The Football Outsiders guys don't post that much in the offseason -- they're all working on the next edition of the book -- but what they do put up tends to be pretty interesting.
Case in point: this review of Tampa Bay running back Ernest Graham in the playoffs last year against the New York Giants. You may not care as much about the play-by-play aspects of it, but about halfway down we start getting into some interesting lessons for the Eagles:
First, why did Gruden abandon the run when it was working? After that first successful drive, Graham only carried the ball 11 more times, and the Giants didn’t have more than a seven-point lead until Lawrence Tynes kicked a 25-yard field goal with five minutes gone in the third quarter. Joey Galloway’s shoulder injury left Garcia without his primary weapon at full strength, and after possessing the ball for almost ten minutes in the first quarter, the Bucs never again had it for more than 6:40 in a quarter, and could barely manage five minutes in the second and fourth quarters. The Giants’ 2007 defensive line will go down as one of the best in recent history, but Graham and his teammates were absolutely making inroads against it.
In the drive at the end of the second quarter after the Giants tied the score, a two-yard run by Graham was followed by eight straight Garcia passes and an eventual punt. Tampa Bay’s next drive saw Graham take the ball on the ground five times for 23 yards. That drive ended when Garcia was intercepted by Corey Webster at the goal line on a pass to Galloway. After that, it was too late.
How familiar does that sound?
Now, none of this is to suggest the Giants don't have a good rush defense. By yards per game, they were 8th best in the league last year. By average rush, 4th.
But, as always, the FO stats are a little more revealing. They rank the Giants 3rd in overal ALY (definitions are available at that link), 6th in stuffs, but only 17th against power runs and 23rd in percentage of rushes that went more than 10 yards.
Now there are a lot of possible explanations for these stats. Maybe teams piled up big runs in the second half when the Giants were playing soft and sitting on leads. Possible, I guess. More likely, however, is that the Giants are home run hitting defense. It's all or nothing every play. They sell out with all their crazy blitzes, and when they guess right -- 6th in stuffs -- the play is over immediately. But when they guess wrong -- 23rd in 10+ -- they're going to get gashed.
They're also not great in power situations, which may not be that surprising given the relative undersizedness (ha) of their linemen.
All of which suggests there could be two really good ways to attack the Giants this year, both of which involve running the football an awful lot.
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I feel like I'm only scratching the surface here on this one, but it's all the time I have. It's been kind of a crazy week. I hope to come back a little stronger on Monday.