The New York Giants’ mid-terms are in, and let’s just say if this were high school, they’d be getting a call from the principal.
Great expectations have given way to disaster for the Giants, who sit at 1-6 as they get a much needed week off. Some units are clearly more to blame than others, units we hope to call out below as we grade the New York Giants at the bye…..
This summer, a quarterback controversy in New York seemed inevitable. To the surprise of many, however, it has taken on a shade of blue rather than green.
Eli Manning, as he has reminded the masses time and time again, is not entirely blameless in the Giants’ demise, but at 36, he still remains consistent and at a point where many teams would kill to have him under center (the Browns, for example, would probably do insane things for the continuity alone).
The disastrous start, however, has given way to debate over whether Manning should step aside for third-round pick Davis Webb, the Giants’ highest selection since that epic trade in 2004. Manning is by no means the biggest problem with the Giants, but for his own health and safety, he probably should give way to Webb at some point.
Any assessment of the passing game has to come with the disclaimer that Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are injured (as is Sterling Shepard, though he’s expected to return when the Giants resume play next week) and done for the year, but the fact remains that unit wasn’t producing even with that pair in the lineup.
Marshall, he of 18 receptions for 154 yards and no scores, was perhaps not used correctly during his brief time in blue. Scorer of 82 touchdowns prior to his Giants debut, Marshall was not targeted once in the red zone. Adding to Manning’s struggles is the fact the fact he’s constantly running for his life, the result of the much-maligned offensive line remaining more or less the same.
Roger Lewis Jr., Travis Rudolph, and Tavarres King have been mostly quiet in their places, but the injuries have allowed tight end and first-round selection Evan Engram to shine.
His career got off to a rocky start, as his first touchdown was marred by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but he currently leads the team with 30 receptions, 342 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. It’ll be interesting to see the receivers led by a youth movement featuring Engram and Shepard.
Shockingly, the Giants’ run game, which has not finished in the upper half of the league’s rankings since 2012, has been one of the more consistent units on the team.
They’re still struggling to light the league rankings, currently in 27th in yards per game, but they’re finally starting to gain some traction thanks to Orleans Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman.
While sophomore starter Paul Perkins has been very disappointing (1.9 yards per carry), Darkwa and Gallman have combined for 415 yards and averages of 5.4 and 3.9 yards per carry respectively.
Among qualifying rushers, Darkwa’s 5.4 ranks fourth in the NFL. Over a two-week stretch, Darkwa set back-to-back career highs in rushing, including his first ever 100-yard game in the Giants’ lone win in Denver, where he tallied 117.
Of course, this leads to asking why he wasn’t trusted more in the early going, but we’ll get to that.
Much was made of the Giants decision to carry fullback Shane Smith on the opening day roster, but that hype was made null when he was unceremoniously sentenced to the practice squad after playing a single snap during the Week 3 loss in Philadelphia.
As the Giants discovered last Sunday, you can’t go up against Trevor Siemian every week.
One of the Giants’ biggest strengths from last season was the secondary’s ability to make elite opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable and force key turnovers.
This season, however, it took them five weeks to pick up an interception. That pick against the Chargers has thus far been the only highlight for new starting safety Darian Thompson, whom coaches have described as playing “like a rookie” on several occasions.
Veterans, however, have not been immune to regression. Following his breakout season is 2016, safety Landon Collins has laid down a strong hit or two, but receivers have been getting behind him more consistently, leading to crucial big gains at the worst possible times.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has likewise struggled, his biggest highlight perhaps being the highly publicized suspension that kept him out of the Denver game.
Though he has had a solid past couple of weeks, sophomore cornerback Eli Apple has failed to capitalize on the promise he showed in his rookie year.
Particularly troubling is the Giants’ inability to cover tight ends. Through the first seven weeks, they have allowed a tight end to find the end zone.
Sacks and pressure have been likewise hard to come by, despite tackle Damon Harrison ranking near the top of Pro Football Focus’s pressure lists.
After tallying 35 sacks last season, they have just 13 this season, tied for 22nd in the league. Defensive end Olivier Vernon’s injury departure has certainly not helped matters, nor has the regression of Jason Pierre-Paul, who earned a healthy new contract last season.
The Giants run defense was a force to be reckoned with last season, but the unit has plummeted to 23rd in the league. They’ve only allowed two 100-yard rushers (Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1 and Melvin Gordon in Week 5), but collective efforts teams have put up on them have been the real problem.
Particularly embarrassing was the Week 3 visit to Philadelphia, where they gave up a whopping 193 rushing yards. The team has missed Jonathan Hankins right next to Harrison, working around an inexperienced combo of Jay Bromley and Dalvin Tomlinson.
Further injuries on the ends to Vernon and Romeo Okwara also contributed to the disastrous regression. Perhaps most distressing is the lack of the most basic fundamentals of football, as the Giants have seemingly forgotten how to tackle.
When it comes to the linebackers, B.J. Goodson was a pleasant surprise when he led the NFL in tackles after opening weekend, but he too has dealt with injuries, as have veterans Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson. Undrafted Calvin Munson somewhat soothed the blow, but he likewise has fallen victim to injury.
Brad Wing made punting as bearable as possible for Giants fans last season, as several key boots guided the Giants to late season victories last season.
This season, however, has been a different story for Wing. Subpar Wing punts have far too often led to opposing scores, and only eight of his punts have landed inside the opponent’s 20.
His 37.2 net average is a career-low, and ranks 30th in football. While they did let up a vital run-back that led to a loss against the Lions, the coverage unit has done relatively solid job, allowing 6.8 yards per return, good for 12th in the league.
Only adding to the Giants’ receiver struggles was the loss of Dwayne Harris, who made the Pro Bowl as a specialist last season. Harris was already struggling on his return game, having received little reps this preseason due to injury, and Ed Eagan has not helped matters while subbing in for him.
A recent cold streak for Aldrick Rosas, having made only four of his past seven (albeit with one blocked) has marred his first NFL season. Currently 7-for-10, his percentage ranks 26th in football.
With the departure of Joe Girardi, Ben McAdoo now becomes the fourth-longest tenured professional head coach in the Tri-State area; it’s hard to imagine that number increasing if this keeps up.
McAdoo has, after the team’s many losses, insisted that the team’s struggles and failures are on him. But when he does call out his players, it always seems a specific group remains immune.
Perhaps most notably, after the Week 2 loss to Detroit, McAdoo was quick to cite “sloppy quarterback play” in his postgame press conference, but was quick to point out that the offensive line did some “good things.” That attitude, as we saw in general manager Jerry Reese’s press conference on Tuesday, seems to extend to the front office as well.
McAdoo also displays reluctance to make changes to his status quo. For example, Darkwa was averaging over five yards a carry in the Giants’ first two games, but he was only allowed to carry the ball six times.
It also took McAdoo five games to hand over play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, under whom the offense marginally improved. That refusal to mix things up was also seen in the use–or lack thereof–of Smith.
The Giants were expected to run some formations featuring a fullback, but for whatever reason, the staff pulled the plug on him early. The highly publicized Rogers-Cromartie incident, which many players on the team expressed disagreement with, has also served as an unwanted sideshow for the second-year head coach.
An 11-5 season and playoff appearance in his rookie year may save McAdoo from a midseason axe, but if he’s not careful, the Giants may choose to look in another direction next season.