We are constantly reminded that when it comes to football, or at least the New York Giants, what you think your problems are now might not be what your problems are in six months, a month, or even a week.
Six months ago, we were anticipating an explosive offense that could only improve as young offensive linemen got more experience, Rueben Randle is replaced by Victor Cruz, exciting rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins are added to the fold, and Ben McAdoo is finally unleashed with the departure of Tom Coughlin. At the same time, we were wondering how all the defensive pieces the Giants acquired in free agency and the draft would play together.
With just four weeks left, however, the only word to describe the Giants’ sputtering offense would be “disappointing.” It’s a word even offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan uses.
“It’s been disappointing,” Sullivan said when asked if the offense is where he thought it would be at the bye week. “Everyone wants to know why, why is the offense struggling and why is there no consistency and rather than go through the litany of various reasons and mitigating circumstances, if we had to look at one thing that jumps out, it’s ball security. Right now we’re 28th in the league, we’ve got 21 turnovers and it’s hard to get consistency and get those snaps and score points. It’s hard to … the ball, get the run game going, you name it. If you’re on the sideline without the ball, you can’t do those things. It’s things we’ve addressed. It’s been a combination, whether it’s the fumbles, or the interceptions.
“The most important thing that we have to do, and certainly this week against this team, we’ve got to take care of the football. In terms of not being able to have that consistency, being unable to have the offense that we all want to have and expect to have, that’s really something and when you go back through, as much as coaches, we’re so locked into this week, but if we take a step back and I’m sure in the off season looking at cut ups, it’s really going to jump out how we have a turnover in the first play of the game, or here’s a turnover when we’re in a position to score points. That’s probably the biggest thing when you talk about why we’re not where we want to be, that probably jumps out.”
But at the same time, he also feels that their problems are fixable, that the offense doesn’t have to continue to sputter simply because the Giants have been their own worst enemies.
“The thing that I think it goes back to, first off, it’s cliché but it’s true, the past doesn’t equal the future,” Sullivan said, “Just because we’ve had inconsistencies, the penalties, the turnovers, that doesn’t mean that there’s no magic wand or force field power force that’s going to make that happen on Sunday night. That future is in front of us and that’s where our focus is. I think if we can do the things as far as taking care of the football, if we can do the things where we have an explosive play and get a first down then suddenly a penalty negates it, some of those self-inflicted wounds. I know everyone says that and we certainly give the defense credit for things they’re doing.
“I think we have shown those flashes, we have had those runs, if you will, those drives; the first drive in Chicago, the first drive in Cincinnati, when things are in a good groove. I think it’s just been those turnovers, negative plays and penalties that have shot ourselves in the foot, so to speak. I think from a confidence standpoint, we really believe that we’ve had a great preparation, we had a heck of a practice out there today and being in the elements was a lot of fun. We’re going to build upon the success we had this week and bring that preparation to Sunday night and we know that the future and everything we want is ahead of us and there’s no reason we can’t eliminate those things and be the type of offense we want to be.”
And while defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is “crushed” by the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul, Sullivan might be getting a couple talented players back healthy. Though his coach-speak on what it could mean for the offense was pretty spectacular.
On what Shane Vereen’s return means for the offense ...
“I’m hoping he’s able to return and we’re going to see how that plays itself out. Obviously the things he did before he got injured helped our offense a great deal from a pass game perspective. He also was running the ball quite well. Obviously we have to wait and see where he’s going to be at physically. Hopefully he’s going to be there for us and certainly he could be a weapon that can help us get back to where we need to be.”
On what Justin Pugh could mean for Ereck Flowers ...
“Well you know, continuity is very important, you hit the nail on the head. The communication, the calls, the anticipation and there’s no substitute for having the consistency, having the same guys on your left and on your right. It’s been a challenge for those guys and I think it’s a credit to those who have been given the opportunity that they’ve been able to step up and do some good things. It also helps the development of Ereck Flowers and Weston Richburg to try and get themselves to be able to compensate from a communication standpoint and help whoever is in there to be successful.”
And finally, Sullivan was asked why the Giants haven’t played Victor Cruz in the slot much this season, a position at which he has excelled throughout his career ...
“We try to cross train guys as much as we can and you’ve got a guy like Sterling Shepard who’s done a good job on the inside and has been very productive on the inside. One of the things is that we’ve had these kinds of conversation in terms of how we can kick start things and how we can get more productivity offensively. It’s about trying to move people around, so he’s had some more opportunities recently and we’re constantly looking at that from a match-up standpoint, from a cover standpoint, to try to be able to put those guys in the best position.”