I don’t want to hear a single reader complain about having to watch the Giants in primetime. Buddy, I live here; I’m forced to watch them every week. And yes, based on this extensive firsthand knowledge, they absolutely are this bad.
The Cowboys easily handled the Giants in a 20-13 game that was, spiritually, a blowout. New York needed until the fourth quarter to record its first touchdown pass of the season, and that doesn’t feel like an anomaly. The offensive line is swiss cheese (and now, with Jon Halapio getting carted off last night, probably missing its starting center for the year), and Eli Manning isn’t mobile enough or strong-armed enough to do anything but throw checkdown after checkdown. This, somehow despite all the wildly talented skill position players who can do great things with the ball in their hands.
Two box score items that seem particularly telling:
1. We all agree that Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best receivers in football, right? And that he should be targeted as often as is realistically possible? Between an incompletion with 6:01 remaining in the first quarter and an incompletion with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter, Manning targeted Beckham just once. Once! (It was also incomplete.)
If you want to credit the Cowboys D-backs for smothering double- and triple-coverage, well, you’d be wrong: Dallas was playing two deep safeties, a relatively cautious look meant to cut off the big plays for which Beckham is known. Yet the Giants didn’t even get it to him for the medium play. “They weren’t really playing real heroically in coverage,” acknowledged head coach Pat Shurmur.
2. Saquon Barkley set the Giants’ franchise record, and tied an NFL record, for most receptions by a rookie, with 14. That’s good! Barkley, incredibly, gained a total of only 80 yards on those 14 catches. That’s bad. Historically bad, 5.7-YPC bad. No NFL player has ever caught 14 balls and racked up fewer than 90 yards.
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It’s a function of Barkley being used primarily as a safety valve for Manning when he’s under pressure, which has been often—he was sacked six times last night. That’s nice to have, but it’s not why the Giants drafted Barkley, and it can’t be the dominant part of the Giants offense. It certainly wasn’t the plan: “That kind of just happened,” Barkley said of his high-volume, low-efficiency night.
Here’s about as rosy a quote as can be mustered for all of this:
“When you have new players, new scheme, a new coach, sometimes it takes a little bit of time, especially for your first game on the road,” Eli Manning said. “It can take a little bit to get your rhythm and get things going, so we just have to keep working and make sure everyone can figure it out with the coaches to do better, and do differently to put us in a better position.”
The offensive line is all new, except for Ereck Flowers, who’s been moved to right tackle to try to hide his struggles in pass protection. But Manning isn’t new. Remember how the Giants’ QB was 37 years old, and not good, and not going to get better, and the Giants had a once-in-a-generation draft position, and did absolutely nothing to address the problem? (Except, I suppose, draft him a new checkdown receiver.) What exactly did they think was going to happen this year? They may have been the first ever 3-13 team to decide they should be in win-now mode, a baffling decision no matter how talented Barkley is.
The Giants have not scored 30 points in a game since the final Sunday of the 2015 season, Tom Coughlin’s last game as coach. Only one other team in the league has failed to score 30 since then: the Browns. The Browns, who have won a single game over that span, are the Giants’ offensive peers. Does that sound like the company kept by a team that ought to be looking for complementary offensive weapons instead of starting from scratch? It does not. Yet Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman treated the offseason as if the team had another run in it before Eli Manning’s window closed. They might be the only people on earth who can’t accept that the Giants’ window has yet to even be cracked open.