In this edition of “Cover 3” on Giants.com, we break down the state of the Giants following their 40-16 victory in Washington.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Culture is a word that is thrown around. But what does it mean and how does it translate to the football field. In the five games since the bye, we are seeing an improved culture manifest itself on the field. With the injuries to Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants were down to only 14 players on the field against the Redskins that were on the roster last year. The team has been systematically turned over by general manager Dave Gettleman as he and coach Pat Shurmur continue to grow the organization away from 3-13, as Shurmur likes to put it.
This 2018 team is different. There has been no bickering in the locker room. There have been no anonymous sources speaking to the media. No one has pointed any fingers. The team has stayed together. Despite starting the season 1-7, no one has given up on the season. The effort is obvious on the field, but the execution also points to how hard the team works during the week.
It’s very easy for players to stop doing the extra film work once they leave the facility if they think their playoff hopes are dashed. It hasn’t happened with the Giants. The first quarter against the Bears and Redskins featured a defense that knew exactly what the opposing offense was trying to do, anticipating route combinations and throws. Only players that are still doing the work make plays like that. That stuff doesn’t happen with a team that has thrown in the towel. Shurmur and his coaching staff deserve credit for instilling this attitude in their players, and the guys in the locker room deserve credit for staying focused on the next game. The results have been four wins in five games and some fun football.
DAN SALOMONE: Not 10. Not 13. The offense runs through 26. That’s the lesson learned from the Giants’ second-half surge. “He’s a tremendous player,” Eli Manning said of Saquon Barkley following their third 30-point game in four weeks. “I think we’re starting to figure out the offense runs through him a little bit. When we run the ball well, it just sets up everything else, sets up the play-action, sets up so much.”
Critics will note the Giants’ four wins since the bye week came against teams playing backup quarterbacks, but they didn’t have substitute defenses. Barkley is averaging 121 rushing yards over the past five weeks, and the Giants are 4-1. But it’s not as simple as Barkley makes it look on the field. It starts with the blocking -- and not just from the offensive line. Unless you’re the quarterback, you have to block. Sunday’s game film will serve as a textbook example of that, most notably wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who received a game ball for his downfield blocking. Running the ball keeps Eli Manning’s feet clean and allowed him to throw touchdowns to three different receivers.
“It all goes hand in hand,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “You just can’t put Joe Schmo in at quarterback and think you’re going to win games. You’ve got to have a guy that can play the position. But the best friend of a quarterback is really the running back, because he can take some pressure off of him, but the running back can’t do it unless you block for him. So it’s all connected.”
LANCE MEDOW: The Giants entered Week 14 without key playmakers on both sides of the ball: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and safety Landon Collins. In past seasons when Beckham hasn’t been on the field, the offense has struggled. That wasn’t the case Sunday against a still formidable Redskins defense. While the Giants dictated the tone of the game on the ground thanks to 227 rushing yards, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard all made plays in place of Beckham. Despite the fact they combined for only four receptions and 60 yards, each one of those wide receivers made at least one crucial play. Coleman hauled in a 30-yard pass from Eli Manning early in the second quarter that moved the Giants into the red zone, and Fowler and Shepard each caught touchdowns. Their production helped the Giants finish drives strongly and build a comfortable lead.
On the defensive side of the ball, Michael Thomas and Sean Chandler both filled in for Collins and delivered. Thomas finished second on the team with six tackles and came through with the game-sealing interception, while Chandler collected three tackles and recorded one of the team’s five sacks on Mark Sanchez. It goes without saying every team needs its starters to produce, but teams that have strong depth charts are the ones that have the best chance to win consistently. How well the depth chart produces will determine how effective the Giants will be during the final stretch of the season.