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Five things I think I think about the 2-3 New York Giants

Helping the pass rush, talking about Ben McAdoo, more

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at New York Giants
Devon Kennard
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Giants heading toward a critical home game this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, let’s step back and look at “Five things I think I think” about the team this week.

I have an idea for helping the pass rush

The Giants’ pass rush wasn’t good enough last season, and they paid a boatload of money in the offseason to try and fix it. Through fives games, it still isn’t good enough. Eighty-five million dollar defensive end Olivier Vernon has one sack. Jason Pierre-Paul has one sack. The Giants have just four, dead last in the NFL, with the other two coming from defensive backs Landon Collins and Leon Hall.

Of course, neither Vernon nor Pierre-Paul are playing with two good hands. Vernon is playing with a wrist injury, and I believe it’s impacting his ability to be a difference-maker more than anyone wants to admit. With the Miami Dolphins, Vernon was always anchored at right defensive end. With the Giants, he has moved to the middle, to the left and rushed standing up. Is that creativity by Steve Spagnuolo, or is it to cover for the fact that Vernon is playing one-handed? We know Pierre-Paul’s situation, and while he gives max effort all the time I wonder if JPP physically still has the ability to be a dominant edge rusher.

The Giants have been using Romeo Okwara, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and last week Kerry Wynn in pass-rushing situations to no effect. Between the three Odighizuwa has the lone quarterback hit.

So, what can the Giants do to improve their anemic pass rush? How about turning Devon Kennard loose as a pass rusher? As a rookie back in 2014, Kennard had 4.5 sacks and coming off the edge to harass quarterbacks is one of the things it looked like he did best. Yet, in his two seasons as defensive coordinator rushing the passer is something Steve Spagnuolo has rarely asked Kennard to do.

It’s time to change that. Kennard is barely playing. He has been used on only 33.9 percent of the defensive snaps, coming off the field in expected passing situations. Why not leave him on the field and use him as a blitzing linebacker, or let him put his hand in the dirt and rush from the defensive end spot in obvious passing situations? The Giants obviously don’t have enough dynamic pass rushers. Kennard is a guy who might be able to help there, and the Giants aren’t using him enough.

Remember this?

The Giants need some creativity on offense

With Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz the Giants have an outstanding trio of wide receivers and, justifiably, want them all on the field as much as possible. Wanting to keep them all on the field, the Giants have used their “11” personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) almost exclusively this season. Beckham has missed one of 324 offensive snaps all season, while Cruz and Shepard have played 312 snaps (96.3 percent).

Perhaps the Giants are making it too easy for opposing defenses to figure out how to defend them.

We saw a bit of creativity Sunday night with an attempted reverse pass using Beckham, and with Beckham lining up in the backfield one time. Perhaps a little more creativity, or variety in formations, is in order. How about a few snaps for Jerell Adams as a second tight end? Four wide receiver sets with Tavarres King? Two-back sets once in a while? More sets with Beckham or Shepard in the backfield?

Whatever it is, I think the Giants need to give defenses more to think about.

New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
Paul Perkins
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

You should be excited about Paul Perkins

Let’s not go nuts and put the rookie from UCLA in the Hall of Fame, or start calling for him to become the featured back, but you should like what you are seeing from Perkins.

In the section above, we were discussing creativity with formations and personnel usage. To their credit, the past couple of weeks the Giants have found some ways to get Perkins some touches and he has flashed explosive, play-making ability.

Perkins, from my view, isn’t ready for the responsibility of being the lead back. The Giants, though, would be wise to continue finding ways to utilize his talent.

It’s 4-2, at least, or forget it

This is not your NFC East of the past few seasons. The Cowboys are good. The Philadelphia Eagles, surprisingly, are good. The Washington Redskins, thanks to the Giants, are back from the dead and will likely contend most of the season. I do not believe nine wins is not going to cut it. It’s going to take more than that to win the division.

The Giants are currently last in the division because they have earned it. Justin Pugh’s “we’re the best team in our division” defiance aside, the Giants deserve their spot at the bottom.

That doesn’t mean the Giants are out of the race. They can certainly flip the script. The next six games, though, are absolutely critical. The margin for error is razor-thin.

The Giants play four of their next five games at home, facing the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears. They then go on the road to face the Cleveland Browns.

If they go at least 4-2 in that stretch, preferably with a victory over the Eagles in that mix, they can get to 6-5 and have a solid chance to make some noise down the stretch. If they can’t get to at least 6-5, those final five games (at the Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Dallas. vs. the Detroit Lions, at Philly, at Washington) might not mean a whole lot.

Ben McAdoo is certainly being tested

Is McAdoo, a rookie head coach, really up to the task of being an NFL head coach at the age of 39? We asked that question when he was hired. Throughout the spring, summer and a 2-0 start it was easy to laud the changes McAdoo made and believe that handing him the reigns of the franchise was the right move.

You don’t really find out about people, though, until the face adversity. McAdoo and the Giants are certainly facing adversity right now. Odell Beckham hasn’t made McAdoo’s job easier. Injuries haven’t made McAdoo’s job easier. Ereck Flowers hasn’t made McAdoo’s job easier. The suddenly scatter-armed play of Eli Manning hasn’t made McAdoo’s job easier.

Thing is, it is McAdoo’s job. If you thought there weren’t going to be growing pains for McAdoo in his new role, that there wouldn’t be challenges, mistakes or difficult times, that’s on you.

The coach is under fire from a lot of directions. Some believe he hasn’t handled Beckham properly. Some believe he needs to give up the play-calling duties and pay more attention to running the entire team. I would be stunned if he did that, but I wouldn’t mind if he did. With all of his talk about discipline, poise and taking care of the ball, combined with the Giants’ failure to accomplish those things, it’s fair to wonder if the coach needs to adjust his approach.

I have liked a lot of things McAdoo has done thus far. I haven’t liked others. I still believe that in the end McAdoo will prove to be a good NFL head coach. We have, though, reached a point where the coach is undeniably being tested. Let’s see how he and his team respond.