ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Coach Ben McAdoo was steaming after the New York Giants’ awful performance in a 21-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday in a preseason game at New Era Field.
“We worked too hard to put a performance like that on film,” is what McAdoo said his message to the team was. “They were more physical than we were, that was obvious. We need to take a long look in the mirror and bounce back this week.”
McAdoo preaches ball security, poise, discipline, being smart and playing physical. He had lots of reasons to be unhappy.
- The Giants went 8-of-25 passing the ball.
- They ran the ball eight times for 10 yards in the first half.
- They ran 47 plays to the Bills’ 75.
- They committed 10 penalties for 70 yards.
- They got only seven first downs.
“What we practice needs to show up on games days, and it hasn’t been,” McAdoo said. “We’ve been sloppy with penalties, haven’t been taking care of the ball very well and we had opportunities in practice to develop our physicality. From an offensive perspective it wasn’t there tonight.”
The biggest problem, though, and the root cause of most of the ugly numbers above, is that through two games the Giants’ offensive line has been a sieve.
Eli Manning played four series, well into the second quarter. The Giants generated 48 yards, one first down and — obviously — no points while he was in the game. The first-team offensive line -- Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Bobby Hart at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, John Jerry at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle, was intact most of the first half.
“The first string offense wasn’t very good, to put it politely,” McAdoo said. “We had a lot of free runners at the point of attack and they took it to us.
“They played longer into the game because they didn’t move the ball.”
Let’s look at some of the issues.
- The Giants tried, and tried, and tried to prove that they could run the ball behind Jerry and Newhouse. They also tried to prove they could run with fullback Nikita Whitlock on the bench, Will Johnson injured and Larry Donnell as a lead blocker. Chris swears Donnell whiffed on at least four blocks. I have to watch the film to verify that. The result? Eight rushes for 10 yards in the first half.
- The Giants continue to try and prove that Flowers is a starting-caliber left tackle. He continues to make you wonder, though you really want to believe. The 2015 first-round pick committed two holding penalties and got beaten for a sack of Manning.
- Richburg committed a holding penalty.
- On a sack/fumble of Ryan Nassib in the second half, McAdoo said the rookie running back Paul Perkins missed a blitz pickup that led to the turnover.
- The second and third offensive lines were awful. The Giants tried several combinations. Brett Jones, Dillon Farrell and Shane McDermott all played center in the second half. Hart played some right tackle. Jones also played some guard, as did McDermott. Emmett Cleary played right guard and right tackle. Nassib was sacked twice and running for his life quite a bit. There were no holes to run in, except for Bobby Rainey’s 67-yard jaunt.
“It’s just a sign that we’ve gotta get back to work,” Newhouse said. “There’s gotta be a fire to improve and come out and play football and compete.
“I think today was definitely not what we wanted out there. It wasn’t perfect. We’ll look at it, we’ll watch the tape and we’ll get back to work. That’s all you can really do.”
Newhouse said he believes the offensive line is “better than that.”
“We have a lot of talented guys, a lot of hard-working guys, who are going to put their nose to the grindstone and get it turned the right way,” Newhouse said. “There are games like today that you never want to put on film. That’s just the bottom line.”
Granted, the Giants played without Justin Pugh (shoulder). That, however, gave them an opportunity to get a long look at Hart, the 2015 seventh-round pick, at both guard and tackle.
“Just overall just not good,” Hart said of the team performance. “That’s what the preseason is for. You get to watch it, accept it, learn from it, move on.
“It’s not the end of the world.”
What now for the offensive line?
Hart might or might not be able to help the Giants as a starter at right tackle. The Giants don’t seem inclined to move him into the starting lineup.
I have said for months now that the starting right tackle might not be on the roster today, and the more I watch the more I think that is possible. Many of the roster projections I have done have left space for a veteran reserve lineman to be added from another team. After two preseason games, I’m more convinced than ever that the Giants desperately need to scan the waiver wire for help when teams begin making roster cuts after next week’s third exhibition game.
Right now, the offensive line is sabotaging the preseason. It is making it virtually impossible for the Giants to run enough plays to give their stable of running backs opportunities to compete for roster spots. It is making it impossible for the young wide receivers to get enough snaps or targets to show what they can do. It is putting the defense in difficult situations with consistently short fields.
If the Giants can’t find a way to fix that line, internally or externally, it could end up being the Achilles heel that sabotages the entire season.