In 2012, the Giants gave up a boatload of yards:
- 31st in yards, 383.4 yards per game.
- 31st in yards per play, 6.0.
- 30th in 3rd down conversions, 42%.
- 25th in rush yards, 129.1.
- 28th in yards per carry, 4.6.
- 28th in pass yards, 254.2.
- 31st in yards per pass attempt, 8.1.
And still, despite those numbers, the Giants only gave up 21.5 points per game, which tied them for 12th in the NFL with the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Why? Because they were able to force 35 turnovers, which was good for 3rd in the NFL, and they only allowed TDs on 46% of opponents’ trips into the red zone, which was good for 4th in the NFL.
That seems to be the way a lot of suspect defenses are surviving these days. Let the other team dink and dunk their way down down the field, until they eventually make a mistake (ie: turnover, penalty, dropped pass, etc). That kind of defense will typically give up a lot of yards, but if they can force teams to kick field goals in the red zone, then no worries.
This concept brings me to Jason Witten. Let’s take the 18 TEs who had at least 50 catches last season, and use them as our sample size. In 2012, Witten led them (and obviously the rest of the NFL) in receptions:
However, among that same sample group, he was next to last in yards per catch:
14th in yards per target:
And he was tied for 14th in TDs, with just 3… on 150 targets:
There’s something to be said for a TE who can be a safety valve for his QB and move the chains, but that’s what defenses like the Giants can live with. If he’s not stretching the field any longer or scoring TDs when the Cowboys get down into the red zone, does anybody really fear Jason Witten anymore?