The New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers will both be trying to avoid the misery of falling to 0-5 Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are five things to watch during the game.
Offensive Line Configuration
Beginning with the third play of their Week 2 game against the Detroit Lions when Bobby Hart exited with an ankle injury, the Giants’ offensive line has been a juggling act. It seems like every time you look out there, a different combination of players is lined up in front of Eli Manning.
What will that combo look like this week? Starting center Weston Richburg is out with a concussion, meaning Brett Jones will play center. Ereck Flowers will be at left tackle — the only original starter who hasn’t either missed time with an injury or been forced to move to a new spot. What about the other three spots?
Here’s my best guess. I think the Giants — minus the Jones for Richburg swap — would like to go back to their original configuration. That means Justin Pugh at left guard, John Jerry back at right guard and Hart returning to the lineup at right tackle. Putting a wrinkle in that, though, we got word Friday that Jerry is questionable to play due to a hamstring injury. If he can’t go, that would likely mean that D.J. Fluker would get another start at right guard. At some point, they have to give Hart an opportunity to show whether his offseason work and impressive preseason can translate into better regular-season play.
So, here is what you are probably looking at from left to right: Flowers-Pugh-Jones-Fluker-Hart.
Dealing With Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram
No matter who plays where on the offensive line for the Giants, the biggest challenge is dealing with San Diego defensive ends Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks) and Joey Bosa (2.5 sacks). As Chris wrote earlier this week, they “have the ability to wreck an offensive game plan with power and athleticism.”
“The tackles have a huge challenge this week, but it’s not just the tackles,” said coach Ben McAdoo. “Whether it’s the tight ends who are helping or the backs who are helping, the guard sliding to them. The quarterback in the pass game has to be tied to it. Everybody has to be on the same page. The tackles do have to play well this week.”
Manning has not been sacked the past two weeks as the Giants have concentrated on short throws and on getting the ball out quickly — especially in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Best guess is we are likely to see more of that approach this Sunday.
Olivier Vernon (ankle) probably should not have played last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did, and couldn’t make it through the game. He hasn’t practiced this week and it seems likely that Vernon will miss the first game of his six-year career on Sunday.
Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) has not practiced this week, either. Pierre-Paul has had weeks like this before and ended up playing on Sunday afternoons. What, though, if he doesn’t? If neither of the bookends the Giants depend on at defensive end is able to play? Rookie Avery Moss (shoulder) is also questionable.
What do the Giants do if none of those players is available?
We might get a look at Cap Capi, just promoted from the practice squad last week. Capi is really an outside linebacker, but can play defensive end in pass-rushing situations.
The Giants have not played at home since a Week 2 loss to the Detroit Lions. The MetLife Stadium boo-birds came out early in that game, beginning to boo the Giants offense almost immediately.
Well, the Giants have neither won a game nor scored a first-quarter point this season. The fans are restless, and you know things could turn ugly quickly on Sunday if the Giants struggle early.
Ben McAdoo, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Co. would be well-advised to find a way to get some points on the board early against the Chargers.
Can Anybody Tackle?
Missed tackles have been a major issue for the Giants’ defense.
“We have to find a way to make sure that we tackle better or the defense won’t change,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said this week.
“I can’t really explain that, man. You got to tackle. We’ve practiced it in practice and I guess that’s something that comes from within. I can’t really tell a guy how to tackle. You’re in the NFL, so you should be able to know how to tackle,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Well, the Chargers can’t tackle, either.
Most missed tackles by team:— Ryan Smith (@PFF_Smith) October 2, 2017
1. Chargers: 49
2. Titans: 43
3. Jets: 40
4. Eagles: 40
5. Steelers: 39
6. Giants: 37
Perhaps that single stat right there tells you a lot about why both teams are winless entering Sunday’s game.