We are entering a new era of New York Giants football.
In firing Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese on Monday, John Mara and Steve Tisch threw the franchise far outside of its comfort zone. It was a move, or combination of moves, which has never happened in the Giants’ 92 years of existence.
But while the future of the franchise is now anything but certain — or least its direction — right now the Giants have to get ready to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
That means getting the offense ready without the man who created the scheme.
By the numbers
Rushing Yards - 89.1 (27th)
Passing Yards - 204.2 (22nd)
Total Yards - 293.3 (28th)
Points - 15.8 (31st)
Rushing Yards - 107.8 (12th)
Passing Yards - 234.8 (21st)
Total Yards - 342.6 (21st)
Points - 23.7 (20th)
What will the offense look like?
This is the first question we have to answer before we look at anything else.
It is unrealistic for anyone to assume, or even hope, that the offense will suddenly be transmogrified into something new and different with the departure of McAdoo. The system that he installed back in 2014 will still be in place for the simple fact that it is beyond absurd to try and install a whole new NFL offense in the span of an in-season week of practice.
The Giants’ offense will still be based on the “West Coast” system that McAdoo installed because that is the system pretty much all of the players know. Sure, Eli Manning and Mike Sullivan could work together to run the offense they both learned from Kevin Gilbride, but the only other Giant who would have a clue is Justin Pugh.
However, this will be the first time we’ve seen that system without its architect.
We already saw some changes in the offense when McAdoo passed play-calling duties to Mike Sullivan. We saw a greater reliance on the run and more variation in formations from previous years. However, it was still easy to see McAdoo’s fingerprints on the game plan when things got tight. When the offense was under pressure, we once again saw the reliance on “11” personnel packages in the shotgun formation, even when that didn’t get the best players on the field.
But this week we’ll see the offense as game-planned by Mike Sullivan, likely with heavy input from Manning.
Will the offense be more up-tempo, a la the break-neck pace with which they played against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3? (Is that even possible with their injuries?) Will we see more involvement with the tight ends, particularly after Evan Engram’s seven-catch, 99-yard, 1 TD day against the Oakland Raiders? Will we see more fluidity in formations and alignments?
Start 211* for Eli Manning
Yes, a bit of tongue in cheek with the heading — though I don’t think we could be criticized for taking a mulligan and continuing Eli’s streak. After all, it was a product of his ability to be healthy, prepared, and the best option to start on a week-in week-out basis, and he was all of those things in LA.
But on to this week.
Manning is the Giants’ starting quarterback, and I’ve already seen both praise and criticism of the idea (so, things are back to normal in Giants-land).
Starting Manning puts the ultimate calming influence back at the helm. This week has been historically turbulent for the Giants. Outside of the rookies, it is hard to think of many players who would be of sure of their future with the franchise. Starting Manning is probably the easiest, and most effective, way to put the ship back on an even keel.
As far as this week is concerned, starting Manning sends the clear message that the Giants’ new regime isn’t “tanking.” Instead, the Giants are focused on beating the Dallas Cowboys. Manning gives them the best chance to do that.
Also, while we don’t know the answer to the first question, as the player who has been in the offense the longest (even longer than the offensive coordinator), Manning has to have a major role in crafting the game plan — it only makes sense for him to be the starting QB.
Given Manning’s history and aggressiveness, it feels likely that we will see a more vertical attack than we have seen recently. That does play against one of Dallas’ weaknesses. Their pass defense has only been middle of the pack on the year (21st overall), but recently they have fielded the worst pass defense in the NFL. Over the last three weeks, they have allowed 275 yards per game through the air, 32nd in the league.
Protect the Manning!
And herein lies the rub. Manning can dissect the defense well and he moves better in the pocket than he is given credit for. However, none of that matters if he doesn’t have a pocket in which to move, or the time to find open receivers.
This is doubly important with Cowboys’ defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a big game against Washington. This past week (Thursday) he finished with four tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble, and was named Stephen White’s “Hoss Of The Week”
But when it comes to protecting Manning, we have yet another question: What will the right side of the OL look like? Rookie RT Chad Wheeler is still in the concussion protocol, and Bobby Hart doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. However, Justin Pugh appears to be on the mend and was seen participating in practice Wednesday. How he responds will tell us a lot, but it would be a boon to have him back. The other question mark is at right guard. Jon Halapio has filled in after D.J. Fluker was lost for the year, but the Giants also signed veteran guard John Greco. Greco has a history as a powerful run blocker, and if he is up to speed on the blocking scheme, he could be inserted into the line-up. Without Fluker in the Giants’ line, their rushing attack falls from a respectable average of 110 yards per game, to a putrid 59 yards per game — dead last by nearly 20 yards.
Manning has always flourished with a viable running game and the threat of the play-action pass. If the Giants are signalling that they are indeed playing to win the game, it would make sense to insert Greco if he is healthy.