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Giants-Cowboys: 7 things we learned in awful 20-13 loss to Dallas

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Giants fall to 0-2, and right now things don’t look good

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

All those good feelings the New York Giants had throughout the spring and summer are down the drain.

All the talk about Pat Shurmur’s ability to build relationships with players. The talk about how well the Giants worked through the spring and summer. The optimism about their potentially explosive offense. Their rebuilt offensive line. The idea that James Bettcher and his attacking defense were going to dictate terms and make life miserable for opposing offenses.

All gone.

The Giants are 0-2 after Sunday’s disheartening — and brutal for Eli Manning — 20-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. A game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

We have beaten you over the head with the math for days now. Teams that start a season 0-2 in the NFL make the playoffs roughly 11 percent of the time. Thus, the Giants are already staring down the barrel of potentially missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

As I wrote on Sunday morning, that is an eventuality that would call into question everything about the way the Giants approached this season. They are in win-now mode, but so far they aren’t winning.

Let’s look at some of the things we learned.

The offensive line is a disaster

Stunts. Blitzes. Four-man rushes. The Giants offensive line couldn’t handle any of it. The combination of Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers is a hot mess on the right side. Center Jon Halapio left the game with a massive air cast on his right leg and his season probably over.

The big question heading into the season was whether or not the revamped offensive line would be better, or just different than the one the Giants field last season. Right now, the answer isn’t a good one.

The Giants aren’t properly picking up blitzes. They aren’t handling stunts. Eli Manning got sacked 6 times, hit 8 more and was largely reduced to dumping the ball off to Saquon Barkley (14 catches, 16 targets). It hasn’t been that the Giants can’t block. It’s that they can’t seem to figure out who they are supposed to block.

The much-maligned Flowers did fine with his individual blocking. He and Omameh, though, can’t seem to figure out how to pass off stunts — and teams are taking major advantage.

The Giants have emphasized patience with an offensive line that had four new starters and Flowers playing a new position. They are, though, running out of time to figure it out. If, that is, it isn’t already too late.

Manning can still take a hit

His 37-year-old body took far too many of them Sunday night. He won’t last the season taking shots like this:

Manning even ran quarterback sneaks for two fourth-down conversions. The NBC broadcast said he hadn’t run one of those since 2010.

Manning will get destroyed by some for the number of checkdowns he threw. I mean, 16 targets for Saquon Barkley is ridiculous. And yes, while he was running for his life he probably didn’t locate an open receiver or two. Between the pass rush and the way Dallas defended the Giants receivers, though, the checkdown was often all he had.

3-13 here we come?

Toward the end of Sunday night’s loss, Kim Jones of NFL Network tweeted this about the Giants:

Giants fans shouldn’t want to think about that. Through two games, though, the Giants haven’t shown many signs of being very good.

The offensive line has been a sieve. The Giants are averaging 14.0 points per game and haven’t even come close to being able to utilize the talented skill position players they have. Without Olivier Vernon they have no pass rush.

Is another 3-13 season in the cards? Lord, let’s hope not. Right now, though, the Giants haven’t shown much of anything to feel optimistic about.

They can’t defend the read option

When New England backup quarterback Danny Etling took a read option 86 yards for a touchdown you could laugh it off with the thought that the defenders on the field at the time probably weren’t making the team anyway.

Well, no more laughing. The Giants haven’t got a clue how to defend the read option.

Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars took one 41 yards last week.

Sunday night, Dak Prescott ran the play over and over. And found huge patches of daylight nearly every time. He ended up with 7 carries for 45 yards.

The Giants face the Houston Texans next Sunday. That means DeShaun Watson. Think he won’t be salivating when he watches the Giants’ futility against running quarterbacks?

The Giants need a new center

It is hard not to feel awful for Halapio. The guy has bounced from team to team since being a sixth-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2014. He even did two stints in the now-defunct Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) to keep his career alive.

The action he saw with the Giants last season was the first in his NFL career. This season marked the first time he opened an NFL season as a starter. Halapio was carted off Sunday night with a full length air cast covering his right leg. No announcement was made, but his season is almost certainly over.

Who will play center now?

Veteran John Greco took over during the game. Third-year man Stephen Pulley and undrafted free agent rookie Evan Brown have both been inactive the first two games. Pulley started all 16 games at center for the Los Angeles Chargers a year ago. You have to think he might eventually find himself starting for the Giants.

Yes, Odell will return punts

Pat Shurmur said all along that he would consider using Odell Beckham Jr. as a punt returner. In the third quarter that became a reality. With the Giants trailing 13-3 and needing some type of spark, Beckham was called upon. He only netted 3 yards on his only return of the game, but I would think that was a sign of things to come. We will see him there again.

Saquon the security blanket

In the past the complaint most often heard about the Giants’ offense was that it was too Beckham-centric. Well, not Sunday. Saquon Barkley caught an insane 14 passes on 16 targets. He also ran the ball 11 times. He touched the ball on 25 of 68 offensive plays.

Obviously, Barkley is a nice security blanket. The Giants, though, can’t live on checkdowns to Barkley.