New York’s run defense allowed 113 rushing yards on 19 carries to Benny Snell, Jr, but nine yards on six carries to James Conner. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six of six targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger went 21 of 32 for 229 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, but Pittsburgh did fumble three times.
The Steelers had two long (60+ yards) TD drives and two long field goal drives, punting four times and getting stuffed on those drives.
Mitchell Trubisky went 18 of 28 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Giants. David Montgomery had 16 carries for 82 yards. Allen Robinson was held to three catches on nine targets for 33 yards. Bad. For a good player, regardless of his QB.
The Bears had two long TD drives and one four-yard field goal drive. They had three punts, two interceptions and one missed FG on a 44-yard drive. It was a good defensive day for New York, I think.
Kyle Shanahan has spent 2016 and 2019 being called the NFL’s best offensive mind and even if Jimmy Garoppolo was absent this week, are we now going to say that Garoppolo is what makes the 49ers offense work and not Shanahan? The whole summer was spent talking about the potentially average abilities of Garoppolo and if San Francisco would go and get Tom Brady to slide him to the bench again. So Nick Mullens is not yet a known downgrade to Garoppolo. He went 25 of 36 for 343 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. In some respects, Mullens did more than Roethlisberger and with fewer weapons.
Jerick McKinnon was held to 38 yards on 14 carries, Jeff Wilson to 15 yards on 12. They gave up 31 yards on three carries to Brandon Aiyuk, meaning that the Giants by most accounts played good run defense against an elite run offense coach. They also got burned badly by Snell and Montgomery was fairly successful too. Especially by today’s standards.
It’s early to say, but based on these games and recent history, the Giants would seem to me to clearly not have a terrible defense. By DVOA that is supported with an 18th overall ranking, however they are ranked 30th against the pass and eighth against the run. Facing the Steelers and 49ers, the pass defense wasn’t where they’d have hoped and facing the Bears it was good, admittedly against a quarterback who was just benched.
But partly benched because of how New York did against him.
It’s good to know that the coach respects his opponents and there’s enough evidence on the Giants defense to support McVay’s reasoning here. Especially as it will come to being successful on the ground.