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Sam Darnold’s passing attempts from the Jets preseason opener

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NFL: AUG 08 Preseason - Jets at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

14:28 left; 2nd and 6; NYJ 29

The Giants initially come out showing a Cover 2 look.

Presnap Jabrill Peppers drops into the box.

By the time the ball is snapped the Giants are showing a Cover 3 look.

Quincy Enunwa is running an out route.

The corner on Enunwa’s side is retreating. This play would be open if the Giants were in a Cover 2.

Peppers would be deep if it was indeed Cover 2. But he dropped, and the coverage was actually Cover 3, which leaves him room to undercut Enunwa and almost come away with the interception.

There really isn’t any other way to put it. Darnold got away with one here. The Giants’ early disguise of Cover 2 was essentially window dressing. They came out of that look well before the snap, which gave Darnold plenty of time to recognize it. He simply missed it and lost track of Peppers. He was lucky this wasn’t an interception.

14:24 left; 3rd and 6; NYJ 29

The Jets have a successful third down play here, and I think the design deserves a lot of the credit.

Presnap the Jets bunch three receivers on the bottom of the picture. The Giants are forced to tip that they’re playing some version of man coverage. With three bunched receivers, there aren’t many ways for a defense to hide three defenders. The only reason three defenders would be aligned like this across from three receivers would be man coverage. At the top of the picture there is also a clear one on one man coverage.

One way to beat man coverage is to have receivers run crossing routes into each other from opposite sides of the field. Enunwa runs a crossing route from the top of the picture to the bottom. Chris Herndon sets out like he’s going to run a matching crossing route from the bottom to the top. By having two receivers converge, it will create traffic. Two defenders will be following the receivers in opposite directions. They might collide, or they might have to alter their paths to avoid colliding. Either way crossing routes against man coverage create space.

One way a defense can cope with crossing routes is to have the defenders in man coverage switch. Enunwa’s man takes Herndon. Herndon’s man takes Enunwa. Instead of having everybody run across the field, a switch allows you to take the man running at you.

There’s only one problem. Herndon is faking the crossing route and then cutting upfield. After he is released by the guy covering him, no Giants defender is near the play to pick him up.

Herndon runs wide open, and Darnold has an easy pitch and catch for a 32 yard gain.

When I watched it live I thought, “Man, the Giants busted that coverage.”

They did, but they busted it in part because of the clever design of the play and Herndon selling the crossing route off the snap.

13:40 left; 1st and 10; NYG 39

On this play the Giants come out with a bit of an ambiguous look. It could be Cover 2.

It could be man to man with two deep safeties.

Ultimately, though, it is a slot blitz with man to man underneath and a single deep safety.

If it catches the offense off guard, it could result in a big play for the defense. There is a huge vulnerability the presnap defensive disguise creates, though.

Since Jamison Crowder is lined up over the blitzing slot corner, a safety has to cover him man to man. That safety has no chance of successfully covering a shallow cross, which is a slot staple.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Darnold seemed to know exactly what was coming because Chris Herndon stayed in to block and was easily able to pick up the slot blitz. Worse, Crowder is running the shallow cross.

Because Herndon stayed in to block, the linebacker who would have covered him could help on Crowder at the middle of the field for a bit. (In fact it seems like they run their own switch with the linebacker picking up Crowder and the safety Herndon.) Ultimately, though, Crowder vs. a linebacker is a mismatch.

Crowder catches the ball and scampers for 28 yards.

On the first play of our sequence we saw Darnold lose the battle presnap by blowing a pretty easy read.

Here we saw a battle won because Darnold knew exactly what was coming out of an unclear presnap defensive look. The outcome was a mere formality. It was determined once Darnold got the Jets into an unstoppable play against this defensive call.

12:55 left; 1st and 10; NYG 11

Here again the Giants look to disguise what they are doing before the snap. They initially appear to be in a Cover 3. The deep middle safety isn’t in the picture so I have inserted a lifelike illustration to represent him.

However, the safety in the box drops at the snap.

Both corners drop, and the Giants end up playing Cover 4 or quarters.

This is a very conservative coverage, but it makes sense in the red zone. The Giants are putting a wall of four defenders on the goal line to prevent a touchdown.

The disadvantage is there are only three defenders to cover the entire underneath part of the field.

Ty Montgomery ends up getting isolated against a linebacker. While the linebacker is in zone coverage, he has no help because of how many defenders dropped deep. This is an easy 5 yard pitch and catch. You always take a free 5 yards on first down. It puts the offense in a very favorable situation.

This is a benefit of having a guy with wide receiver skills running routes out of the backfield. Against a regular back, a linebacker might not be facing such a mismatch.

11:58 left; 3rd and 2; NYG 3

On this play the Jets stick Enunwa and Crowder on the wide side of the field against two defenders.

It’s a simple rub route. Enunwa cuts in. Crowder cuts out running behind Enunwa to create space between him and the corner covering him.

This is as easy as it gets. I’ll never understand why teams don’t run this more on the goal line.