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Instant analysis: It’s getting late early for the Giants

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Are they really as bad as they have looked the first two weeks? It’s hard to argue otherwise

Buffalo Bills v New York Giants
Cody Core after making a catch on Sunday.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Rinse. Repeat.

The same issues we in the New York Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys were front and center once again on Sunday as the Giants lost to the Buffalo Bills, 28-14.

Bad defense. Check.

After the Giants took a 7-0 lead the Bills scored touchdowns the next three times they touched the ball — on drives of 75, 70 and 98 yards. Not to pat myself on the back, but about two plays into it yours truly called the seven-play, 98-yard drive by Buffalo.

To their credit, the Giants did settle down after that and force four straight punts. When they needed stop early in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t get one. With the score 21-14, Buffalo went 84 yards in 13 plays for a back-breaking score.

It looked like the Giants had held Buffalo to a field goal, which still would have made it a two-score game, but Dexter Lawrence was called for unnecessary roughness for apparently hitting the snapper. Two plays later the Bills got a touchdown.

That’s the kind of thing that happens to a bad team.

The Giants did, encouragingly, get three sacks after getting none a week ago. Still, the defense put them in a first-half hole and when they had a chance to climb out couldn’t keep the game close.

Overwhelmed DeAndre Baker. Check.

The rookie cornerback had a rough — really rough — season-opening game against Dallas. Things didn’t get better for Baker vs. the Bills.

I don’t know what the numbers were in terms of times Baker was targeted and how many completions he gave up, but the Bills basically got whatever they wanted when they threw the ball in Baker’s direction.

Baker just looks confused right now. He was drafted as a press corner and yet, too often it seems, he’s been playing in off coverage and giving up non-competitive completions. When he is position to press, he seems to be bailing out and not getting physical with receivers.

“You’ve just got to have short-term memory,” said Baker. “Play the next play.”

Baker’s been targeted far more than he was used to at Georgia as teams test the rookie.

“I just look at it an opportunity to make a play,” Baker said.

So far, he hasn’t made any.

He will eventually, and will likely have a nice NFL career. Right now, though, he’s a lot like his team. He has a long way to go to get where he needs to be.

Not good enough on offense. Check.

For the second straight week the Giants put together an inspiring, touchdown-producing opening drive. They went 75 yards in five plays, all runs. They got 55 yards on four carries from Saquon Barkley and a 20-yard run on a jet sweep from Bennie Fowler.

After that, three straight drives that netted them a total of 16 yards and one first down.

They got nothing out of a 14-play, 57-yard drive that could have helped change momentum. First, Bennie Fowler had a pass from Eli Manning that would have set them up with first-and-goal knocked out of his hands on a third down. Then, Pro Bowl kicker Aldrick Rosas missed a 48-yard field goal.

A T.J. Jones 60-yard punt return gave them another chance late in the half, but Eli Manning was picked off on a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage.

Again, the kind of things that happen to bad teams.

The way the Giants’ defense has played the Giants need to play pretty much perfect offense to have chances to win games. Quite obviously, they have not been able to do that. And, probably are not going to be able to do that.

“On that [first] drive, we had great first and second down production. We ran the ball well, obviously. After that, we just didn’t do as well on our first and second down stuff. We didn’t convert on third downs. We got into some third and longs,” said quarterback Eli Manning. “They did a good job of batting balls, just causing us to not get positive yards early in the downs. They got us into some third downs. I thought we had a couple of good drives. With the two drives before half, not scoring hurt us. They’re a good defense. They don’t give up many big plays. It was one of those, you have to take advantage of it when you have good field position and get into those scoring opportunities. We had a chance on a third down. The safety made a good play hitting Bennie (Fowler). We had a batted ball intercepted, which hurts when you’re in scoring position.”

Right now, the Giants look like a bad team

I still believe there has been progress in beefing up parts of the roster. The offensive line is markedly improved. There is young talent to be excited about on the defensive side of the ball, despite the results of the first two weeks.

Defensively, the Giants are quite obviously going to go through some growing pains here. Offensively, Manning is just not going to elevate the talent around him. He can utilize what he has, but he’s not going to carry an offense. With Golden Tate suspended and Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton out of action, the Giants just don’t really have play makers beyond Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram who get open or make plays often enough.

I still believe there is reason to think this team can show progress by the end of the season. As Yogi Berra might say, though, it’s getting late early out there.

The Giants have games coming up the next two weeks at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and back home in Week 4 against Landon Collins and the Washington Redskins. Those are winnable games and if the Giants are able to pull them out they would be 2-2 after the first quarter of the season. To be honest, at the beginning of the season I think most would have figured 2-2 after four games would be acceptable for the Giants.

“Well, we have to go win a game in Tampa, that’s the message,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “That’s just how you have to roll this thing out. Just go play.”

If you’re not optimistic about the Giants’ chances to right the ship over the next two weeks, though, that’s not hard to understand.

A brief thought on Daniel Jones

There are, of course, Giants fans who think Jones should already be playing. Let’s acknowledge that. I’m not here to argue about whether that is right or wrong. Let’s talk, though, about how this might play out should the losses continue to pile up.

First, Jones is not starting next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Asked Sunday afternoon when Jones might play he said “I don’t think that’s a conversation for right now.” That doesn’t sound like a coach contemplating a quarterback change.

Manning, to my eye, hasn’t been awful through two games. He just hasn’t made the kind of plays that elevate a team. Josh Allen made a few of those on Sunday, especially throwing on the run.

If I had to guess, Manning gets the next two games. After that, the Giants will be facing quality teams in the Minnesota Vikings (at home) and the New England Patriots (on the road). Facing those teams might not be the way for Jones to begin his career as a starting quarterback?

Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals? That begins a stretch of four games that includes the Detroit Lions, Cowboys and New York Jets. That might be the window where the Giants think seriously about turning the reins over to the kid and officially turning their focus to the future.

Reality is that if the Giants keep losing games they are going to run out of reasons for Jones not to play. No matter how Manning is performing, at some point the only prudent thing for the Giants to do will be to play the rookie.

When they come to that conclusion will be anybody’s guess.