It is only Week 3, but the New York Giants’ season is on life support.
The defense has played well enough to win through the first two games, giving up just 36 points combined. The offense, on the other hand, has been an absolute mess, scoring a grand total of 13 points in two games.
The Giants are exactly where they hoped to not be, facing their second road game against a division rival without a win. The offense showed some scant signs of life against the Lions, but if the Giants want to have any hope for their season they will need more signs of vitality than mere twitches from that side of the ball.
By The Numbers
Rushing Yards - 48.5 (32nd)
Passing Yards - 203.0 (18th)
Total Yards - 251.5 (28th)
Points - 6.5 (30th)
Rushing Yards - 88.0 (14th)
Passing Yards - 216.0 (16th)
Total Yards - 304.0 (12th)
Points - 22.0 (21st)
A Scheme Change?
Ben McAdoo took the blame for the Giants’ loss against the Detroit Lions, saying “put this game on me,” and added that he would (at least) look at giving up calling the offensive plays if it helped the team.
What the Giants have been doing on offense hasn’t been working, and McAdoo recognized that. The question now becomes “What is he going to do about it?”
Lost in the noise surrounding the Giants offense is that they have addressed some of the problems that plagued them in 2016. The play-calling is more diverse, using much more multiple tight end or running back personnel packages than last year. Using those multiple tight end packages, in fact, might be the best path forward for the offense.
Adding extra big bodies gives the offense more options when it comes to protecting Eli Manning, even simply with chip blocks as tight ends release into their routes. Rhett Ellison was brought to the Giants for his blocking prowess — they should take advantage of that and let him help Ereck Flowers.
Also, after years of the tight end position being the offense’s appendix, it is once again vital and useful in the passing game. The improved talent at the position gives them options for creating athletic mismatches with players like Evan Engram and Jerell Adams — who were on the receiving end of some Manning’s biggest throws against the Lions.
Even when Odell Beckham comes back fully healthy from his ankle injury, the Giants might be best served by having just he and Sterling Shepard taking the bulk of the snaps for the receiver position. Shepard is proving to be Manning’s only reliable wide receiver in Beckham’s absence, and the contrast between two smaller receivers and the big, athletic tight ends (with a relatively immobile quarterback) would nicely approximate New England’s offensive attack.
(Though the Patriots lack a receiver who comes close to a healthy Odell Beckham Jr.)
Only time will we see that kind of fundamental change this Sunday, but if they are truly looking at “everything” it has to be on their radar.
Can The Giants Protect Eli Manning?
While McAdoo took (at least some of) the blame for the Giants’ embarrassing loss to the Lions, he refused to throw meat to the legions of ravening fans hungry for Ereck Flowers’ blood.
In fact, he said that he would “absolutely” be the Giants’ starting left tackle against the Eagles.
And, well ... What choice do they have? Move Justin Pugh to his third position in two weeks and Flowers to a position he has never played? Start an undrafted rookie who isn’t yet strong enough to play in the NFL? Pray for some pipe-dream Madden trade that isn’t going to happen?
The reality is that Flowers is their best, and only, option at left tackle. Now they just have to deal with that.
The Giants have inexplicably left Flowers on an island for most of his career, rarely giving him help regardless of the caliber of pass rusher he has faced. In the second half against Detroit they finally started to regularly scheme him some help from tight ends and running backs. That will have to continue against the Eagle’s dangerous front four. The combination of Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox have 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the first two games.
If the Giants want to have any offensive success in this game, they will have to give Manning some semblance of a reason to be confident in his protection and some time to throw.
As of this writing, the Giants offensive line will likely have the same configuration as the one that finished the game against Detroit. That means that not only will they have to play better as a unit (perhaps having a week of practice together might help), but the coaching staff will need to scheme them some help. We’ve already talked about using tight ends and running backs to help out in the passing game, but they also need to commit to running the ball.
The Giants have just 29 total rushing attempts in their first two games — 11 in the first game, 18 in the second. That is, quite simply, not enough.
Going to the ground game will, at the very least, play to Flowers’ strength as a run blocker while helping to slow down the Eagles’ pass rush and make play-action more effective. But it’s not enough that the Giants just run the ball, they need to give Orleans Darkwa a legitimate chance to prove himself. He has been, by far, their most effective runner every time he has carried the ball. And while injuries have been a problem in the past, he doesn’t seem to be injured now. The Giants like Paul Perkins, but he might be best used as a complementary back.
The Giants have to protect Manning if they want to have any hope of winning, and they have options to do that. But will they take advantage of them?
Can The Giants Play A Clean Game?
There’s a lot of things that fall under this heading.
Manning needs to be sharp and aggressive without misfiring and giving the ball away. The receivers need to run their routes as precisely as possible and catch the ball when it’s thrown to them. The blockers (offensive linemen, tight ends, and running backs) have to at least play their assignments and not miss blocks.
But this is more than that.
Lincoln Financial Field is not kind to the Giants. Weird and bad things tend to happen there — I think the image of Victor Cruz’s (ultimately) career-ending injury on a routine jump ball will forever be seared into my brain.
They say “fortune favors the prepared,” and whoever “they” are, they’re right.
The Giants need to be prepared for random acts of malice by the Football Gods, and to do so they need to handle their business and control what they can control. They need to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves (or when the Giants’ defense creates them), and limit their own mistakes. They have thus far largely failed to do that and their sloppy, undisciplined play is the root cause of many of their offensive problems.
The Giants have yet to show any evidence that they will be able to get that under control, but if they want to get their first win on the season, they will need to.