Eyes were on New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett before the first regular-season ball was snapped.
His offense finished 31st in the league last season in yards per game with 299.6 yards and 280 points scored. Through three games this season, the Giants offense is 18th in yards per game with 350.3, but in the bottom 10 in points scored with 56. While the offense is on track to be more productive than last season, a similar problem remains as the Giants enter their Week 4 matchup against the New Orleans Saints with an 0-3 record: The offense cannot score points.
While the pressure is certainly on, Garrett told the media Thursday that he tries not to think about it.
“We’ve just got to get better,” Garrett said. “We come in and we work hard to try to do that as coaches and as players every day. Had a good day yesterday, got to come back and have a good day today.”
The lack of points scored is a direct result of being unable to capitalize on trips to the red zone. In each of the three games this season, the Giants have converted just one of three red zone opportunities.
“Got to get down there more,” Garrett said. “Then we’ve got to convert. Some of that is self-inflicted wounds. Last week, we had a good opening drive. We had the sack on the play that put us behind the sticks on that first drive – hard to dig out of that 11-yard sack. Then, we had the fumbled exchange on the next drive when we were down there. The third time we were down there, we scored the touchdown. We certainly want to evaluate every aspect of what we’re doing running it, throwing it and in all situations. We’ve got to do a better job scoring points.”
Garrett said that he thinks the offense has done a good job at being “balanced” over the first three weeks of games. But New York has had more success passing the ball, recording 782 passing yards through three weeks versus 323 rushing yards.
“You try to attack different ways,” Garrett said. “Run and pass is where it starts. I think we’ve done a pretty decent job being balanced over the first few weeks. We’ve been able to move the ball. Situationally, we’ve done a pretty good job except for the red zone. At the end of the game, the two-minute wasn’t as good as it needed to be, but some of the other stuff was better – third down, short yardage, goal line. Those were positives.”
Balanced or not, the yardage is not translating into points. The Giants may have more passing yards on the season, but they are lacking explosive plays. New York has seven receiving plays of 20 yards or more but only one receiving play of 40-plus yards.
“Scoring from out certainly helps and making some big chunks helps,” Garrett said. “If you look at the stats in the NFL – the scoring, the relationship between scoring on a drive when you’ve made a big play and you haven’t made a big play, there’s a significant spread there. We’ve made some big chunks.”
One of the reasons the Giants signed wide receiver Kenny Golladay in free agency was to try to generate more explosive plays. But Golladay is not on the field as much as expected, only playing 69% of offensive stats in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons. His longest receiving play on the season is 19 yards.
“I thought Kenny did a good job in the game the other day,” Garrett said. “Didn’t really practice all week and then went out and played well and made some plays. They were playing out of there a little bit, so he caught some intermediate balls, made some good catches, and then made some good runs after the catch. He’ll continue to get closer and closer and continue to get better. He’s done a good job with the opportunities he’s gotten.”
First-round draft pick Kadarius Toney is another player that fans want to see more of on the field. After seeing 8% of offensive snaps in Week 1, 28% in Week 2, Toney saw a big jump in game action in Week 3 with 66% of offensive snaps.
“I think the biggest thing with him is that he missed a lot of time both in the spring and in training camp,” Garrett said. “Over the last few weeks, he’s been able to practice more. We want to play him. We drafted him in the first round, we want him to do well. I think he’s done a good job with the work in practice. He was going to play a lot in the game last week. Obviously, when (Wide Receiver Sterling) Shep (Shepard) goes down and (Wide Receiver Darius) Slay (Slayton) goes down he was going to play more and I thought he handled that work really, really well. He’s gotten better and better every day and every week.”
And then as far as the rushing game, Saquon Barkley has not been particularly dominant in his return from his ACL injury. He explodes for a handful of chunk plays but then often fails to convert in short-yardage situations. His rushing total on the season is 134 yards ad he averages 3.4 yards per carry.
“Saquon Barkley is a hell of a football player and he’s a hell of a football player for lot of different reasons,” Garrett said. “He can attack the defense a lot of different ways. I have tremendous admiration for him, from afar competing against him and then having a chance to be around him. He had a really significant injury last year and how hard he’s worked to come back and play, and play as much as he has early on in the season, has been really, really impressive.
“I think the biggest thing with Saqoun, is you don’t want to take the Saqoun out of Saquon. We talk a lot about dirty runs, four and five-yard runs that nobody talks about, but they’ll put you in a manageable second-down and third-down situation. He did that in the game the other day – there were a lot of three, four, five, six, seven-yard runs that nobody talks about that were positive runs. But in an effort to do that, you never want to take away his ability to make big plays. The space plays that he makes are dynamic, he’s done that ever since he’s been in the league. We were on the other side of it in Dallas, he made some of those against us, so we know the challenges that that presents. Absolutely we want to be physical, we want to be downhill, he’s a part of that, but at the same time you don’t want to take Saquon out of Saquon.”
The injuries to the Giants’ offensive line have not made thing easier. Ben Bredeson, who the Giants acquired recently from the Baltimore Ravens, has the potential to be sidelined this week with a hand injury. If he cannot play, the Giants would be forced to field their fourth different left guard in four games.
Garrett said that he remains impressed with the offensive line’s resiliency.
“Billy Price comes in, he’s the seasoned veteran, he’s been here for about three weeks,” Garrett said. “Bredeson has come in here, he’s played a lot of snaps. We’ll have some new guys in there. Give (Offensive Line Coach) Rob Sale and the guys on the offensive line a lot of credit, but give those players credit. They’ve come in here, they’ve learned, they’ve spent a lot of extra time. They’re working hard in practice and they’re carrying that to the game. They’re real professionals and we’re excited to have them on our team.”