The New York Giants offense is broken. The question is, why?
What the Giants were in 2022
A conservative, at times plodding, offense. They leaned into the running ability of Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. They were last in the league in explosive plays, but countered that by being No. 2 in the league with only 16 giveaways.
Jones threw only five interceptions all season, and his interception percentage of 1.1 was a league-best.
The Giants succeeded in the air with play-action and quick game at the core of what they did.
The Giants played to keep games tight, wait for their opponents to make mistakes and then allow Jones and Co. to capitalize.
What they wanted to be in 2023
One of the cool kids. They want the big plays. They want the high-flying offense. They don’t want to be just a plodding, grind it out, play it close to the vest, make sure we make fewer mistakes than the other guys do offense.
They wanna have fun! They want to throw the ball around the yard. That’s why they traded for Darren Waller. It’s why they drafted Jalin Hyatt. It’s why they selected Wan’Dale Robinson a year ago.
They want to be a quarterback-centric team.
In my view, it is one of the reasons they drew a line in the sand with Saquon Barkley. They may love him, but they don’t want their offense running through him.
What they are
As I said at the top, they are broken.
The offensive line, minus star left tackle Andrew Thomas, is in shambles. Pro Football Focus ranks the Giants’ line as the worst in the league. By PFF grades, the Giants are 31st in both run and pass-blocking. Injuries and poor performance have led to the Giants playing a different line each week, a trend that is likely to continue Week 5 vs. the Miami Dolphins.
The Giants have a guard playing left tackle. Sunday, they might have a right guard playing left guard and a left guard playing center. They have a right guard who is still wet behind the ears as an NFL player, and a highly-drafted right tackle who has been a major disappointment.
They have a quarterback who is regressing. Jones has already thrown more interceptions than he did a season ago, tied for league-worst with six. He is on pace to throw 8.5 touchdown passes. Almost all of his advanced numbers are career-worsts. A few examples:
- Interception percentage (4.6)
- Passing success rate (37.9%)
- Passer rating (69.7)
- QBR (36.9)
The explosive plays they wanted aren’t happening. To this point, they have eight, 28th in the league and a pace that would lead them to 34 for the season. That’s better, sort of, than last season’s league-worst 28, but not what they were looking for.
The rushing attack, with and without Saquon Barkley, has been ineffective. And probably under-utilized. The Giants are one of six teams in the league without a run of at least 20 yards.
Darren Waller, perhaps through no fault of his own, has not had the expected impact on the passing attack. He is on pace for 63.75 catches on 97.75 targets for 650.25 yards. During his two dominant seasons with the Raiders, he averaged 131 targets, 98.5 catches and 1,170.5 yards. The latter is, of course much closer to what the Giants hoped for.
The receivers, in general, have been ineffective. Look at the Expected Points Added (EPA), which is how the chart is sorted. And ignore that the source of the data apparently doesn’t know Wan’Dale Robinson’s name.
The result of all of that? Perhaps the worst offense in football. The Giants are last in the league in points scored (46) and, in their three losses, have averaged 5.0 points. Overall, they average a league-worst 11.5 points per game. They have done nothing well.
What can be done?
The Giants need to help their quarterback.
Whatever you think of the Jones’ contract, whatever you think of Jones as a player, last season showed that there are things he can do well and ways he can succeed. Obviously, the Giants want and need more to become a top-tier NFL team. First, though, they need to get back to the baseline of what Jones can do, and get him back to playing with some modicum of confidence.
Flipping a tablet in disgust when he makes an awful mistake, a move I’m sure head coach Brian Daboll would like to take back, isn’t going to help him. And it’s not going to help the Giants play better offense.
Yes, we first have to acknowledge that Jones is not playing well and that the offense isn’t going to be functional until he is playing better. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky does a brilliant job in the clip below of explaining some of Jones’ shortcomings Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks:
Why have Jones’ fundamentals slipped? Why is he making the kinds of mistakes he made as a first- and second-year player?
It starts with acknowledging that Jones is getting hit far too often and that there is a human effect when that happens. Jones has been sacked 22 times, 5.5 per games. At that pace, he would get sacked 93.5 times over a 17-game season, shattering the 16-game record 76 times David Carr was sacked in 2002.
Jones was sacked 10 times by the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. He was hit 14 times. He scrambled out of trouble several other times.
Jones has been sacked on 14% of his dropbacks after being sacked 8.5% of the time a season ago. He has faced pressure 46.5% of the time, though it seems like more. Only Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears and Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced pressure at a higher rate.
We hear talk about a quarterback’s internal clock, being able to sense what is coming and knowing when to get rid of the ball. Jones’ internal clock is broken. We see him not going through progressions properly, sometimes throwing the ball too quickly, sometimes too slowly, sometimes not at all. We see him not recognizing at times where unblocked defenders are coming from.
“When you start getting hit from all angles and all sides and all, you get outta that confidence zone,” said a retired NFL coach who requested anonymity. “We call it sitting in the rocking chair, but people have found out Daniel Jones is going to struggle when you get him out of the rocking chair.”
Fixing Jones, and the broken offense, begins with protecting Jones better.
“Protection is his [Jones’] livelihood,” the coach said. “Protection is what makes him rich. And when he is getting the [bleep] knocked out of him, he is very, very, very, very uncomfortable.”
The coach said it is apparent that Jones’ mind is “cluttered” right now with the wrong things.
“He can’t focus on the tight ends going to the corner. Or the Z has got a skinny post, or the X has got a comeback,” he said. “He’s got to focus on there’s a pass rusher coming to my left side, and I know that left tackle can’t beat him.”
The Giants have got to protect Jones better. Andrew Thomas is likely to miss a fourth straight game, so they will continue to be without their best lineman for at least another week. Center John Michael Schmitz is also unlikely to play. The recently-signed Justin Pugh isn’t going to be ready yet.
“I think right now it’s just part of being in the National Football League. There’s injuries everywhere, we have to be able to adjust and have the next man up mentality and our guys have been great,” said offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. “That’s why we’ve kept them all through offseason, OTA’s, training camp and building that foundation with the guys so the next guy who’s up, he’s ready to rock and roll and that’s who we give our trust into.”
You want a positive from Evan Neal’s recent hot dog and hamburger flipping tirade? Maybe that will be a cleansing moment for Neal and he will begin to play better. Marcus McKethan shows promise, but needs experience. Schmitz looks like a good player. Bredeson is adequate. Thomas is a great player who is badly missed.
The Giants have to do a better job in-game. The coaching staff was lauded a year ago for its ability to adjust. Has that been happening this year? Are the Giants adjusting their protections often enough to help Ezeudu and Neal? Are they max-protecting enough? Moving the pocket enough? Chipping enough? Using the quick game or three-step drops enough? Using the screen game adequately?
These are all things the Giants need to consider as they try to get their offense back on track.
Here is one more — why aren’t they leaning into the run game more?
McKethan and Neal are massive players on the right side of the line who are better run blockers than pass blockers. The same with Schmitz, Glowinski and Ezeudu.
Yet, while the Giants are middle of the pack in offensive plays per game (63.0), they are 26th in rushing plays per game (37.7%). Some of those include Jones scrambling out of the pocket.
Yes, that number is skewed by having been far behind in games. Yet, in Weeks 1 and 4 the Giants ran the ball successfully on their opening drives and then got away from the running game. In Weeks 2 and 3 they really didn’t make much effort to establish a running game at all.
If your makeshift offensive line is filled with better run than pass-blockers, if your quarterback is under untenable duress and playing poorly, why not lean into the running game a bit more?
I know being a run-game centric offense isn’t what the Giants want to be. It may be, though, what they need to be in the short term. At least until they can solidify the offensive line somewhat and rebuild some of Jones’ confidence and trust in what is around him.
The Giants also need to do a better job getting the ball to their best players. The ‘we had plays in the game plan for so-and-so and just didn’t get to them’ line that we have heard a few times this year just doesn’t cut it.
Waller can’t go three quarters with one target. The tight end is often a struggling quarterback’s best friend. The Giants have a good one and they need to remember to use him. Hyatt can’t go entire games without having a play designed to go his way. Barkley, when he plays, should not be going entire series without touching the football. Maybe playing Sterling Shepard, a receiver Jones has a rapport with, would help.
The short version of everything above is that Jones needs to play better, he needs to prove that the Giants were right to pay him. The flip side, though, is that through four games the Giants haven’t done nearly enough to help him.