Following a big upset victory over the Las Vegas Raiders at MetLife Stadium - a victory that electrified a home crowd and suggested that the New York Giants may in fact be showing signs of life - the Giants had a bye week.
Following the high of the 23-16 win that improved their record to 3-6, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and the rest of the Giants coaching staff were forced to reset and regroup for the second half of the season. With the extra week, Garrett said that he took advantage of the gained time to evaluate his offense.
“We’ve got a lot of people who can help us in that regard, so you get that analysis really every week about what you’ve been doing, what’s been good, what’s not been good,” Garrett said. “But when you get a few days during the bye, you get a chance to maybe do that a tick more thoroughly.
“It’s a good time for all of us to sit back and reflect a little bit and decide how we want to use guys, some of the different things we want to do in the run and pass game in the different situations that come up.”
The bye week also allows time to consider the balance that must be achieved between directing focus to stopping major defensive threats and utilizing explosive plays to help get on the scoreboard.
“The best teams do what they do and the units on the other side have to defend them,” Garrett said. “I think it’s rare that you can just simply do that week in and week out in this league. Typically, players on the other side are guys who can wreck the game, so you have to be mindful of those guys and what those matchups are. The better you get, the more you dictate and that’s the goal that you certainly want to have.”
On the injuries to various offensive players
The Giants offense has been no stranger to injuries in the first half of the 2021 season as every starting wide receiver has missed at least some playing time.
Perhaps the knee injury to pass catcher Kenny Golladay has been the most frustrating though as he was one of the Giants’ biggest free-agent signings this past offseason and he signed a four-year, $72 million contract. The former Detroit Lion missed three weeks following the team’s Week 5 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and did not return to the field until Week 9.
“We were excited to bring him here and obviously he missed a lot of time in training camp, and he’s missed time throughout the season, but his approach is outstanding,” Garrett said. “He’s always working hard to get himself back and when he has an opportunity to practice, he practices hard and when he’s been healthy, he’s played really well for us and made a big impact.”
Garrett has noticed the ways in which the injury bug has instilled a next-man-up mentality in the offense as a whole.
“I think the approach that our guys have taken in terms of being ready, different guys have played at all different spots all year long and those players are ready,” Garrett said. “They’re embracing their opportunity and the guys who haven’t been able to play on a consistent basis are doing everything they can to play. It’s fun to get them all back and hopefully we’ll get more and more healthy as a group as we go forward. I think when we do, I think those combinations of guys give us a good chance to have some success on offense.”
On the running backs - Barkley and Booker
Saquon Barkley is another explosive offensive player who has spent a majority of the season on the sidelines. Barkley has not played since suffering an ankle injury in Week 5, but he might be nearing a return to the field sooner rather than later.
“In Week 1 he did a good job, he was better in Week 2, better in Week 3, better in Week 4 and obviously he’s had this setback and he’s been out here the last few weeks,” Garrett said. “He’s one of those guys I’m talking about – a pro who loves to play and does everything he can to get himself right.
“I was on the other side of this for a couple of years against him and he’s one of those players that can just really impact a game. There’s a lot of two-yard runs, three-yard runs, four-yard runs, non-descript plays and then it’s a 68-yard touchdown on a screen or somehow he gets outside, breaks a tackle and gets to the edge and he can be impactful.”
In Barkley’s absence, though, Devontae Booker has stepped up with 385 rushing yards on 85 attempts with two touchdowns. Fullback Eli Penny has also provided some depth in the backfield.
“Don’t lose sight of the fact that Book (Booker) has done a really good job when he’s had opportunities,” Garrett said. “When we’ve handed the ball to Eli Penny, those guys have embraced their chances, too. We’re excited about them as well and whoever’s available and healthy, we’ll put them in there and those guys will do a good job for us.”
Moving forward, Garrett may be faced with a good problem: balancing snaps for Barkley and Booker.
“One of the things we love about both those guys is they can really do whatever you ask them to do,” Garrett said. “Our run game’s going to be a collaboration of what we feel good about upfront, on the edges, against the team and the front we’re going against. We can ask Book to do anything. We can ask Saquon to do anything and they’ll embrace it and they’re physically capable of doing it.”
On capitalizing on red zone chances
While the Giants offense has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, it needs to continue to take advantage of red zone opportunities in order to be successful. Through 11 weeks of the NFL season, the Giants are ranked last in the league in red zone scoring percentage at 44 percent. Kicker Graham Gano is second in the league with 19 field goals.
“It’s about winning upfront in the running game to have some success in the running game to create some matchups that you like in the passing game, and then just the efficiency down there to be able to throw and catch and make the plays we need to make,” Garrett said. “I do think we’ve made progress over the course of the season. Last week I think we were 0 for 2 in the red zone, but there were kind of third downs that were a little bit out. But I think there’s been a trend upward here the last month. I think we’ve been two out of three scoring touchdowns in the last four games, so that’s better and better and better.”
The Giants will have a challenging test this week when they travel to Tampa Bay to take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. The Bucs have lost two straight games and will likely be playing some of their toughest football on Monday night.
“They’re going to make a Mount Rushmore of football players at some point and the first face they chisel will be that guy’s face,” Garrett said of Brady. “He’s the best that ever walked and he’s a hell of a football player and what he’s done over the last 20 years has been remarkable. To think he’s 44 years old and probably playing the best ball of his career, it’s really amazing. He’s an inspiration to everybody in and out of sports.”