In this “Cover 3” on Giants.com, we look at the team following the loss to the Eagles on Thursday night:
JOHN SCHMEELK: If you sit and listen to one of Pat Shurmur’s press conferences, nearly every question he gets is about the offense. If you turn on WFAN and listen to any of the talk shows, all anyone wants to talk about is Eli Manning, the offensive line, Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley. While it may lack all of the off the field drama everyone craves, the real issue the last three weeks has been the Giants’ defense.
The Giants’ last three opponents have all scored 30 points or more and are averaging 33 points per game, a number that would be second-worst in the entire NFL (granted one score was a special teams touchdown and another was set up on a very short field). The Giants’ last four opponents have averaged 386 yards per game, which would rank the Giants 22nd in the league.
The Giants’ seven sacks rank second-fewest in the league. The Giants have just five takeaways this season, and only two teams have fewer (Dallas -4, San Francisco -3). Exacerbating those numbers is the fact that the Giants have played at least one more game than every other team in the NFL. The defense hasn’t made enough big plays to alter the current of a lot of these games. The only exception is the Giants game against Houston, where two red zone takeaways were the difference in the game. Lo and behold that is their only win of the season. It doesn’t get any easier next week for the defense as the Giants head to Atlanta to play Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and the high-powered Falcons offense. The defense is going to have to start making some more plays and forcing more punts if the results of these games are going to start changing anytime soon.
DAN SALOMONE: The Giants and Vikings had inverse records last season, and Pat Shurmur is trying to grow away from both of them. He took over a 3-13 Giants team after helping the Vikings go 13-3 and reach the NFC Championship Game as their offensive coordinator despite playing with the third option at quarterback. Through six games, this current Giants team’s production at first glance resembles more of the former, opening up the questions of why they are not the latter, especially with weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley. The answer in reality is that no two teams are alike. No two teams are alike in the same organization year to year, and certainly no two teams are alike from different franchises.
“There’s two things,” Shurmur said Friday afternoon, just over 12 hours after tight end Scott Simonson was tackled by Jordan Hicks on the last play of the Giants’ 34-13 loss to the Eagles. “You’re trying to grow away from the [Giants’] season a year ago and then everybody’s trying to predict that you’re going to do exactly what you did [with the Vikings], and these are different situations. But again, everything is urgent, and we’re trying to make everything as good as we can be. This is a different roster than what we had in Minnesota – different types of players, different skill sets, and so we’re trying to just make sure we’re doing the things that they do well and better.”
One of the ways Shurmur is trying to grow the Giants out of last season is by empowering young players. He has said multiple times that your rookies can be your best leaders because they come in with something to add. The hope is that the holdovers are then smart enough to listen and be open to learning something new. Shurmur drove this point home again Monday, pointing to the team’s top two draft picks.
“We’re trying to grow away from 3-13, so the young players that weren’t here – the Saquon Barkley’s and the Will Hernandez’s, and the guys that are getting a lot of experience, the rookies have to understand that, and they weren’t part of it,” Shurmur said. “But they are going to help the guys that were here a year ago. We want to try to help forget that and keep moving, and the record doesn’t speak to that right now. I get that. But you just keep playing and keep working.”
With 11 days in between games, the 1-5 Giants have more time to grow before playing Monday night in Atlanta.
LANCE MEDOW: A few days after finally scoring at least 30 points in a game, the Giants matched their lowest output of the season with just 13 points against the Eagles. One of the most overused statements in NFL circles is: “The quarterback is the most important position.” While that statement certainly holds a great deal of weight, does that simply mean every time an offense struggles the blame solely goes on the signal caller? When you think of some of the best quarterbacks in the league, it’s not a stretch to say Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are all in that conversation. But despite the impressive resumes of those four players, the Packers (2-2-1), Steelers (2-2-1), Falcons (1-4) and Seahawks (2-3) currently all don’t have winning records. Should those four teams consider making a change at quarterback? That’s a rhetorical question as it would be ridiculous to make such a suggestion.
One substitution, even if it’s at the most important position, doesn’t magically cover up a team’s issues. The Giants have surrendered 20 sacks in six games this season including four against the Eagles along with 13 quarterback hits. Most would say, “Well it doesn’t help that Eli Manning isn’t mobile.” Rodgers and Wilson are both mobile, yet they’ve each been sacked 18 times as has Houston’s Deshaun Watson and that’s just in five games given those three teams have yet to play their sixth contests. That’s three reasons why simply assuming a mobile quarterback would solve all the Giants’ offensive issues is misleading.
The Giants have also been plagued by costly penalties and dropped passes which kill drives. Case in point, Thursday night against the Eagles in the second quarter, right after Saquon Barkley turned a short pass into a 55-yard gain, John Greco was called for a false start. Immediately following that procedural penalty, it appeared there were issues with Wayne Gallman’s route, which made a first-and-10 at the Philadelphia 13-yard line all of a sudden a third-and-15 at the 18. Although a roughing the passer penalty ultimately gave the Giants a fresh set of downs, the offense has been plagued by self-inflicted wounds. This has been a trend throughout the season and for those that want to play the blame game or find one convenient scapegoat, it’s too simple to narrow down issues on one side of the ball to just the quarterback.
Can Eli Manning play better? Absolutely. He himself admitted that when he addressed the media Friday following the Eagles game: “I know I can play better. I didn’t play well last night. I got to make better decisions, and get back to just doing my job, not trying to do anything more, not trying to force things.” Can you say the same thing about every other player on offense? It goes without saying. The Giants aren’t on an island when it comes to offensive issues. The teams mentioned above are also going through early season ups and downs and all have, perhaps, quarterbacks you’d put ahead of Eli Manning in the rankings yet their records are hovering around .500. It takes more than a quarterback to win consistently in this league so maybe it’s time to stop putting them on a pedestal.