*Note – Since issuing this post, NYG General Manager Jerry Reese has learned he’s lost Hixon for the season to an ACL & Manningham is highly questionable heading into Philadelphia, having reportedly suffered a concussion against St. Louis. Guess Reese’s prayers weren’t answered.
New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese took a “sigh of relief” after receiving the injury update Tuesday morning. The Giants are coming off a Monday Night Football victory over the St. Louis Rams but not without a potentially significant cost. Wide receivers Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon played exceptionally well, and were on the end of five Eli Manning passes for 85 yards and one spectacular touchdown (thank you Mr. Hixon).
Reese watched this explosive duo go down with injuries during the game, neither would return. Through two weeks the Giants find themselves in a three-way tie behind the 2-0 Washington Redskins in the NFC East. If NYG has any hope of returning to the playoffs, they’ll have to continue to improve their overall offensive pass efficiency. We already know that a strong passing game correlates more to “winning” than a stronger running game.
Just throw it!
Offensive pass efficiency is best defined as “yards per pass attempt”, accounting for “yards lost due to sacks”. The team with the higher average per attempt, that protects its Quarterback from negative sack yardage, will have a higher correlation towards winning than the team that doesn’t. Offensive passing efficiency isn’t the only factor, but it is the most significant of all the factors. After two games the Giants already sit below the NFL average for net yards per attempt at 6.9 (NFL avg. 7.1).
Manningham and Hixon have combined for 11 receptions and 155 yards, a little over 14 yards per reception. To lose that production might very well “cripple” the Giants passing offense, substantially reducing their chances on Sundays in the weeks to come; read “Seeing the forest for the trees” – Stats that correlate to winning in the NFL.
What if Jerry Reese had gotten a different report? What if both Manningham and Hixon had been lost for a substantial amount of time, if not the season? Where would he turn, what would he look for? Fortunately for Reese, he has half the equation in Eli Manning. Manning has consistently been a top 10 Quarterback in completion percentage and net yards per attempt. Where he’s fallen short is in completions to opponents (Int’s) but that’s for another post. Reese needs capable replacement players at the position to keep the Giants passing efficiency as high as possible, now a Player Personnel problem.
In Search of Perfection
Here are the Position Specifics directly out of my “Scouting Football Talent Manual” for wide receivers;
- Initial Quickness – movement on the ball, quickness at the start, close cushion, pressures DB
- Routes – type cuts; sharp, rounded, body turns, gathers self. Drops weight, precise cuts
- Receive Long – ability to get deep, adjust to ball in flight, separation speed
- Receive Short – separation, shield DB with body, run after catch, head around quick
- Blocker – effort, strength, types of blocks made, angles, LB mentality, takes pride in it
- React To Ball – see and adjust, big catch radius, hand & eye coordination, in traffic
- Release – how does he get off bump? Strength, escape hold up, elusive, quick feet
- React To Crowd – go up for high point, tracks ball well, wins body position battle
- Hands – natural plucker, trusts his hands, reaches for ball, can track the ball overhead
The Giants don’t necessarily need the fastest or biggest available players (though size & speed help). Rather they need players having the understanding and skills to create space from the defender and present a target for Manning. They must provide consistency catching the ball and upfield ability to create yards on their own. It’s simple math. The more balls caught, the more passing yards. The passing yards per reception, the greater the net yards average. The greater the net yards average, the higher the correlation to winning.
So why doesn’t everyone do it?
Easy enough, right? Wide Receivers with great hands, consistency to their play, run fast after the catch, show production on the field, have body control with balance-stop/start-sink/separate, good character, tough mentality.
2010 was a rough season for Domenik Hixon, who sat out most of the year with a knee injury. Mario Manningham teamed with Hakeem Nicks to form as “lethal a tandem” as there was in the NFL. Reese can look inward to his own receiving corps and promote a youngster. He can go to his practice squad and activate a developmental project. He can comb the “waiver wire” and look for someone else’s reject. Or he can study the available “street free agents” and offer a player another opportunity. But he would be hard pressed replace both Manningham & Hixon with receivers of similar quality (not to mention financial constraints) and thus the Giants offensive passing efficiency is sure to fall, along with more wins.
Reese has to be thanking the “football gods” tonight for sparing him a different injury report.