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Giants to spend bye week assessing first-half struggles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Giants fans would like some answers as to how their team is going to proceed and improve over the second half of the season.

So, frankly, would the Giants.

Their losing streak reached five games yesterday, when they fell at home to Washington, 20-13. The Giants today began their bye week and won't return to action until two weeks from tonight, when they will visit the San Francisco 49ers.

The Giants will use that time to self-scout, soul-search and evaluate every aspect of the team, with an eye toward making the final eight games much more productive and successful than the first eight.

"Aside from saying we're going to evaluate everything, I really have no information as to where that's going to go," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We're just going to spend our time looking at the good, and then certainly the areas we need to get better. Certainly the focus on offense will be the red zone, and we'll try to unlock that and get the ball in the end zone at a higher rate, and hopefully win some games. That's where we're at.

"We have a process we go through. It's internal in terms of what we do, just look at what we've done to this point and try to build on the things we've done well and try to look at areas where we'll minimize doing certain things to try to get better results."

An NFL assistant or head coach for 20 years, Shurmur said, "not really," when asked if bye week studies can lead to significant schematic changes.

"It's not like you're going to come out and we're going to be running the Wing T," Shurmur said. "But what you try to do is within the things you think you do well, you go back and say this route combination has worked against these types of coverages, we'll do this more, this less, this is what the quarterback can do well, so we have a pretty good sample size now, half a year, and then try to refocus on those things.

"In terms of the players, there may be some changes, we'll see. But in terms of the scheme, you just step back and look and seek better ways to do things. We'll look at it."

To outsiders, the most noticeable consequence of those analyses would be lineup changes. Shurmur was asked if he is considering making a switch at quarterback. But he wasn't about to tip his hand regarding such a momentous decision.

"I will stick with what I said last night," Shurmur said. "I think we're going to evaluate everything, from who the guy is and how he's playing, and that's just what we'll do as we move forward. We certainly have not done things well enough and we've got to do things better. That's what we're looking at. Again, I wouldn't change what I said last night."

Moments later, a reporter said Shurmur seemed less committed to Eli Manning than he was earlier in the season, and asked the coach if he was keeping his options open.

"Eli is our quarterback, and we've got to do what we can to help him be better," Shurmur said. "There's certainly a handful of plays each game where he needs to do better, and I think that's pretty obvious when we all watch. That's the approach moving forward, and like I said, we'll look at all things. We've got a minute here to do that, and we've just got to make some good decisions moving forward."

A follow-up question was, "Can we assume that he will be your quarterback for the next game?"

"We'll see," Shurmur said. "I think Eli is our quarterback; but I did say, and again, I know you're all trying to tease a headline out. At this point, Eli is our quarterback, and we are looking at all areas to improve. That's where it's at."

That's certainly where Manning is. He has made it very clear he wants to retain the job he's had for 15 years.

"I've always been a team player, and do kind of what I'm told," Manning said. "I expect and want to be the starting quarterback until I'm told differently."

Told Shurmur's bye-week evaluation will include his position, Manning said, "That's what the coach does. In a bye week, you evaluate everything. That's part of his job."

Manning is third in the NFL in completions (215), seventh in completion percentage (68.3) and fourth in passing yardage (2,377). But he has thrown only eight touchdown passes, and the Giants are 28th in the NFL in scoring with an average of 18.8 points a game. Shurmur has said repeatedly the offense must find a way to score more points, particularly in the red zone, where it has scored 10 touchdowns in 25 trips, a 40% rate that is the league's second-worst.

"I think we'll keep looking to see what ways we can improve, personally, as an offense, for everybody to see how we can score more points," Manning said. "Once we eventually get away, take some time to get your mind and body healed up and rested, and then come back knowing we got eight games, and you got to make the best of it.

"I think the answer just comes to execution. We got good players. There's some good football. There are some good plays. There's some big plays, some explosive plays. There's just some bad football as well. So, it's just cleaning up the bad stuff – and there's going to be some every game. There's going to be bad plays. There's going to be defenses that make good plays, and those types of things. It's just trying to get on the same page with coaches, with players, and make sure we're giving ourselves the best chance to be successful, and make sure we're doing all the things possible that we can to play at a high level."

The Giants will spend the next two weeks searching for a way to reach that level.