Their offense has underperformed, which is a big reason why they are 0-3. However, the Giants’ defensive regression is, in many ways, more shocking. They have the talent and the coaching to be a top defense in the league.
What do they need to do this weekend to start moving in that direction?
By The Numbers
Rushing Yards - 71.5 yards per game (26th)
Passing Yards - 255.0 (9th)
Total Yards - 326.5 (14th)
Points - 23.0 (14th)
Rushing Yards - 153.3 yards per game (32nd)
Passing Yards - 181.0 (6th)
Total Yards - 334.3 (16th)
Points - 23.3 (23rd)
Play With Discipline
The Giants’ defense has taken a major step back this season. They hope to get an integral piece back this week in middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, who lines up and calls their aggressive and intricate defense. Goodson is also STILL second on the defense with 18 tackles, despite missing two of the team’s three games.
The bigger part of their struggles, particularly against the run, has been related to an over-aggressiveness by individual players and a lack of discipline overall.
Landon Collins, the Giants’ star safety commented on it after last Sunday’s game, saying:
"I think everybody is just trying to make a play. And you've gotta make a play within our defense. We've just got to uphold and do "our" job. Once we do our job everything is going to fall together."
The Buccaneers don’t have much of a running game — their 71.5 yards per game average is still far superior to the Giants’ average, but that’s more of an indictment of the Giants’ offense — and the Giants have the personnel to clamp down on running games. They just need to play within the defense and, as Collins puts it, do their jobs.
The Giants have been solid in pass defense, giving up an average of less than 200 yards through the air. With the weapons that the Tampa passing game has, they will need to be on point. Mike Evans is a physical monster and the Giants know well how dangerous DeSean Jackson can be.
However, it all starts up front for the Giants’ defense. That’s why they signed Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison to big contracts, and drafted Dalvin Tomlinson in the second round. They need the back seven to play with poise and discipline to back them up.
Defend The Deep Pass
In some ways Jameis Winston is a lot like Eli Manning. Okay, maybe Winston is far more charismatic and gregarious than Manning is (in public anyway, his reputation as a world-class prankster in-building remains), but as quarterbacks they share a number of traits. Not the least of which is a propensity to throw the ball to the guys wearing the wrong colored jersey.
Tampa did the right thing over the 2017 off-season and brought in players to help build around their young franchise quarterback. They drafted tight end O.J. Howard and signed speedster (and perennial gluteal pain for the Giants) DeSean Jackson. The combination of Jackson and Mike Evans (another star receiver from the 2014 draft class) was expected to open up a world of possibilities for Winston down the field.
He has, thus far had mixed results. The team’s first game he was spectacular and efficient. Last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings saw him throw three interceptions on deep passes.
The Giants’ offense finally capitalized on an opportunity gifted them by their defense when Odell Beckham scored his second touchdown after a Landon Collins forced fumble. Like Eli Manning, Winston will not hesitate to trust his arm — and his receiver — to take the chance to make a big play. But unfortunately for both quarterbacks, those are also opportunities for defenses to make plays.
The Giants need to take advantage if they have the opportunity.
Keep O.J. Howard Quiet
It is absolutely no secret that the tight end position is the Giants’ nemesis. A big part of that, historically speaking, is the Hall of Fame greatness of Jason Witten — but Witten aside, the Giants have struggled to cover tight ends since they have emerged as mismatch weapons in the modern NFL offense.
Many Giants’ fans had their hearts set on Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the draft. His combination of size and athleticism lead many to call him the top tight end in the draft and he was eventually predicted to be a top-10 pick. He ultimately fell to 19th overall, where the Buccaneers drafted him. He has been quiet as a receiver thus far this season, catching just two passes for 23 yards in Tampa’s first two games.
If the Giants can rediscover the discipline that lead them to being among the league’s very best in both locking down the run and defending wide receivers, the ball might naturally find its way to Howard. In that case, the Giants need to remember that while he has been quiet, and was never much of a factor in Alabama’s passing game, Howard is big and very athletic. They will need to be aware of him and make sure he doesn’t jump-start his rookie season against them.
The Giants will also have to be aware of fellow tight end Cameron Brate, but they will likely see more of Howard -- he has had the lion’s share of the snaps through the first two games.