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Stats with Pat: Same old, same old for Giants in season opener

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This week’s inaugural column looks at some of the statistical struggles from Week 1 that carried over from 2017

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Welcome to the inaugural “Stats with Pat,” a weekly feature in which I’m going to look at the stats from the previous week’s Giants game and break those down into tiny little details in which I discuss the what’s behind the numbers and their impact on the team going forward.

For this week’s column, I’m have three concerning stats and trends that carried over from last year to Week 1. At the end of each column, I’ll give you a few miscellaneous stats of interest.

As always, feedback is welcomed; if you have questions about anything or are interested in a particular stat, drop me a line in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.

Enjoy!

Evan Engram’s dropsies

For as good as he was last season, tight end Evan Engram recorded 11 dropped passes to his name which, according to Pro Football Focus, led all NFL tight ends (and it wasn’t even close).

If that wasn’t bad enough, Engram was the intended target on four of the interceptions thrown last season by Giants quarterbacks.

So after working on improving his receiving skills all offseason and summer to fix that, what happened?

Engram, who finished with two catches out of five pass targets goes out and drops another pass to start off the 2018 campaign. And were it not for two penalties that nullified a couple of his other pass targets, including an iffy offensive pass interference called against the tight end, Engram very narrowly avoided being charged with two other dropped passes.

This issue with Engram appears to have followed him from his college days. In Engram’s 2016 NFL Draft profile, Lance Zierlein noted of Engram that he “allows defender to work through him and disrupt the catch” and that he “has had issues with drops and contested catches.”

Just based off the film, it appears that Engram might take his eye off the ball just a split second, failing to look it all the way in.

This unfortunately is a common mistake a lot of young receivers make—they think they have the ball and begin to look for escape routes before ensuring that they do indeed have the ball.

The only way to correct this is to go against live competition, which Engram does in practice. He needs to be a little more patient out there and realize that a gain of 5 yards is just as good as a longer gain if it means moving the chains.

Third down

The Giants picked up where they left off last year in third down conversions, converting just 31 percent of their attempts (4-of-13) last week.

Last season, the Giants managed to convert just 74 out of 227 third down attempts (32.5 percent). Of their 227 third-down attempts, 157 were of the long yardage (5 or more yards) variety. And of those 157 third-and-long situations, they converted just 32 (20.3 percent).

The reasons for the Giants third and long issues, at least this week, are partially because of penalties (see their opening drive in which Ereck Flowers committed two penalties on successive plays) and partially due to there being a play for zero or negative yardage preceding the third-and-long.

The bottom line is the Giants need to be crisper on offense as right now this unit has yet to prove they’re good enough to overcome the mistakes they’re making—mistakes that you can argue go back to the preseason when the first=team offense had its share of struggles scoring as well.

Drive-stalling Penalties

Speaking of struggling to score, is there anything worse than watching your team’s offense incur a drive-stalling penalty?

Probably not if you consider these annoying yellow flags not just set a team back in terms of yards, they also disrupt the flow of the offense.

What’s more, most of the times the penalties that a team incurs come down to a breakdown in a player’s fundamentals.

For example, offensive holding is usually a result of a player whose opponent has defeated him literally grabbing on for dear life.

The player’s hands somehow ride outside the opponents frame work, often a look that resembles a bear hug, and the players hope that the officials either don’t see it or decide it’s not blatant enough to warrant throwing a flag.

A good example of that is Ereck Flowers. According to NFLPenalties.com., Flowers was tied for third last year in offensive holding penalties (5). But more on Flowers in a moment.

In 2017, the Giants were flagged 107 times; of those, 32 penalties resulted in a stalled scoring drive (29.9 percent). That might not sound like a lot but given that the Giants struggled to score points last year, any drive-killing penalty is one too many.

This year, the Giants picked up where they left off. They were called for six penalties Sunday. Out of those six, five were called against members of the offense and all five of those penalties contributed to stalling a drive.

On the two penalties by Flowers, the Giants were lucky that the Jaguars weren’t awarded a safety given how close to the Giants end zone the penalties occurred.

This and that

Quarterback Eli Manning completed 62.1 percent of his pass attempts Sunday, a mark that is better than his career 60.7 percent completion percentage rate.

The bad news is this marks the second year in a row that Manning hasn’t tossed a touchdown pass in the regular-season opener and it is the third straight Week 1 game in which Manning has thrown at least one interception. The Giants are 14-25 in games in which Manning doesn’t throw a touchdown pass.

Running Back Saquon Barkley was one of four halfbacks this week to rush for 100+ yards, joining James Conner (Steelers), Todd Burley (Rams), and Isaiah Crowell (Jets).

Of the four runners, Barkley finished with the second-best yards-after-contact per attempt average (5.28) behind Crowell’s 9.80.

Inside linebacker B.J. Goodson had a solid showing in coverage Sunday. In 12 coverage snaps, he allowed just one out of three pass targets to be completed for 11 yards, 14 after the catch for a 45.1 NFL rating, the best of the Giants three inside linebackers (Ray-Ray Armstrong and Alec Ogletree).

The Giants averaged 1.3 yards on punt returns Sunday. That makes two regular-season openers in a row that the Giants have failed to average more than 2.0 yards on punt returns.

A team’s probably not going to win many games if it can’t win the field position battle, which the Giants failed to do Sunday.