EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants won a preseason football game Saturday night, defeating the New York Jets, 21-20. That’s nice, but not important. The truly important, and concerning, part of the game came in the first 33 minutes.
That’s the time period during which the Giants’ first-team offense was on the field. The Giants had the ball eight times with Eli Manning and the starting offensive line in the game. They amassed 61 yards in 29 plays, got just three first downs and never crossed midfield. With the starting offensive line in the game, albeit with Bobby Hart subbing for Justin Pugh at left guard, the Giants starters gained only 6 yards on 13 rushing attempts.
Coming after coach Ben McAdoo had said he wanted to see the offense “put a better product on the field” after being shut out last week by the Buffalo Bills, this performance has to be a huge concern. The Jets have one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts, but it shouldn’t make the Giants look as inept as they looked Saturday.
McAdoo tried to sound optimistic afterwards.
“The starting offense, it was tough sledding tonight early on. We have some work to do, but we’re confident that we’ll be able to get it fixed,” he said. “We’re seeing some encouraging signs. We feel when we are able to put in a full week of preparation and get into the game plan part of things, we’ll get this thing going in the right direction.”
Thing is, this performance looked an awful lot like what we saw in Buffalo. No push whatsoever from the offensive line in the running game. Little blocking help from the tight ends. Eli Manning taking far too many hits.
“We didn’t do well enough. We didn’t give the quarterback enough time to throw and we didn’t open up enough holes,” said center Weston Richburg. “We have a lot of work to do. But these games are good because they show us what we need to do before the real thing rolls around, so we have another week to get things going in the right direction.”
Pugh, who worked out hard before the game, is unlikely to play before the season opener Sept. 11 against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants could also benefit if they can get H-Back Will Johnson (burner) and tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) back into the fold. Neither played on Saturday, and as of now they are probably the best blocking tight ends the Giants have.
The Giants have little time to fix whatever ails their blocking. They also have few internal options. Hart didn’t have a great night. Reserve offensive lineman Adam Gettis had a pair of false start penalties. There is no real cavalry to come to the rescue.
Roster cuts begin this week, with teams having to trim their rosters to 75 players from the current 90-man limit. That “work to do” that McAdoo referenced had better include scouring the rosters of other teams around the league to find some help.
The Giants’ revamped defense looks outstanding. They have a terrific quarterback and a plethora of weapons for him to get the ball to. Those things, however, won’t be enough if the Giants don’t figure out a way to get somebody blocked.