The New York Giants are 3-4, reeling after two losses, and beginning their bye week. Let's take stock with this week's 'Five Things I Think I Think' about the Giants.
I think the Giants are better than they were a year ago. That much, I believe, is pretty obvious. The record is 3-4 instead of 1-6. There is better talent, including a core of young players and not as many veterans who are barely hanging on. The quarterback is playing some of the soundest, safest -- and best -- football of his career. Thing is, I think despite all of that it's possible the record could end up the same or worse than last season's 7-9. The next four games are against quality teams, and five of the last nine are vs. teams with winning records. The Giants have yet to show they can beat teams of that caliber. To be better than a year ago they will have to. I am still not sure they can.
I think Jason Pierre-Paul is earning a massive contract. Leading up to the season Jason Pierre-Paul talked incessantly about how he thought he was going to have a monstrous season. Well, he is backing up his words. Pierre-Paul doesn't have the massive sack numbers (3.5 after seven games), but outside of J.J. Watt is there a better all-around defensive end in the league?
No 4-3 defensive end comes close to playing the run the way Pierre-Paul does. His run-stop percentage (12.4) and Pro Football Focus run defense grade of +16.9 are the best in the league. By the way, Derek Wolfe of the Denver Broncos has the second-best run defense score among 4-3 defensive ends at +6.9, almost 10 full points behind JPP.
Pierre-Paul, 25, is a free agent at the end of the season and is heading for a huge pay day. The Giants would be foolish if that pay day doesn't come from them.
I think criticism of the Giants sticking with the run Sunday is misplaced. The Giants stuck with the run Sunday against the Cowboys on Sunday despite a lack of success, with Tom Coughlin acknowledging that was "much to the chagrin of some." I think it was the right thing to do.
The Giants did not lose the game because they kept trying to run. I believe Coughlin is right. You have to have balance, or at least the appearance of balance. The threat of the run has to be there. They lost because they weren't successful when they did run. They lost because they fumbled the ball away with a chance to drive for a game-tying score. They lost because defensively they couldn't stop the run, and consequently couldn't get the ball back for the offense when they absolutely had to.
The Giants need to figure out how to block the run, not abandon it. More Manning is not necessarily the answer. If defenses don't respect the run, they tee off on the quarterback, which leads to sacks and interceptions.
I think the lack of discipline on defense disturbs me. This lack of discipline has really shown up in run defense the past two weeks. The Giants don't generally get blown off the line of scrimmage. In fact, with Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins they quite often control it. They give up big plays against the run because too often guys don't follow their assignments. They try to jump gaps they don't belong in, leaving cutback lanes. Or, they crash too hard from the backside, again leaving cutback lanes. Average or straight-ahead runners won't exploit those. Great backs like LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray will -- and did.
We have also seen this lack of discipline at times in pass coverage, but mostly of late against the run. I think I don't get it. Does this say some guys don't trust their teammates? Does it say there are simply some undisciplined guys who want to do their own thing? Does it say some players are not trusting the defensive calls? I don't know.
I think Odell Beckham gave us a glimpse of things to come on Sunday. Odell Beckham caught two touchdown passes Sunday, but that's not why he is on my list today. I think we already knew Beckham was headed toward becoming a very good wide receiver. What I am talking about here is the number of ways the Giants used him against the Cowboys.
Beckham played outside. The Giants moved him into the slot a little bit. They used him as their primary punt returner. They gave him the ball on a reverse. I think what we saw is the tip of the iceberg with a rookie who still has not had a lot of practice time, and I think that is something to be excited about.