If there is one positive to the Giants’ road trip, it is that their offensive production is trending upward, with Eli Manning playing great football. They may have found something like answers on their running game and offensive line with Wayne Gallman and D.J. Fluker.
In a stat you will hear repeated an uncountable number of times by the end of the week, Eli Manning has never beaten the team that drafted him, nor have the Giants beaten the quarterback they actually drafted in 2004.
Will the Giants get their first win and change all that this week? Let’s take a look at the offensive side of things.
By The Numbers
Rushing Yards - 59.2 yards per game (31st)
Passing Yards - 265.0 (7th)
Total Yards - 324.2 (19th)
Points - 15.0 (30th)
Rushing Yards - 163.5 (31st)
Passing Yards - 192.0 (6th)
Total Yards - 355.5 (23rd)
Points - 23.2 (23rd)
What Will The Offensive Line Look Like?
Like pretty much everything regarding the Giants’ offense, looking at this match-up starts up front. The first question we need to answer is what the offensive line will look like.
Somewhat amazingly, it looks as though the only sure thing about the Giants’ offensive line this week is that Ereck Flowers will be starting at left tackle. The uncertainty begins, however, immediately to his right. Last week John Jerry filled in at left guard for a banged-up Brett Jones, who was filling in for Justin Pugh, who had moved to cover for an injured Bobby Hart.
Hart was taken off the Giants’ injury report before the game last week, but wasn’t on the active roster. We don’t know if the travel to Tampa caused a setback or if the Giants are just being cautious with the young tackle and wanted to give him another week to heal.
With Jerry moving to left guard, free agent addition D.J. Fluker stepped in at right guard, and largely played well against Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers. His pass protection was solid (barring one play where McCoy did McCoy things and quickly beat him), and the Giants actually found running room behind him. We’ll see this week if his performance was enough to earn another start, even if Jerry is no longer needed at the left guard spot.
That brings us to the right tackle position. Pugh has been playing remarkably well at right tackle despite training and practicing almost exclusively at left guard for the last two years. However, if Hart is ready to play again, Pugh will likely be moved back to his natural position of left guard. That, of course, will impact the roles of Jerry and Fluker. There are questions, however, about Hart’s ability to stay on the outside and we just don’t know who he is as a player right now. He had a fantastic preseason, not allowing a pressure through four games. But, he was injured on the fifth or sixth play of the first game of the season, and had a terrible game playing through the injury. Was his play coming in to the season a preseason mirage? Or has he really taken the leap as a player and was hobbled by his injured ankle?
There’s only one way to find out.
Finally, we come to the center position. Weston Richburg left last week’s game with a concussion and his status is, as of this writing, currently unknown. Concussions are tricky things, and returning too fast can quickly lead to another, worse, concussion and potential lasting damage.
Back-up center Brett Jones played reasonably well in relief, but he was initially scratched from the starting line-up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to a hip injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stepping back, it’s somewhat amazing (and ironic) that the one player that fans wanted off the offensive line most, Ereck Flowers, is the one constant. But the Giants need to figure out their answers quickly. They faces a stiff test in the dynamic pass rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. The pair have a combined 8 sacks in four games — 5.5 for Ingram, who was the AFC Defensive Player of The Month, and 2.5 for Bosa — and have the ability to wreck an offensive gameplan with power and athleticism.
The Giants’ first-round pick’s career has gotten off to a good start.
Actually, that’s an understatement. Engram has gotten off to a historically good start for a tight end.
Right now, Engram is second in the NFC among tight ends in targets, third in receptions, second in yards (fifth overall), and fifth in touchdowns. That isn’t his rank among rookies, but among ALL tight ends. Since the year 2000, he is first among rookie tight ends in targets and receptions, and third in yards.
What’s more is that his role in the offense is growing. He saw five targets in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, seven targets each against the Detroit Lions and Eagles, and eight targets against the Buccaneers. Engram’s incredible athleticism lets him line up in any spot on the offense and he is quickly becoming the versatile nightmare mismatch the Giants envisioned when drafting him.
That’s important this week because the Chargers struggle even more to cover tight ends than do the Giants. Per Football Outsiders, while the Giants rank 20th in the league covering tight ends, the Chargers rank 30th.
Per NFL Savant, the middle and left of the Chargers’ defense is remarkably open on second and third downs, generally allowing more than 80 percent of passes to be completed. Attacking the middle of their defense generally yields roughly 7 yards per attempt, regardless of the down.
Is The Offense Improving?
This is the big question about the Giants’ offense: Are they actually improving?
The broke their streak of consecutive games without scoring 20 points, scoring 24 and 23 against the Eagles and Buccaneers, respectively. However, they defenses they were playing were missing some of their best and most important players.
The offense still has yet to score in the first quarter of any game, barely scoring at all in first halves. Those opening drives are typically scripted and supposed to be when playbooks are wide open and the offense at its best.
The Giants are 0-4 for a reason. They have problems all over the roster, on offense and defense. They now have questions regarding their coaching staff and front office. But so do the Chargers. They have given up an average of 8 points per first quarter and 12.5 in first halves, and have a run defense that is as bad as the Giants’ running offense. If the Giants want to show that their offense is actually moving in the right direction, they need to show it against the Chargers.