Game plan with Terez Paylor: Chiefs at Giants
Here’s The Star’s weekly game preview detailing the key players and matchups for the KC Chiefs’ game against the New York Giants, 1-8, at 12 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The game will air on CBS (Ch. 5).
Head coach: Ben McAdoo (12-13) is in his second year on the job. McAdoo, 40, was promoted last year following Tom Coughlin’s resignation. McAdoo, who did not play college football, spent some time at a handful of colleges before he was hired to be the Saints’ quality control coach in 2014. From there, he went on to work with the 49ers (offesnive line coach) and Packers (tight ends and quarterbacks coach) before he was hired to be the Giants’ offensive coordinator in 2014, when the Giants’ offense was one of the most productive in the NFL. But the Giants’ miserable start this season has led many to question his job security. One anonymous player blasted McAdoo to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, saying he has lost the team following a listless 51-17 loss to the Rams on Nov. 5. McAdoo recently held a “brutally honest” team meeting in which the players’ lack of effort was reportedly discussed.
Offense: Mike Sullivan, 50, is in his second year as New York’s offensive coordinator and third year of his second stint on the Giants’ coaching staff. A former defensive back at Army, Sullivan coached at multiple colleges in the 1990s before joining Jacksonville as a quality control coach in 2002. Sullivan left in 2004 to become the Giants’ receivers coach, a position in which he remained until 2010, when he became the quarterbacks coach. He also served as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2013 before rejoining the Giants. McAdoo relinished playcalling duties to Sullivan last month. New York currently ranks 18th in passing offense (217.8 yards per game) and 25th in rushing offense (89.8). New York is one of the most pass-heavy teams in football, as the Giants are throwing at a 64.3 percent clip. They don’t use play action much (16 percent, 26th in the league) or particularly well (7.2 yards per play, 20th in the league), according to Football Outsiders.
Defense: Steve Spagnuolo, 57, is in the third season of his second tenure as New York’s defensive coordinator. He previously held the position from 2007 to 2008, with the latter being the Giants’ Super Bowl campaign. Spagnuolo played receiver at Springfield College before jumping into the defensive side of coaching in the early 80s. He spent many years as an assistant across many schools until he was hired by Chiefs coach Andy Reid to be a defensive assistant in Philadelphia in 1999. Spagnuolo spent eight years under Reid, serving as a linebackers and secondary coach before he was hired to run the Giants’ defense. Spagnuolo spent 2009 to 2011 as the Rams’ head coach, and 2012 as the Saints’ defensive coordinator before landing with the Giants again. Under Spagnuolo, New York runs a 4-3 defense that relies heavily on size and physicality, in the Giants’ historical tradition. The unit has struggled mightily this year, however, ranking 30th in pass defense (267.8 yards per game) and dead last in sacks (13). The Giants’ run defense also ranks 30th in the league (132.6).
Special teams: Tom Quinn, 49, is in his 12th year with the Giants and 11th as their special teams coach. Quinn, a former linebacker at Arizona, coached in the collegiate ranks for 15 years before joining the Giants in 2006. Kicker Aldrick Rosas has made 10 of 15 field-goal attempts — his 67 percent conversion rate ranks 34th in the league — while punter Brad Wing has dropped only eight of his 48 punts inside the 20, 32nd in the league. He’s also had two punts blocked. The Giants rank 17th in kickoff returns (21.4 yards per return) and 24th in punt returns (6.2). They also rank 25th in kick-return coverage (23.1) and dead last in punt-return coverage (12.9), having surrendered an 88-yard touchdown.
Four keys to a Chiefs victory
1. Target Travis
The Giants are awful at covering tight ends — this banged-up linebacking corps hardly excels in coverage. The Chiefs happen to have one of the league’s best tight ends in Travis Kelce. Reid needs to dial up all sorts of concepts for Kelce, who can’t be covered by this team, which has surrendered touchdowns to a tight ends in a ridiculous 10 straight games. Dead serious. Also keep an eye on throws to running back Kareem Hunt; the inability of the Giants’ linebackers to cover anyone needs to be exploited, and so does their inability to tackle in space; the Giants rank fourth in the league in missed-tackle percentage (12.4 percent), per FO.
2. Go old school
The Giants’ secondary is prone to blown coverages; they surrendered a touchdown on third-and-33 two weeks ago. So the Chiefs need to go old school on these guys. Establish the run early, show them a bunch of different looks, and playaction off all that and make this secondary communicate and execute. They’ve been unable to do so all year, and if the Chiefs hurt them with the running game, it will open up all the deep throws for Tyreek Hill and company. Teams have used playaction against the Giants 24 percent of the time, according to FO, which is second most in the league.
3. Take away Darkwa, Engram and Shepard
When you’re facing a bad team, the first thing you have to due is stifle the running game. Rookie running back Orleans Darkwa has a little juice and could hurt the Chiefs if they let him getting rolling, so they need to devote some resources to beating their plodding O-line to the punch at the point of attack and prevent them from gaining traction with their assortment of power runs. From there, the Giants’ top two receiving targets are tight end Evan Engram and receiver Sterling Shepard. Shepard is smallish (5 foot 10, 201 pounds) but explosive; they Chiefs need to know where Shepard and Engram, a legit matchup nightmare who is too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs, are in passing situations. If the Chiefs can make other players beat them, they should be just fine. New York misses star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.
4. Bring some heat off the edge
With starting right tackle Justin Pugh out due to injury, it’s worth noting that both of the Giants’ projected starting tackles, Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, are big, strong guys who can be stressed by speed in pass protection. That means the Chiefs’ starting edge rushers need to eat. Justin Houston is primed for a big game, as well as whoever lines up opposite him. Quarterback Eli Manning might be a two-time Super Bowl champion, but he can be affected by pressure, as his accuracy wanes and likelihood of a turnover increases with every opposing body in his vicinity.
Four Giants to watch
No. 10, QB Eli Manning, 36 years old, 6-4, 218, 14th season
Completed 377 of 598 passes (63 percent) for 4,027 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 2016. Is on pace to complete 382 of 592 passes (64.6 percent) for 3,721 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2017. Team captain and two-time Super Bowl champion who twice beat Tom Brady on football’s biggest stage. Battle-tested. Moves a little better than you might think, despite his age, and shows the ability to make some really nice throws in the short to intermediate, especially on the move. Still, his accuracy on deep and intermediate throws is inconsistent, which — when combined with his willingness to take chances — leads to interceptions. Is prone to turnovers when bodies swarm him and can be strip-sacked: has fumbled at least seven times and lost at least four fumbles every year since 2014.
No. 88, TE Evan Engram, 23 years old, 6-3, 236, first season
On pace to finish with 71 catches for 788 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. First-round tight end who is built more like a super-sized receiver. Terrific athlete who was among the top testers at his position in the 40, vertical jump (36 inches), three-cone (6.92 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.23) during the pre-draft process. Lined up as a fullback, slot receiver and “move” tight end in college and is very difficult for linebackers to handle one-on-one due to his overall athleticism. Super-athletic, fluid receiver with terrific burst out of his breaks who shows some tempo and craftiness as a route-runner and can consistently beat linebackers and safeties. Can post up almost any defender and win jump balls; legit red-zone threat with great ball skills who needs to be covered tightly in the money area. Outstanding runner after the catch at his position; runs hard and pick up chunk yards. Energy giver who plays hard and is into it. Has lots of juice. Not much of a blocker as a tight end due to his overall lack of size but he really does play with great effort. Has the occasional focus drop; his five drops are tied for ninth-most in the league, per FO.
No. 20, CB Janoris Jenkins, 29 years old, 5-10, 198, sixth season
Ranked No. 54 on the NFL’s top-100 list for 2017. Pro Bowler who was named All-Pro in 2016, when he finished with 49 tackles, three interceptions and 18 pass deflections. Is on pace to finish with 46 tackles, two interceptions and 11 pass deflections in 2017. When engaged, Jenkins is a very good football player, a playmaker who earned the nickname “Jackrabbit” in college at Florida due to his relentless energy. At his best, he’s a playmaker who not only jumps routes but also forces fumbles. Good athlete who plays bigger than his size. Is aggressive (has been whistled for four pass interference penalties) and has plus ball skills and instincts. Is very comfortable in man coverage and decent in zone. Very competitive and doesn’t back down from challenges from top-notch receivers. Effort has been criticized recently, and he was suspended against the Rams for missing practice. The Giants need this guy to return to form to prevent a miserable season from getting worse. Has also missed 10 tackles this year, according to FO.
No. 21, S Landon Collins, 23 years old, 6-0, 225, third season
Ranked No. 28 on the NFL’s top-100 list for 2017. Pro Bowler who was named All-Pro in 2016, when he recorded 125 tackles, five interceptions, 13 pass deflections and four sacks. On pace to finish with 100 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass deflections in 2017. Natural playmaker who, at his best, shows a knack for being around the ball and making plays. Has some juice with the ball in his hands. Good athlete with size and range who covers a good amount of ground and packs a punch. Looks great on the hoof. Good run defender with the size and mentality to help in the box. Has not played to his typical standard this year and has difficulty covering tight ends. Can be undisciplined and is still refining his coverage ability, both in man and zone. Has also missed 11 tackles this year, tied for eighth-most in the league, according to FO.
Projected Chiefs two-deep depth chart
KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable
No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years
11 Alex Smith (C, PB), 6-4, 220, 13 | 15 Patrick Mahomes, 6-3, 230, R
27 Kareem Hunt, 5-11, 208, R | 35 Charcandrick West, 5-10, 205, 4
42 Anthony Sherman, 5-10, 242, 7
14 Demarcus Robinson, 6-1, 203, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R
10 Tyreek Hill (C, PB), 5-10, 185, 2 | 80 Jehu Chesson, 6-3, 203, R
13 De’Anthony Thomas, 5-9, 176, 4 | 12 Albert Wilson, 5-9, 200, 4
87 Travis Kelce (C, PB, AP), 6-5, 260, 5 | 84 Demetrius Harris, 6-7, 230, 4
72 Eric Fisher, 6-7, 315, 5 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3
70 Bryan Witzmann, 6-7, 320, 3 | 73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4
61 Mitch Morse, 6-6, 305, 3 | 73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4
76 Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, 6-5, 321, 4 | 73 Zach Fulton, 6-5, 316, 4
71 Mitchell Schwartz (AP), 6-5, 320, 6 | 75 Cameron Erving, 6-5, 313, 3
95 Chris Jones, 6-6, 310, 2 | 94 Jarvis Jenkins, 6-4, 300, 7
96 Bennie Logan, 6-2, 315, 5 | 93 Cam Thomas, 6-4, 330, 8
99 Rakeem Nunez-Roches, 6-2, 307, 3 | 97 Allen Bailey, 6-3, 288, 7
50 Justin Houston (C), 6-3, 258, 7 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R
56 Derrick Johnson, 6-3, 242, 13 | 57 Kevin Pierre-Louis, 6-0, 230, 4
59 Reggie Ragland, 6-1, 252, 2 | 57 Kevin Pierre-Louis, 6-0, 230, 4
51 Frank Zombo, 6-3, 254, 8 | 92 Tanoh Kpassagnon, 6-7, 280, R
22 Marcus Peters (PB, AP), 6-0, 197, 3 | 39 Terrance Mitchell, 5-11, 190, 4
38 Ron Parker, 6-0, 206, 7 | 21 Eric Murray, 5-11, 199, 2
49 Daniel Sorensen, 6-2, 208, 4 | 30 Steven Terrell, 5-10, 197, 5
25 Kenneth Acker, 6-0, 195, 4 | 23 Phillip Gaines, 6-0, 193, 4
20 Steven Nelson, 5-11, 194, 3 | 39 Terrance Mitchell, 5-11, 190, 4
Projected Giants two-deep depth chart
KEY: Bold=Player to Watch, C=Captain, PB=2016 Pro Bowl, AP=2016 All-Pro, Q=Questionable, *=See “additional notes” section below for more info on player
No., Name, Ht., Wt., Years
**10 Eli Manning (C), 6-4, 218, 14** | 3 Geno Smith, 6-3, 221, 5
*26 Orleans Darkwa, 6-0, 215, 4 | 22 Wayne Gallman, 6-0, 210, R
43 Shane Smith, 6-1, 245, R
18 Roger Lewis, 6-0, 196, 2 | 19 Travis Rudolph, 6-0, 190, R
87 Sterling Shepard, 5-10, 194, 2 | 83 Kalif Raymond, 5-9, 160, 2
12 Tavarres King, 6-1, 200, 3
**88 Evan Engram, 6-3, 236, R** | 85 Rhett Ellison, 6-5, 250, 6
74 Ereck Flowers, 6-6, 329, 3 | 63 Chad Wheeler, 6-6, 310, R
77 John Jerry, 6-5, 340, 8 | 75 Jon Halapio, 6-2, 320, 1
69 Brett Jones, 6-2, 318, 3
*76 D.J. Fluker, 6-5, 339, 5 | 75 Jon Halapio, 6-2, 320, 1
68 Bobby Hart, 6-5, 334, 3 | 67 Justin Pugh, 6-4, 301, 5
90 Jason Pierre-Paul, 6-5, 278, 8 | 72 Kerry Wynn, 6-5, 264, 4
*98 Damon Harrison, Sr. (AP), 6-4, 350, 6 | 99 Robert Thomas, 6-1, 331, 2
94 Dalvin Tomlinson, 6-3, 312, R | 96 Jay Bromley, 6-3, 306, 4
54 Olivier Vernon (AP), 6-2, 262, 6 | 91 Avery Moss, 6-3, 265, R
52 Jonathan Casillas (C), 6-1, 227, 9 | 59 Devon Kennard, 6-3, 251, 4
46 Calvin Munson, 6-1, 245, R | 93 B.J. Goodson, 6-0, 242, 2
47 Kelvin Sheppard, 6-2, 249, 7 | 58 Curtis Grant, 6-2, 240, 1
*24 Eli Apple, 6-1, 199, 2 | 37 Ross Cockrell, 6-0, 191, 4
**21 Landon Collins (PB, AP), 6-0, 225, 3** | 29 Nat Behre, 6-0, 194, 4
*27 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 213, 2 | 33 Andrew Adams, 5-11, 202, 2
41 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (AP), 6-2, 205, 10
**20 Janoris Jenkins (PB, AP), 5-10, 198, 6** | 37 Ross Cockrell, 6-0, 191, 4
2 Aldrick Rosas, 6-2, 195, R
9 Brad Wing, 6-3, 192, 4
34 Shane Vereen, 5-10, 205, 7
84 Ed Eagan, 5-10, 198, 1
51 Zak DeOssie (C), 6-4, 249, 11
Additional scouting notes
▪ Running back Orleans Darkwa has some juice and a little shake; I kinda like him. They need to hit him hard early and match the physicality of the Giants’ man-blocking scheme.
▪ Guard D.J. Fluker has added some physicality to the offensive line.
▪ The Giants’ top three defensive ends — Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Avery Moss — can get after you a little bit if you let them get on a roll. There’s worse trios across the league than this one, believe that. Vernon, though, hasn’t been finishing tackles much (eight missed tackles, per FO).
▪ Defensive tackle Damon Harrison, Sr. (ankle) is one of the best interior linemen in footall when healthy. Nicknamed “Snacks,” he is a massive human being who is very difficult to move in the running game.
▪ Cornerback Eli Apple is going to be a good player in this league. I like his size, athleticism and competitiveness; he’s been throw at 54 times this year — tied for 10th most in the league — and has only allowed a 46 percent success rate (per FO), which is really good. He’s a little grabby, though — he’s been whistled for two holding and two pass interference penalties this year.
▪ Safety Darian Thompson has missed his fair share of tackles this year (10, per FO).
Prediction: Chiefs 34-13
The Giants surprised the Broncos a month ago due to Denver’s juiceless offense, but make no mistake about it, this one-win team is a mess. The Giants were embarassed a few weeks ago 51-17 — right after their bye week! — by the Los Angeles Rams, who are 7-2 but still one of the youngest teams in football. A week ago, they got beat by the hapless San Francisco 49ers, who thus earned their first win of the season and improved to 1-9. The Giants are in the midst of a season that gets people fired. Andy Reid typically destroys bad teams, and this Chiefs squad has dealt with enough bad juju over the last month or so that they should relish the opportunity to take out their frustration on the Giants. Barring a fluky occurence (or five), the Chiefs — who are primed to take advantage of the Giants’ porous pass defense, at least on paper — should roll, big time.