The Film Room: How The Giants Took Advantage Of Zach Cunningham
  • zhangzk (Larned, KS) December 2018
    Whether I wanted to or not ,
    I forced myself to re-watch Sunday’s game. I did it not for the article or for
    the research, but purely to quell the frustrations bouncing around my head. I
    wanted to take something away from the film that I did not initially focus on
    when watching live.Although Kareem Jackson whiffed on a
    tackle at the end of the play, there really is not much he can do when the
    running back goes untouched through the offensive line.Cunningham was not a good
    blitzer. He ran straight into the blocker and did not have any moves at the
    point of attachHe missed what should have been a tackle off the edge of Barkley
    because Cunningham went too high.On the Giants’ last drive of the first half,
    they were stampeding down the field and fully executing a four-minute drive when
    their offense lined up in an empty set on first and ten at the Texans’ 16 yard
    line.This forced the Texans to split Zach Cunningham out in man defense on
    Giants backup TE Rhett Ellison. Since the Giants line up three wide receivers on
    the other side of the formation, Tyrann Mathieu (#32) is shaded to the right to
    help cover the three receiver side. This leaves Cunningham on an island in the
    middle of the field, and since he is shaded to the outside of the tight end, he
    is in a very vulnerable position before the ball is even snapped.Two seconds
    later, Eli Manning, the Mendoza Line of NFL quarterbacks, has a perfect throwing
    lane and places the ball squarely into the chest of his target. As you can see
    from the image above and in the video below, Cunningham pauses for a brief
    moment as Ellison breaks on his route and into the end zone. Mathieu is too far
    away to break up the pass and now the Texans are behind 20-3.Outside of these
    two plays ,
    I found other issues with Cunningham’s game on Sunday. On the first instance I
    witnessed Cunningham actively sprinting to the ball on a run, he successfully
    got into the backfield but would up missing the tackle entirely; Barkley turned
    a two yard loss into a two yard gain. While we know Cunningham is not an adept
    at blitzing the quarterback, on the one occasion he was a part of the package
    rushing the passer, he was incapable of putting any pressure on Eli Manning.Even
    with all of these negative findings, Cunningham is a good linebacker with a ton
    of upside. He is only in his second year in the league and was solid last year
    for the Texans. His future is bright, but when the team has to take him out
    because the opponent has found flaws in his game, he becomes a liability more
    than an asset. It does not help that Cunningham’s backup, Dylan Cole, was just
    put on the IR and lost for the season yesterday. Now there is no equivalent
    replacement on the roster if Cunningham gets picked on again. Regardless of
    whether the Texans can help Cunningham out or he begins to work on addressing
    some of his weaknesses, he’s one of the biggest liabilities on this 0-3 Texans
    defense as they prepare for the Colts on Sunday.Remember 2015: The Texans Aren’t
    Cooked Yet It’s a new day in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns won a football game
    last night and ended a losing streak that was approaching two years. Good for
    them. You may now want to stop clapping for them and stick your hands in your
    pocket like you are a slick haired, leather jacket wearing Greaser, because the
    Texans can now claim the longest active losing streak. That’s right. The last
    time your Texans won a football game was on November 19th against the Arizona
    Cardinals in Week 11 of the 2017 NFL season. Eight straight losses is
    embarrassing for any franchise, and even more so for a team with this much elite
    talent. Despite having four semi-generational talents on this football team, the
    Texans still find a way to be leaderless, unorganized, and incompetent.
    Regardless of the new wave of excitement that crested this offseason, the Texans
    have started 0-2, losing games to Patriots and Titans squads at less-than full
    strength. The discouraging performances have left Houston’s fan base in an
    unbridled consternation. Some are ready to pull the plug on the entire Bill
    O’Brien era. People, there are FOURTEEN more games left. The Texans were the
    only team in the NFL to play their first two games on the road against 2017
    playoff teams. I can spout off a list of twenty reasons why the Texans will make
    the NFL Playoffs. If my sputtering heart desired, I could do an entire Ted Talk
    on the promise the 2018 season still has in store for the Texans.Sometimes you
    gotta drink the Kool-Aid. Yes, our dreams of making the playoffs may be in
    danger, but it is not uncommon for this franchise to put together a quality
    season after early setbacks.All you have to do is sift through the short history
    of this organization.In 2015, the Texans started 0-2 after receiving a right
    hook from an Alex Smith-led Chiefs offense followed by a straight gut punch from
    a would-be 15-1 Carolina Panthers. Both the Chiefs and Panthers would go on to
    make the playoffs. Lean back in your chair, tilt your head back like you are
    holding back a sneeze ,
    and conjure up memories of Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer trading turns at
    QB.Remember the anguish of that?Remember when a certain someone “overslept” his
    flight to Miami? Remember when the Falcons put up 48 points without even trying?
    Do you recall an average running back on the Dolphins scorching us for 175
    yards? That team, that 2015 team, was 1-5 at one point and still made the
    playoffs.How? Hell if I know. A statistical anomaly occurred where the Texans
    strung a spectacular string of wins together and snuck into the postseason.
    Although they were immediately shamed like Cerci on her Walk of Atonement in the
    Wild Card Game, it’s proof that no season is a wash after two weeks. In
    hindsight, I did see this coming. It’s a bad sign for the season to come when I
    already knew who the Texans needed to draft the following year after they
    completed their draft in April. The current Texans’ roster has several definite
    holes in it, but in comparison to the 2015 team, I would take this current
    ragtag group of athletes any day of the week.For starters, we have a quarterback
    who is still getting his sea legs. Texans fans have forgotten the learning curve
    and process it takes for a QB to transition into the NFL.

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