With each passing week since the start of the 2017 regular season, the skies around the New York Giants, a team that some were putting in the same sentence as “Super Bowl contender” has darkened.
Indeed, the 0-3 Giants have dug themselves into a hole that might darn well be impossible to climb out of. Besides being winless–they join the Bengals, Browns, Chargers and 49ers as the other teams in the league whose first victory of the 2017 season has eluded them—the Giants are 0-3 in the conference and 0-2 in the division.
Where did it go wrong for the Giants this week? Here are some thoughts…
If You’re Not Going Forward, You’re Going Backwards
This Giants team now has 25 penalties on the year, an alarming average of just over 8 per game. It’s also racked up 242 of penalty yards—nearly the length of 2.5 football fields.
Of the Giants’ penalties, they already have two for unsportsmanlike conduct, both of those occurring after a touchdown was scored.
They have two false starts and two delay-of-game infractions. Those are the types of penalties for which there is simply no excuse because those are controllable as opposed to say holding where you can argue there is holding on every play.
Your biggest offenders? Right now, three Giants lead the team with three penalties a piece. Cornerback Eli Apple, who has cost the Giants a team-leading 82 yards, Ereck Flowers, who is second with 24 yards, and Evan Engram, who is third with 20 yards.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, the Giants have had seven stalled scoring drives in three games due to penalties. That’s a little more than two per game so far.
This trend CANNOT continue. Odell Beckham Jr has to understand that he can provide just as much if not more of a spark by doing what he does best, which is catching the ball and running with it, and that getting down on all fours to simulate urinating like a dog in the end zone after a score hurts his team.
John Jerry needs to understand that to catch the opponent with 12 men on the field, the trick is to get lined up quickly and let your quarterback snap the ball.
By attempting to interfere with the Eagles defender trying to leave the field, Jerry clearly wasn’t set for the ball to be snapped. thus, the penalty.
That the Giants recorded four of their 10 penalties this week on the final two drives of the game also speaks volumes about how poor of a job this team has done with finishing. The irony is their poor attention to detail just might have finished them for this year.
Where’s the Beef?
I was surprised that the Giants decided to keep four tight ends and a fullback (who by the way they list as a tight end in their weekly game releases). but I understood the thought process, and that was to help the running game which has struggled behind an offensive line that can’t run block with any consistency.
With that said, why even bother carrying that many at one position if you’re not going to use them for what you brought them on board to do? Shane Smith, the afore mentioned fullback listed as a tight end, received no snaps on offense Sunday. None. You don’t think maybe he could have helped push the pocked on that failed goal line push on which the Giants came up empty?
Rhett Ellison, whom the Giants supposed signed to be their fullback/blocking tight end played nine run-blocking snaps per Pro Football Focus, all at tight end.
McAdoo, who admitted he’d like to have that 4th-and-1 call back, was asked if there is still a place for a fullback in his offense.
“Yes,” he said, adding of Smith’s absence from the offense against the Eagles, “It was a game plan decision.”
Smith, if anyone is wondering, has played 12 snaps in three games. He played eight in Week 1, four in Week 2 and none last week.
The Run Defense
The Eagles finished with 193 yards on the ground on 39 carries–a 4.9 yard per carry average. The Eagles, who became the third opponent in a row to rush for over 100 yards against the Giants this season, took advantage of the Giants’ sub package and burned the Giants when they tried to blitz.
Add to that sloppy tackling and missed tackles, particularly on the Eagles early scoring drives, and it was a recipe for disaster.
“We had a rough day (Sunday) defending the run,” McAdoo said, stating the obvious. “We need to be better with our blocking structure and we need to cut down on the missed tackles. We had some opportunities to tackle better and it starts with those two things.”
Are the Giants missing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins’ presence inside as well? The stats would suggest that’s not the case–with the Colts, Hankins has recorded five stops (tackles for zero or negative yardage) against the run, an 8.2 run-stop percentage.
Meanwhile over at the Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson and Damon Harrison both have six run stops a piece.
So what is it? McAdoo’s answer might have provided a hint: the blocking structure. Did guys suddenly forget how to shed blocks? Doubt it.
Are the Giants being lined up correctly by the linebacker? Remember, last year Kelvin Sheppard, the starting middle linebacker in the base defense, lined up the defense on first and second down. This year, that role was presumably passed on to B.J. Goodson, who has missed the last two games.
Could it be that the Giants are missing Goodson’s presence in getting the defense lined up more than people realize?
Remember, this is a role Goodson held all spring into the summer and into the start of the regular season until his shin injury put him on the shelf for the last two games.
The Giants continue to struggle with finding balance on offense. This time, despite the game still being in reach even when it was 14-0 at the end of the third quarter, the Giants had Eli Manning throw 47 times while running just 17 times.
How much of that had to do with Orleans Darkwa’s back injury is worth considering, but simply put, the Giants have to allow their running game to get into a rhythm.
And speaking of the running game, take a look at this table of Giants running plays from their first two games this season.
The Giants rarely run the ball on consecutive plays in a series. How is the running game supposed to get momentum if it continues to be an afterthought? And how can McAdoo continue to desire a heavy-handed team when he doesn’t stick with the run?
Last week, Ben McAdoo placated the masses by saying that everything, including the possibility of changing play callers, was on the table. That apparently wasn’t the case and it doesn’t appear to be heading in that direction any time soon unless someone above McAdoo’s pay grade forces the issue.
There were several headscratchers in this one, but perhaps the biggest of the bunch came at the end of the fourth quarter when the Giants, with goal-to-go and the all on the Eagles’ 1-yard line, failed to punch it in.
Putting aside that they should have gone for the field goal in that spot which would have made it 7-3 at the half and maybe energized the team a bit more, McAdoo decided to go for it on fourth down.
Before getting into that, let’s talk about the play selections on third and fourth down.
The third-down play was a short pass to Sterling Shepard, a play that was well covered and had no chance. On the fourth down play, Orleans Darkwa tried to run it up the gut only to be tossed back for a yard lost.
Now let’s take a look at the alignment pre-snap.
What’s interesting here is how close Orleans Darkwa (circled) lined up to the formation. If you watch the play unfold, the Eagles quickly jam up the running lanes before Darkwa, who doesn’t exactly change direction on a dime as fluidly as say Ahmad Bradshaw did in his prime, has secured the ball. once it’s handed off.
By then, it’s too late–he runs right into the teeth of the defense when had he lined up a bit deeper, he might have been able to see things develop and changed direction in time to get to the outside.
Of course, the run concept there itself was a poor design as was the play before it. At this point in the game, the Giants should have tried the field goal to make it 7-3, especially knowing they were getting the ball to start the third quarter.
A couple other thoughts about the play calling.
I’m still not sure why the Giants try to pull John Jerry during run blocking. Jerry is not the most athletic offensive lineman out there nor is he the best run blocker, so asking him to execute this move was a disaster waiting to happen.
The Giants, by the way, had three runs go for negative yardage against the Eagles. And this is also why I suggested flipping Jerry and Justin Pugh for however much longer Bobby Hart is sidelined: Pugh is by far the most athletic offensive lineman the Giants have, but they really need to figure out a way to get him back inside at guard where they can optimize his talent.
Regarding that Brad Wing shanked punt, a play that began with 19 seconds and which ended up taking six ticks off the clock, why not in that instance kick the ball high and deep and not out of bounds and try to run more time off the clock to force the game into overtime?
I suppose it doesn’t matter since Wing shanked it, but it looked like the plan all along was to kick it out of bounds which gave the Eagles an extra play given the minimal amount of time that came off the clock.
The Passing Game
A couple of quick thoughts about the passing game.
It’s still kind of early, but the Giants’ top two receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, already have four dropped passes between them.
Against the Eagles, the Giants had 10 third-down opportunities (two were wiped the Giants had, the longest of which was a 3rd-and-15 on the final possession.
They passed on all but one of them. Talk about predictability–when a team is resorting to the pass even on third and manageable, is it any wonder why the team sets itself up to lack success on third down conversions, as the Giants, who Sunday converted just three of those chances, did?