Five storylines heading into Sunday’s matchup between the New York Giants and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium:
1. Start clicking. The new-look Giants did not start their season the way they hoped for as they dropped games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. They will look to get on track against the Texans, who are in the same position at 0-2 heading into Week 3. “I think when you have new schemes, new coaches, new players, 30 new players or whatever it is, it takes some time for everything to come together and start clicking,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “You hope you can find ways to win some games. We’ve kept games close, been in it in the fourth quarter. We just got to get a little faster start, get a lead, do some things a little bit better and we’ll get those opportunities to score more points.”
2. Offensive line moves ahead without Halapio. A storyline of training camp was the battle for the starting center spot. In the middle of camp, the Giants traded Brett Jones, cementing Jon Halapio as the starter. However, Halapio is now out for the season after fracturing his lower leg and ankle against the Cowboys. John Greco, the 11-year veteran who has three career starts at center, will get the nod snapping the ball to Manning.
“We just have to focus everything on in-house,” Greco said. “We don’t really listen to the talk outside, we know we have to play better and that’s the focus every week. When we get some wins, it’s going to be the same thing. There’s going to be no let-up, and that’s how you’ve got to approach it. You can’t be complacent and when you know things aren’t going your way, you just have to do everything extra and do everything in your power to be the cause of the wins and not the cause of losses.”
3. This team is just one play away. The Giants have played two good defensive teams to start the season in the Jaguars and the Cowboys. The Cowboys rank fourth in the league in yards allowed per game (274) and third in points allowed per game (14.5), while the Jaguars rank seventh and fifth, respectively. The Giants lost both games by seven or fewer points while holding both teams to 20 points each. In those games, the Giants’ playmakers had potential opportunities to come away with big plays.
“Not only just myself or Odell (Beckham Jr.), it’s all around the board,” rookie running back Saquon Barkley said. “With (Sterling Shepard), Eli (Manning), the O-line, defense, special teams, we’re so close, we’re so close. I think a lot of people are overreacting, I guess you can say, with a 0-2 start. Obviously, I’m just learning, but it’s not like we’re getting blown out in these games. Literally, Jacksonville is one of the best teams in the NFL, they proved that last week. We probably should’ve won that game. Dallas, we fought the whole game, and they got the best of us. We got to continue to work, continue to have that mindset, and definitely don’t panic – continue to believe in each other, and I think we can really turn this season around.”
4. Status of Apple, Vernon. Cornerback Eli Apple did not participate in practice Wednesday with a groin injury he suffered in the game against Dallas this past Sunday. The injury was something that wore on him as the game went on and was “something that was definitely hurting me at the time and hampering me from running my full speed,” as Apple told reporters in the locker room before practice. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon is still battling the ankle injury he suffered in the preseason and “will try to do more”, as coach Pat Shurmur told media before practice. Linebacker Connor Barwin (knee) was the other non-participant in practice on Wednesday. Wide receiver Kaelin Clay and tight end Evan Engram were both limited participants in practice with ankle injuries.
5. Stopping Houston’s mobile quarterback. Heading into Week 3, the Houston Texans lead the NFL in rushing at 157.5 yards per game. This is due to the play of running backs Lamar Miller (166 yards) and Alfred Blue (72 yards) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (84 yards). Watson is third in the league in rushing yards for a quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton. Against the Jaguars, the Giants allowed quarterback Blake Bortles to break off for a 41-yard run. Last week against the Cowboys, Dak Prescott had seven carries for 45 yards. Even in the preseason against the Patriots, Danny Etling ran for an 81-yard touchdown run.
“Until we fix the zone read stuff, we will continue to see it especially from mobile quarterbacks,” Shurmur said. “Again, it’s another challenge for us. Those are really where the big runs came last week, I thought our guys battled the run pretty well considering the type of runner that we were playing against and type of offensive line. Sometimes those zone reads pop out on you. That’s always the challenge when you have a quarterback that has legs like they do.”
Photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Houston Texans