It is hard to believe, but the 2014 NFL regular season is already one-quarter completed for your New York Giants. A season that started 0-2 and conjured unpleasant memories of the debacle that was 2013 has now changed course following a pair of impressive victories.
With the Giants having reached that figurative quarter-pole, and not having another game until next Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons, let's take some time to assess what we have seen through the first four games. The best way for us to do that here at Big Blue View is with our traditional 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' We will break down the offense, defense and special teams in separate 'K&WW' posts.
We begin with the offense.
First, some overall thoughts. After four games that Giants have gone from a team was a mess in the preseason and didn't appear to do anything well to one that has scored 75 points in the last two games. The Giants are seventh overall in scoring, averaging 25.8 points per game. I think anyone connected with the Giants would have signed up for that when the season began, and there were signs in the last two games that offense can become what the Giants hoped for when they hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator.
After being -6 in turnover ratio through two games, the Giants have now drawn even in that category. They have gained 868 yards over the two games, surpassing 400 in each. Eli Manning has completed 49-of-67 passes (71.3 percent) with only one disputed interception he was not to blame for. Mannng hs been sacked just twice in those two victories and has been more comfortable in the pocket than at any time last season. The Giants are rushing for 120.2 yards per game after getting only 83 yards per game a season ago.
The biggest factor in the offensive turnaround has not been Manning, the emergency of tight end Larry Donnell or the running of Rashad Jennings. The biggest factor has been the play of the rebuilt offensive line.
No matter the system or the play-caller, for the Giants offense has always been about making Manning comfortable and giving him the opportunity to slice up opposing defenses. The blocking of Will Beatty, Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton, John Jerry and Justin Pugh has thus far accomplished that.
The group is not the one the Giants thought they would start off the year with. The retirement of Chris Snee and an injury to Geoff Schwartz left the Giants scrambling, but Richburg, Walton and Jerry have solidified the middle while Beatty and Pugh have excelled on the outside.
"We give him a pocket, he's going to show off," said Beatty.
Manning has been doing just that, especially the past two games. He can thank his blockers for giving him the chance to do so. If the Giants continue to give him the chance, there might be lots of showing off during the remainder of the season.
Now, let's get on with the individual 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Kudos To ...
Eli Manning -- Not bad work thus far for a guy who isn't supposed to be able to succeed in a West Coast-style offense. Manning has completed 93-of-139 passes (a career-best 66.9 percent). His 93.6 passer rating would establish a career high if it holds throughout the season. He has nine touchdown passes and is on pace for 36, which would shatter his 2010 career high of 31. He has five interceptions, four in the first two weeks and the fifth one that is still worth debating whether it should have been an interception at all. Manning's accuracy percentage, accounting for a variety of factors out of the quarterback's control, is 77.8 percent, seventh in the league. He has been terrific thus far.
Larry Donnell -- Before the season began some silly writer predicted that the Giants would not have a tight end catch 35 passes for the entire season. Well, Donnell is making
that guy yours truly look pretty silly. Donnell, a third-year player who went undrafted out of Grambling, leads the Giants in receptions with 25 and touchdowns with four. He had a breakout three-touchdown game Thursday vs. the Redskins and has quickly established himself as an important part of the Giants' offense. The Giants hoped Donnell's size and athleticism would lead to production, but what he has done thus far has to be well beyond expectations.
Will Beatty -- Here is a fact that you won't believe. Entering Sunday's games Beatty is the highest-ranked offensive tackle in the NFL with a Pro Football Focus score of +9.6. I don't know who the imposter in Beatty's uniform was last season when Beatty surrendered 13 sacks and was brutal, but that guy has apparently vanished. Beatty has gone from the turnstile he was in 2013 to an impenetrable wall in 2014. He has a pass blocking score of +5.5, a run-blocking score of +3.0 and has allowed only two quarterback hits and three hurries in four games. This is the kind of play the Giants were expecting when they signed him to a rich contract before last season.
Rashad Jennings -- The veteran has thus far been everything the Giants could have hoped for in a "bell cow" running back. He had a monstrous career-best 34-carry, 176-yard game against Houston and has 341 yards on 81 carries (4.2 yards per carry) for the season. Jennings has rushed for first downs on 29.6 percent of his carries and has caught nine passes. The Giants signed him as a free agent in the offseason, and he is certainly making that look like a smart move.
Wet Willies To ...
Henry Hynoski -- Somebody has to get a 'Wet Willie' and the Giants' fullback gets the call. Hynoski won the job over John Connor during preseason and hasn't been great. He doesn't play a whole lot, getting only 55 snaps as the Giants use a lot of three-wide receiver, one-running back sets, but in those snaps Hynoski is ranked 23rd by PFF among 24 fullbacks in run blocking with a grade of -2.4. Whatever else he can do, that's not good because the fullback's primary job is to run block.
Adrien Robinson -- Well, Hynoski couldn't be lonely. While Robinson languishes on the bench and keeps a roster spot largely because of Jerry Reese's belief in him, Donnell is doing what the Giants drafted Robinson to do. It's harsh to give a 'WW' to a guy who never plays but the reality is by reputation and draft position it should be Robinson starring at tight end for the Giants and not Donnell.
Kwillies To ...
Victor Cruz -- Cruz has 18 catches and finally did get to salsa in the game against the Texans, but he still has five dropped passes and has only caught passes 56.3 percent of the times he has been targeted. Cruz makes a couple of catches against the Cardinals and maybe the Giants are 3-1.
Rueben Randle -- Had a terrific eight-catch game against the Redskins and has 19 catches overall, second behind Donnell for the team lead. He is on pace for 76 catches, which would pretty much make people forget about Hakeem Nicks. The Giants are just looking for a little more consistency instead of flashes of greatness followed by games during which he disappears.
John Jerry -- He's been pretty much as advertised at right guard. A plus pass blocker (+2.8 PFF score) and a poor run blocker (-3.6). 'Kwillie' or not, though, he has been part of an offensive line that has played very well.
You could probably argue that several other players -- notably Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and even backup tight end Daniel Fells -- were deserving of 'Kudos.' I simply didn't want to get carried away. The 'Wet Willie' for Hynoski might be harsh, but I had to when I saw how he ranks vs. the other fullbacks in the league.