Eli Manning - Alex Trautwig
The New York Giants' offense has been missing in action for the past few weeks. Let's look at some of the issues and see if we can find any solutions.
The Passing Game
Eli Manning can't throw the ball straight and hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since somewhere back around the Ice Age. He is making "terrible" and "foolish" decisions. Victor Cruz can't get open, and he can't catch the ball when he does. Martellus Bennett is getting extra attention and having a tough time getting off the line of scrimmage. Hakeem Nicks still isn't the 'real' Hakeem Nicks.
Here is offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's take on the issues with the passing game.
"Certainly, if we give him [Manning] the time and the protection, I have no doubt in my mind that he'll put the ball where it needs to go, accurately, correctly and give guys a chance. It comes down to protection. It comes down to the guys doing a better job getting open, getting separation. Believe me, it's a collective process out there. We're all in need of doing better."
Valentine's View: I don't know if Eli isn't healthy, but I'm not buying this "dead arm" stuff. As alarming as anything for me in recent weeks is the number of short throws to open guys that Manning has been unable to complete. I'm talking about 5-7 yard passes that have been high, low, wide and behind receivers. You can't get first downs or stay in manageable situations when you can't do that.
As for some of those decisions, here is what I believe. Manning will never be a guy who makes good choices when he is running around -- he never has been and that isn't changing now. What we saw during his 25-interception season a couple of years ago was a quarterback who, when things began to go south, took too much on his shoulders. He pressed and tried to make plays that weren't there. That is the Manning who showed up Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. That Manning needs to go back into the bottle. And stay put.
About Cruz. Teams have obviously begun to double Cruz coming out of the slot and you know what, it seems pretty clear that Cruz doesn't like the rough stuff and he has been impacted by it. There are a couple of things I would like to see. Get Cruz in motion more so that he isn't a stationary target for defenses at the snap. Vary formations and slide him outside occasionally. Try the five wide receiver set once in a while, forcing teams into one-on-one matchups.
About Bennett. Some of the same theories apply to Bennett. Teams see he can be a weapon and have reacted accordingly. Use the bye week to adjust by trying to get him into alignments where it isn't as easy for defenses to hit him coming off the line.
The third wide receiver issue. This hasn't really been talked about much, but the Giants really have not adequately replaced Mario Manningham at this point. Domenik Hixon has 26 catches and will probably end up with more than the 39 Manningham had a year ago, but he has been quiet the past few weeks. Ramses Barden and Reuben Randle have each had one brilliant game, but haven't shown up very much otherwise. One of these guys -- most likely Hixon -- has got to be a playmaker down the stretch.
Will the Giants lean more on Andre Brown to lift their struggling running game? (Bob Donnan | US PRESSWIRE)
The Running Game
The Giants were last in the league in rushing a season ago with an average of 89.2 yards per game. Since the season began there has been a heavy emphasis on improving in that area, and throughout the first few games it looked like the Giants had managed to do that.
The Giants have improved statistically. They are 13th in the league with an average of 111.4 yards per game, and are getting 4.4 yards per carry after getting only 3.5 a season ago. They have had several outstanding performances.
Week 3 -- Andre Brown, 20 carries for 113 yards
Week 5 -- Ahmad Bradshaw, 30 carries for 200 yards
Week 6 -- Bradshaw, 27 carries for 116 yards
Since then, however, the Giants have not been nearly as good.
Week 7 -- Bradshaw totaled 43 yards. Week 8 -- Bradshaw got 78 yards, but it took 22 carries. Week 9 -- Bradshaw carried 15 times for only 48 yards. Week 10 -- Andre Brown led the Giants with 65 yards on just seven carries.
Valentine's View: Bradshaw's health has to be part of the issue, as we discussed earlier in the week. He just doesn't seem to be the home run threat he was earlier in his career, or even earlier this year. His longest run in the past four weeks is 15 yards.
I have been advocating more carries for Brown for weeks now, and it seems like the Giants might be ready to move in that direction. That would be a good thing as, right now, he just seems more explosive than Bradshaw.
The other thing is this, though. Brown might give the Giants an upgrade between the tackles over a banged-up Bradshaw but the Giants need some big plays out of the running game.
That is what they drafted David Wilson in the first round for, only Wilson has not yet gained the trust of the coaching staff. When he does, when the Giants can put him on the field without it being obvious that he is getting the ball, the running attack will be better for it.
The Offensive Line Play
We have spent plenty of time banging on David Diehl the past few days. My stance is simply that, while Diehl has been a good player for the Giants over the years, the offensive line has played better this season when he has not been a part of it.
Valentine's View: Let's move beyond Diehl. Chris Snee has not been healthy for the past couple of weeks and the ankle injury he played through had to affect his performance. Kevin Boothe simply got manhandled by Cincinnati's Geno Atkins -- no surprise, since Atkins has done that to everyone this year. Also, don't underestimate the fact that blocking tight end Bear Pascoe has been hurt the past couple of weeks. He did not play against Pittsburgh and lasted only two snaps against Cincinnati. Travis Beckum can't replace Pascoe as an inline blocker.
The Giants have to do whatever is necessary to give Manning more time to work his magic. We have seen that mayhem ensues, and the offense breaks down, when they don't give him time. If that means replacing Diehl with Locklear, so be it. If that means using an extra tackle instead of Beckum if Pascoe isn't available, so be it. If that means David Wilson never plays, so be it.
The Giants' offense simply does not work when Manning does not have time to survey the field. Above everything else, making sure the Giants get back to keeping the quarterback clean in the pocket has to be the first priority.