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Giants at Eagles: When the Giants have the ball

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Where can the offense continue to improve?

Detroit Lions v New York Giants
Paul Perkins runs with the ball vs. Detroit.
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Before the New York Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 we focused on a number of things having to do with the Philly defense. We looked specifically at the Eagle pass rush, the critical matchup between Giants’ center Weston Richburg and Philly defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Those things remain valid heading into Thursday’s Week 16 matchup at Lincoln Financial Field. Feel free to go back and look at those posts for a refresher. With the Giants closing in on a playoff berth, though, the focus today will be on areas of concern as the Giants continue to look for potential improvement on offense heading into what appears to be a nearly certain postseason appearance.

The Giants remain one of only five teams in the league that has not posted at least one 30-point game, with the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers being the others. The 8-6 Texans are the only potential playoff team other than the Giants in that group, and they just changed quarterbacks.

By the numbers

Giants’ offense

Points per game: 19.4 (24th)
Yards per game: 320.6 (27th)
Passing yards per game: 239.4 (17th)
Rushing yards per game: 81.2 (30th)

Eagles’ defense

Points per game: 21.4 (13th)
Yards per game: 344.2 (12th)
Passing yards per game: 239.3 (12th)
Rushing yards per game: 104.9 (17th)

Running the ball

The Giants have run the ball a bit better in recent weeks, gaining more than 100 yards on the ground in four of their last six games after failing to hit that mark in five straight games. They have even been able to run the ball more often that they have thrown it in each of the past two games.

That, however, does not mean they are running the ball well. They are still 30th in the league in rushing yards per game (81) and only the Minnesota Vikings have a worse yards-per-carry average than the Giants’ 3.4.

The return of Justin Pugh to the offensive line is a help, with ESPN noting that the Giants average 41 yards more per game with Pugh in the lineup than without him. That line, though, isn’t suddenly going to morph into a group of mauling run blockers. A blocking tight end isn’t suddenly going to emerge. A fullback isn’t going to appear out of thin air. The wide receivers aren’t going to grown three inches, gain 30 pounds each and become weapons as blockers.

Perhaps the best option the Giants have to inject more life into their rushing attack is more Paul Perkins and less Rashad Jennings.

Perkins carried 11 times for 56 yards on Sunday (5.09 yard per carry). Jennings carried 18 times for 38 yards (2.11 per carry). I understand that there are times when you want Jennings’ experience instead of Perkins’ youth, but here is what I wrote Monday:

“While Jennings pitter-patters and hides behind his line looking for a place to go, Perkins hits the line with authority and has the ability to put his foot in the ground, make a quick cut and get defenders to miss tackles.”

In the last four weeks, Perkins has carried 42 times for 168 yards (4.0 yards per carry). Jennings has 54 carries for 157 yards (2.9 yards per carry). Jennings’ professionalism and leadership are admirable, but if the Giants are ever going to really make plays in the rushing game they are going to have to turn the keys over to Perkins.

Using all of the wide receivers

The Giants still haven’t quite figured out how to get all three of their wide receivers — Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz — involved in games. Every week it seems one of them draws the short straw. That has usually been Cruz, who doesn’t have a multiple-catch game since Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams. Getting the ball to Beckham will always be the top priority, but getting contributions from the other receivers will also help. Of course, in Cruz’s case, getting open more consistently would help.

Overcoming the loss of Vereen

The Giants will be without the services of third-down back Shane Vereen for the rest of the season. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about how much better the Giants were on third down this season with Vereen in the lineup than without him. That is the area of concern. While Vereen was out earlier in the season the Giants didn’t really find a way to make up for the third down or long-yardage production Vereen gave them. Can they find it now?

Getting more from the tight ends

Perhaps the answer to the third-down issue is trying to get more from tight ends Will Tye and Jerell Adams.

In Ben McAdoo’s first season with the Giants, when Larry Donnell had a career year with 63 catches, the Giants got 53.8 receiving yards per game from the tight end position. Last year, 51.75 per game. This year? That number is only 37.8 yards per game.

Why? Has Tye, averaging only 8.3 yards per reception after averaging 11.0 a season ago, regressed in his route-running? Are the Giants, with the addition of Sterling Shepard, simply not featuring the tight end the way they did the past couple of seasons? I don’t know the answer, but it feels like offensively they aren’t getting enough from that spot.

My guess right now is this is a position the Giants will look to fortify early in the 2017 NFL Draft. That, however, doesn’t help right now. Tye is pretty good after the catch, so maybe the Giants should target him in the short areas a bit more. They have said they like Adams’ field-stretching potential, so maybe they should try to take advantage of it.

Efficient Eli

Eli Manning isn’t going to complete 20-of-28 passes (71.4 percent) every week. The Giants, though, need the Manning we saw Sunday against the Detroit Lions if they are going to make noise in January. He was efficient, spread the ball to six different receivers, played error-free football and made some big throws at key moments. That’s the Manning who won two Super Bowl MVP trophies, and it’s the guy the Giants need to show up the rest of the way.