JOHN SCHMEELK: As the Giants hit the halfway point of the season, I want to go back to something Pat Shurmur said at his press conference on Monday: “You can’t point to one thing. If we could have pointed to one thing, then that change would have been made a month ago.”
He was referring specifically to the Giants’ issues in the red zone, but the quote can apply to all the team’s struggles throughout the season. When a team is 1-7, there isn’t one scheme, individual, play, or strategy that can be blamed for it. Every game, and even every drive, has its own story and why it fails. There is no silver bullet that is going to solve all the Giants’ problems. No one is going to wave a magic wand to make everything okay.
The red zone offense has to get better. The Giants are converting 40 percent of their red-zone appearances into touchdowns. Only one team, the New York Jets (37.5 percent), is worse. The Giants rank 27th in the league in third-down percentage at just 32.7. A lot of that has to do with the length of the Giants’ third downs. They’ve had 37 third-down conversion attempts of 10 or more yards. Only four teams have had more. The Giants’ offense has 62 plays that have gone for -307 yards, not including penalties. Only one team has more negative yardage this year, and only two teams have more negative plays. Eli Manning has been sacked a ridiculous 31 times so far this season, matching his total from 2017. His career high for times sacked in a season came back in 2013, when he was sacked 38 times. He was sacked 30 times in 2009, the only other time he has been above that threshold. The defense needs to make more big plays. They have only seven takeaways. Only five teams have fewer. The Giants have just 10 sacks. Only the Raiders have fewer (seven) in one fewer game.
These, nor the ones I didn’t list, are not issues that can be put on one person, player, coach or executive. These are team-wide problems that can only be solved by the front office, coaches, players getting together and delivering better football on the field each Sunday. At 1-7, everyone in the Giants organization is in the foxhole together trying to get a win. The players are trying to play better. The coaches are trying to put the players in the best situations to succeed. The front office is trying to put the most talented roster on the field as possible. They have eight more games to try and turn things around.
A unique perspective of the first half of the Giants' 2018 season.
DAN SALOMONE: Numbers are funny. Eli Manning is fourth in the NFL in passing yards, putting him on pace for 4,754. Odell Beckham Jr. is tied for second in receptions, putting him on pace for 122, which would be 21 more than his current career high. Saquon Barkley is second in yards from scrimmage, putting him on pace for 2,032. Add all that up and what do you have? The 28th-ranked scoring offense. Not to sound too much like John Madden, but usually the team that scores the most points wins the game. The Giants did that just once in eight outings. While the offense hasn’t exactly held up its end of the bargain, there is no rule that says defense can’t win games (despite how much it may seem like it). Eighteen points, which is how many the Giants are averaging, would have been enough in each of the NFC East-leading Redskins’ five victories this season. Big Blue has given up 71 more points than Washington, albeit in one fewer game. The point is no side of the ball can wash its hands from the 1-7 start.
So what’s the outlook for the second half? Fans don’t want to hear it, but there is no tanking in the NFL. This isn’t the NBA where one player can turn everything around, so it’s out of the question. The best way to evaluate current personnel is by wins and losses, meaning you better believe Pat Shurmur is going to prepare for Week 10 as if his team were 7-1 -- especially when no one has clinched anything yet or been eliminated.
LANCE MEDOW: On multiple occasions throughout the first half of the season, Pat Shurmur has said the team needs to score more points. That’s a great way to sum up the first half of the season. The Giantsscored more than 30 points just once (Week 5 at Carolina) in the first eight games and that wasn’t even enough to secure a win. Instead, the consistent trend was under 20 points, which happened five times in the first eight contests. Regardless of how well your defense is playing or whether you’re receiving a spark from your special teams, it’s impossible to consistently win in the NFL when your offense manufactures less than 20 points. That’s clearly been the biggest issue in the first half of the season and the biggest contributing factor is red zone inefficiency. The Giants scored just ten touchdowns in 25 red zone trips. That puts them at 40 percent efficiency and ranks second to last in the league (31st).
As New York looks ahead to the second half of the season, one area that can help both scoring and red zone efficiency is a more consistent run game. The Giants are averaging just 78 rushing yards per game (31st NFL). Given the limited space you have to operate with when you get in the red zone, the presence of a run game can help alleviate that issue. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the Giants and they’ve collected a high volume of negative runs or runs for no gain during the course of the first half of the season. That combined with penalties and sacks is a huge reason why they’re facing numerous third and longs and struggled to convert in those situations. The Giants are converting third downs just 35 percent (35-100) of the time and of those 100 third downs, more than half (54) have been for seven yards or more. Self-inflicted wounds have been an absolute killer and right now this team is incapable of consistently overcoming those issues.
Based on the above stats and trends, clearly the offense has a lot of work to do in the second half of the season. The roster has turned over immensely since the end of the 2017 season and the final eight games will provide Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur even more of an opportunity to determine who they can build the roster around moving forward. Of the final eight games of the season, just two of the Giants’ opponents currently have winning records but don’t let that fool you or make you think the offense will have plenty of favorable matchups. Five of those eight teams have defenses that rank in the top eight in the NFL in point per game allowed.
The Giants enter the Week 9 bye with a 1-7 record and half the season done. Heading into the second half of the season, here are the players to watch out for.