By Scoop Fox
At one point, the New York Giants were on top of the world. They had just won their second Super Bowl in 5 years, beating the Patriots for a second time. Now just 2 years removed from that, the Giants are off to their second worst start in franchise history at 0-6. Everybody is trying to figure out why. Most are pointing the blame on QB Eli Manning, others point to head coach Tom Coughlin. After carefully watching the tape, yours truly has come up with the reasons why the Giants are having trouble this season.
The Offensive Line:
When it comes down to the struggles of an offense, you need to look at the offensive line. Their original starting center, David Baas, has been frequently missing time with injury, RG Chris Snee has lost a step due to age and is currently on season-ending IR with a hip injury, LT Will Beatty has been playing below average despite getting a 5-year, $37.5 million contract this past offseason, and OL David Diehl skill set has been declining for the past few years. Because of that, then you have a bunch of young players with little playing experience (Jim Cordle, James Brewer, Mark Mosley) combined with rookies (OT Justin Pugh) filling in instead. Even the elites (Brees, P. Manning, Brady, Rodgers) would have a hard time behind the Giants’ patchwork O-line.
The Running Game:
Five years ago in 2008, the Giants had not one but two 1,000-yard rushers that also caught passes and were able to block on passes. Fast forward to present day, Now the Giants running backs have combined for total of 407 yards rushing on 113 carries. Nine other NFL running backs have more yards on less carries by themselves than the Giant rushers combined. Not to mention that Giants fans cringe when they see their running back drop catchable balls or whiff on blocks that cause Eli to meet the grass turf.
Now aside from the poor blocking on the offensive line, the health of the running back core has played a part in their season struggles. Starter David Wilson is going to miss some time due to a neck injury, his back up Andre Brown had been sidelined with a broken fibula since Week 2 of the preseason, and then the current starter, Brandon Jacobs, is battling a hamstring injury. Hopefully with Andre Brown returning from his injury and the arrival of recently signed RB Peyton Hillis can bolster a very slipshod running attack.
The Passing Game:
Right now, Eli has a league high 15 interceptions and is on pace to shatter his single-season high of 25 interceptions from the 2010 season. However, a majority of those picks were not his fault. One fault goes to his offensive line for poor pass protection and not giving him enough time to set up to throw. To quote John Madden, ‘It’s hard to make a pass when you’re looking out of your earhole.’ Another one-fourth of those picks goes to the receiver running the wrong route.
Perfect example was during Week 6 against the Chicago Bears, WR Rueben Randle was supposed to run a hitch route. Instead he ran a Go route and when Eli threw the ball expecting Randle, Randle kept running and the ball was picked off for a ‘Pick 6’ by Bears DB Tim Jennings. Then the final one-fourth goes to the receiver again for deflecting the ball up and into the waiting arms of a defender. Two perfect example: RB Del Ra’Scott knocking the ball up off his shoulder pad that led to the game-sealing ‘Pick 6’ by Cowboys DB Brandon Carr in Week 1 and then TE Brandon Myers knocking the ball up into Bears DB Tim Jennings possession in Week 6 to seal a Bears' win. To paraphrase Gisele Caroline Bündchen’s famous quote, Eli cannot block the pass rush, throw the ball, and then catch it all by himself. It's a 3-part system: the front 5 need to block better, the receivers need to be on par with their QB, and yes, Eli needs to throw the ball better instead of trying to force plays.
Lack of Defense:
The talk in the offseason was about how the Giants boosted their defense. They went out to get free agent DTs Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, S Ryan Mundy, and LB Dan Connor as well as draft in DT Johnathn Hankins the 2nd round and DE Demitri Moore in the 3rd round. Combine that with already proven defensive stalwarts DL Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, LB Mathias Kiwanuka, CB Prince Amukamura, and S Antrelle Rolle the defense looked poised for a big season. Instead they became a big joke. As it stands, the Giants defense ranks 24th overall in total defense (allowing 391.3 ypg), 20th in passing defense ( allowing 268.0 YPG), 26th in rushing defense (allowing 123.3 YPG), and dead last in scoring (allowing 34.8 PPG that includes giving up +30 points in 5 out of the 6 losses).
The most damning statistic is that as a whole unit, they are in last with only 5.0 sacks. Twelve players have 5.0 sacks or more just alone. Hell, DE/OLB Chris Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs has 9.5 sacks, nearly doubling the sack total of the Giants. The poor performance of the Giants’ defensive line is a domino effect. When they play poorly, it exposes the weak linebacker core to opponents. Their current linebackers are overmatched by opposing tight ends and continuously allow running backs to get into the second and third levels (hence being ranked 26th in rushing defense). If the Giants want to win, they need to get back to what they were known for best: a stout defense with devastating pass rush. If not, they’ll end up surpassing the ’66 Giants in allowing the most points in a single season (501 in 14 games).
Ah yes, coaching. The majority of the blame should fall on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, affectionately known as Kevin ‘Killdrive’ among Giant fans. A majority of his offensive plays consist on Eli dropping back 5-7 yards and just throwing the ball up on 3 consecutive downs. Other times they decide to run the shotgun draw up the middle, only for the defense to stuff it up easily. Gilbride’s play calling is starting to fall under the predictable category to the point where former Giant defenders (i.e. LB Chase Blackburn, who now is on Carolina Panthers) can easily defend against just by looking at the formation.
And if you’re going to blame Coughlin for something, it’ll be not giving the younger players more playing time. Coughlin comes from the old school mentality of that you stick with the veteran players and punishing the rookies and young players for making mistakes. However it’s the veterans who are making the mistakes (turnovers, penalties, bad coverage) or playing not at full health while the rookies and young players are held back.
Both TE #80 Jimmy Graham and DT #97 Geno Atkins (pictured sacking Eli Manning)
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