The New York Giants have enjoyed one of the best offenses in the league since Ben McAdoo arrived. His up-tempo, West Coast based attack not only revitalized Eli Manning’s career, which had stagnated under Kevin Gilbride, it took it to heights he had only brushed against before.
That electric, explosive, attack has been all but missing over the first four weeks of the season, and in a striking contrast to 2014 and 2015, the Giants have been forced to rely on their defense to keep them in games. That side of the ball has played admirably, but Manning and the offense need to start pulling their own weight.
Somehow, the Giants’ offense has improved at almost every level from a personnel perspective — Manning is in his third year in the scheme, Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, and Myles White have been replaced by Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz. Ereck Flowers has improved in both health and footwork, Justin Pugh has settled in at guard, and John Jerry’s off-season training with LeCharles Bentley has markedly improved his run blocking. The improvement on the offensive line has improved the running game.
And yet, some how the offense is playing worse. Penalties, missed assignments, miscommunication, mental mistakes have been an albatross around the offense’s neck.
So then, how can the Giants get back to the form that frightened defenses and exhilarated crowds the last two years against the Green By Packers?
Stats At A Glance
Rushing Yards — 93.8 (19th)
Passing Yards — 288.5 (4th)
Total Yards — 382.2 (6th)
Points — 18.2 (27th)
Giveaways — 9
Rushing Yards — 42.7 (1st)
Passing Yards — 307.3 (29th)
Total Yards — 350.0 (13th)
Points — 22.3 (17th)
Takeaways — 6
Run The Offense Through Odell Beckham Jr.
If there is one big difference between the offense of the last two years and the offense of 2016, it is how the Giants are using Odell Beckham and the rest of Manning’s receiving options.
Right now Beckham leads the team with 22 recpeptions and his stats look remarkably similar to the first four games of each of the last two years. However, watching the games it is abundantly clear that Beckham has NOT been the focus of the offense. In prior years he was moved all over the formation — X receiver, Y receiver, in the slot, in the backfield... The defense was forced to find him on every play and account for him. The Giants used him to force matchups, for a safety or linebacker to cover a player they just couldn’t.
Now, there are just 10 receptions separating Beckham (first) from Will Tye (fourth). That’s just 2.5 receptions per game between first and fourth, and in between are Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard. It is absolutely expected that Beckham would see his targets decrease a bit with more talent around him. But for one of the three best receivers in the entire league, let alone the best on his team, to not be the clear focus of his team’s offense, is just wrong. Beckham only received nine (9) targets against the Minnesota Vikings — none in the first quarter — allowing their coverages to dictate where the ball went. In a lot of ways, this is like dropping Lawrence Taylor into coverage because it looked like a running back or tight end might chip him.
Having the ability to spread the ball to three reliable and productive receivers is great. Having the confidence that your fourth and fifth options can beat the defense’s fourth and fifth defenders is a definite advantage.
But when you have a weapon like Beckham, a weapon you can use from anywhere and the defense HAS to respect, you need to use him to force the defense to do what you want it to do.
You need to attack with the best weapon at your disposal.
Let him have fun and work out some of those frustrations by making DBs look silly.
Pound The Rock
This might sound like it’s at odds with my first point of turning Eli and Odell loose, but it isn’t.
The Giants need to commit to mounting a rushing attack for an entire game. Against the Washington Redskins they only ran the ball 21 times, but they averaged a very impressive 5.7 yards per carry (120 total yards). Against the Vikings’ impressive defense they only ran the ball a combined 18 times, but they averaged a still impressive 4.9 yards per carry.
Justin Pugh noted that while the Packers’ league-leading run defense is giving up just 42.7 yards per game, the Giants might pose problems for them.
“They do some good things, so hats off to them,” Push said of the Packers. “But our job is to go out there and move the ball and do some good things. I think we will be able to attack them in different ways then the other teams have. A lot of those other teams line up in heavy packages and run at them. Obviously, we are a little bit more quick and no huddle, so it is something different for them. The bar has not been set very high against this defense, so obviously we have to go out there and we have to do our job. I think we have to execute at a high level. They have been good, so we have our work cut out for us.”
The Giants’ power run game using their spread offense has proven difficult for defenses to stop. They use their personnel to force defenses out of their base packages, alignments to spread them out, then use a pulling guard -- both Pugh and Jerry have proven adept at it — to blow open holes. It’s a fun attack to watch, combining power and precision to overwhelm defenders or confound them with unexpected angles.
It’s just equally confounding that they don’t rely on it more. Despite an attack that has consistently netted 5.15 yards per carry (excepting the New Orleans game), the Giants are tied in attempts with the Indianapolis Colts for 25th in the league.
In three of their four games the Giants have run the ball exceptionally well, their 5.15 yards per carry would rank third in the league in terms of efficiency.
They have a viable, even GOOD rushing attack. They just need to use it more than the 22 times a game they have averaged.
That would force defenses to stack the box, opening up down-field opportunities for the receivers, loosen coverages as DBs are needed to help tackle, and force defenses to respect play-action passes — Bill Walsh’s favorite way to safely attack defenses deep.
It’s not about the pass setting up the run or the run setting up the pass, it’s about using both the run and the pass to keep the offense moving and stress the defense.
Play A Clean Game
We can probably feel pretty safe leaving this one here for a while. The Giants’ offense has been anything but clean. Numb-skulled penalties, stupid mistakes, carelessness with the football and miscommunication has done more harm to the Giants’ offense than any defense.
Giants players need to understand that many of them have reputations. Defensive backs are going to try to get Odell Beckham to take himself out of the game — they probably can’t do it on their own merits. Flowers needs to know that if he finishes a block, it’s probably going to be called holding, even if it’s just a good pancake block. And everyone needs to know that officials are cracking down on displays of emotions of all kinds — The three-pump rule has gone right out the window.
The Giants need to be excellent in their execution and regard the football as an invaluable treasure. They need to be where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there, and hang on to the damn ball when it’s in their hands.
If the Giants want to play the kind of offensive football of which they are capable, they need to eat, sleep, breathe, practice, and play with the mentality that beating themselves with stupid mistakes, penalties, and carelessness are things that happen to other teams.
On A Serious Note
I’d like to finish up by apologizing for this article being later than usual. It has absolutely nothing to do the short week and everything to do with Hurricane Matthew. As Ed (and maybe a few others) know, I was in Myrtle Beach for something of a working vacation.
We left just ahead of the evacuation order in advance of Matthew. I’ve ridden out tropical storms before — they’re no big deal, or at least no worse than a bad Nor’easter. But there is something chilling about being in the path of a real example of nature’s fury.
As we all sit down to watch the Giants play Sunday night, we need to remember that it IS a game. That while we are cheering or yelling at the TV, hundreds will have died as a result of the storm and thousands — if not millions — will be coming to grips with the fact that their lives have changed forever, from Haiti to Cuba, to The Bahamas, to the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
This is a terrible, and historic, storm. If you can help in any way with recovery and relief efforts, please do so.
This is bigger than football.