New York Giants Reader Mailbag: The “Sky is Falling” Edition

It’s time for another reader mailbag, and oh boy, what a mailbag I have for you this week.

Naturally the New York Giants fans are dismayed about the current state of the winless team, who enters Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, where they have lost their last three games.

This week, I received a lot of questions about the offense, so let’s jump right into things.

What’s up with the passing game?

Pat Says: Excellent question right out of the gate, Mark.  I suspect what is happening with the Giants passing game is a combination of things. First, quarterback Eli Manning is so skittish behind his offensive line that he’s resorting to dinking and dunking his way down the field. Those times he does have a clean pocket, the timing with his receivers is either off or, as you noted, they’re not separating.

The other thing I think is pretty obvious is that the receivers need to elevate their game. For example, Brandon Marshall has to have better awareness when catching a pass along the sideline, making sure he remains in bounds. You also can’t have bad drops like what he had Monday night.

Scheme wise, I think this tweet by Doug Farrar hit the nail on the head: the Giants passing game consists mainly of slants and flats. Mix things up a little more and see if perhaps you can’t get the receivers open on a more consistent basis.

Ben McAdoo has said this before, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s so true: there is enough blame to go around. The question is what are they going to do to address it moving forward?

Flowers wilting?

Pat Says: Thanks for the question. For those not aware, “74” is left tackle Ereck Flowers. And my answer to this question is the same thing I said during the spring and into the summer: they’re not going to give up on Flowers so quickly. This is the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft, and while he’s had a rough showing to start the season (he’s not the only one by the way), so too has the rest of the offense.

With Flowers, the Giants need to decide at the end of this year regarding his option year. So I don’t see them pulling him out of the lineup just because the fans are clamoring for it.

Now what I would do if I’m the coaching staff, is if Flowers continues to struggle, I’d think long and hard about sitting him down for a couple of series before his confidence goes down the tubes. The problem is with Bobby Hart injured and out for who knows how long, your options at left tackle are paper-thin.

The backup tackle spot, was probably my number one concern coming into training camp and unfortunately my concern materialized. Chad Wheeler, who made the team, is still transitioning to the NFL level. I think with seasoning, he might be an option later in the year. But right now, he’s clearly not ready as based on how the Giants coaching staff addressed Bobby Hart’s injury by changing up two positions instead of just the one.

The other thing I’m very curious to see moving forward is how the Giants front office saves face on what is clearly a failed attempt to staff the left tackle spot long-term with a guy whose skill set is about as much of a match for left tackle as mine. Do they move Flowers inside to guard next year, replacing John Jerry?  Do they move him to right tackle where he might be a better fit?

Any way you slice it, the Giants do not have their left tackle on this roster, and I would think barring a miraculous turnaround by Flowers moving forward, that position will have to be addressed in the offseason, unless Wheeler shows he’s ready to go after this season (which we won’t know until next spring).

Free Darkwa

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Raff. I’m not sure Darkwa will get 50 percent of the carries ever—that’s not how the Giants do things. Might he get a bump in his carries as soon as this week? Possibly. But right now, I don’t think the Giants have a feature back as they did back in the days of Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

I like Darkwa as a runner, but as I wrote in this analysis, I think Shane Vereen might be the closest thing they have to an all-purpose back. If Ben McAdoo’s game is to keep the opponent guessing, I think Vereen might be the best option. My only concern with that would be his durability in handling an increased work load. He’s so important to this offense on third down that they might just leave him in his current niche.

Jackrabbit’s Return

Pat Says: What’s up Steve? Janoris Jenkins is listed as questionable on the injury report, so I would imagine he’ll be a game-time decision assuming that he’s not downgraded before then.

As for the offensive line configuration, my guess is they’ll stick with what they had last week given the short work week to prepare for the Eagles, though I outlined a different configuration in this article which I tried to support with statistical research and logic.

Landon Collins’ Role

Pat Says:  Great question, Glenn. I don’t have the numbers from last year, but so far from what I can tell in studying the numbers Pro Football Focus has for him this year, the only major difference through two games is that the Giants aren’t using Collins to rush the passer as much in the first two games as they did last year —he’s done so just four times over two games.

Otherwise, Collins is being moved all over the field—he’s played both safeties, outside linebacker (in a 3-4 alignment), outside cornerback and in the slot. And in the process, he keeps driving up his value for his next contract.

Chad Wheeler’s Progress

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Matt. I mentioned this earlier in this mailbag, but again, no, I don’t think Chad Wheeler will be a starter this year unless there is an injury. To be clear, Wheeler showed promise and improvement over the summer and I’m sure he’s continuing to trend upwards (remember, the media can’t watch the team part of practice during the season).

Of course, let’s see what happens with Ereck Flowers—if he continues to go in the wrong direction and Wheeler passes him, then all bets are off.

Too Many Tight Ends?

Pat Says: Thanks for the question, Tim. I’m still trying to figure out why they kept four tight ends and a fullback.  The only logical reason I can come up with is to staff more two-tight end sets to help the running game, but if they’re not going to stick with the running game, then I am at a loss, unless they’re maybe looking to further develop Matt LaCosse to one day take on the role Rhett Ellison has when his cap figure becomes too much to carry.

Where’s Wayne Gallman?

Pat Says:  Thanks for the question, Bryan. The Giants didn’t draft Wayne Gallman for window dressing. You have to remember how they typically fold their rookie running backs who are Day 3 picks into the mix–Bradshaw in 2007, Perkins last year and now Gallman.

These young players have to master pass protection concepts first and foremost. The other thing they have to do is execute their basic assignments. If you recall in the summer, Gallman had a few dropped passes. If he can improve in that area and show he has a grasp on pass protection, he will see the field later this year unless there’s an injury.

The Blame Game

Pat Says: Thanks for the question Reggie. While there appears to be no question that the front office swung and missed on the offensive line, it’s up to the coaches to scheme around the deficiencies, which they haven’t done. They have a solid blocking tight end in Rhett Ellison–why hasn’t he been used more to chip block some of these offensive linemen? They kept a full back on the team, and yet this kid has barely played. That’s on the coaches, which is why I say there is enough blame to go around.

The Blame Game II 

Pat Says: That could be a part of it, Victor. That could be McAdoo thinking that not only can Manning take the criticism but perhaps if the others on the team see the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback being criticized, then anyone is fair game. But the problem I had with that entire incident is the consistency.

How do you criticize Manning but not Flowers for his inconsistent technique, or Marshall for his dropped pass and his not being aware of where he was on the field when he caught a ball out of bounds, or the defense’s inability to stop the Lions on third down?

After opening his press conference by saying put the blame on him (McAdoo), the head coach then went away from owning his share of the blame (though he did admit in his weekly “McAdoo Report” feature that appears on the team’s web site  that maybe he could have gotten the play in quicker.)

The bottom line is if McAdoo is going to criticize–it’s ironic how he’ll insist all conversations with players which would presumably include critiques stay in house, yet he’s taken a few open shots at Manning–then it has to be across the board, the coaches included.

I get it that some people react to criticism differently, but these are grown men. If they can’t take constructive criticism from their coach, if they’re going to let that cause them to crumble, then maybe they should find a new line of work.

If McAdoo is concerned about ruffling features by openly criticizing guys, then you know what? Admit it was a team failure and then address specific criticisms with guys in private.

The DJ Fluker Mystery

Pat Says: Thanks for the question. I wouldn’t say D.J. Fluker is “bad.” He’s been working his tail off and is focused. What I will say though is I question whether his skill set is a fit for what the Giants offensive linemen do.

They generally like to pull their guards, and Fluker hasn’t really been known as a mobile guy throughout his career. His strength is riving straight ahead and pushing guys out of the hole. Ask him to move around, and he’s a tad heavy-legged.

I also thought it spoke volumes how, in the summer, Fluker maybe got a handful of snaps with the first-team offensive line, but otherwise couldn’t leapfrog over Adam Gettis (before his season-ending injury) and Brett Jones. I think we could see Fluker if injuries start to wipe out the position, but right now, I get the sense that he’s among the last-options they’d try.