Oct 062017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 8, 2013)

Eli Manning prior to Giants-Chargers game in 2013 – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants, October 8, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
It’s been decades since a New York Giants’ season was all but officially over this early. Even the 4-12 2003 New York Giants started the season 2-1. The strike-plagued 1987 team started 0-5, but there was also an expectation that the defending Super Bowl champions might make a push. You’d have to go back to the mess of the 1960s and 1970s to find such a depressing start.

To be honest, I am at a bit of a loss in how to proceed with these game previews. The Giants are no longer really playing for the post-season but their own jobs. And that includes the coaches as well as the players. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, it is one of the worst teams in the NFL – on offense, defense, and special teams.

Enter the win-less Los Angeles Chargers, another NFL team that abandoned its fan base in pursuit of even more $$$ to play in a city that doesn’t like football. So with one-quarter of the season already over, we are about to witness a glorious 0-4 versus 0-4 match-up of teams from America’s two largest media markets. This isn’t good for the NFL.

For at least one more month, the owners, front office executives, coaches, and players will parrot talking points about the season not being over, but at some point, 2017 will become more about 2018 than the current disastrous season. Many fans will want the Giants to begin playing younger prospects in order to effectively ascertain what the team’s true needs are. But the coaches may be playing for their livelihoods. A game here or there could save Ben McAdoo and his staff. Will the coaches do what is best for the long-term development of the team, or for themselves?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – out)
  • RB Orleans Darkwa (back – probable)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (finger/ankle – probable)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (toe – probable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OG John Jerry (hamstring – questionable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/knee – questionable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – questionable)
  • DE Avery Moss (shoulder – questionable)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 2017 New York Giants were clearly not ready to start the season. They slept-walked through their first two games on offense (13 total points), placing the team in a desperate 0-2 hole. Then continued offensive issues combined with late-game special teams and defensive breakdowns caused back-to-back devastating last-second losses. The offense may now be improving, but it is too late. And the offense is still not good. The Giants have NOT scored a point in the first quarter this year. They have only scored 17 first-half points in four games (an average of 4.25 points per first-half). So not only were the Giants not ready to start the season, they still aren’t ready at the start of games. Guess what? If you limit your scoring to only half the game, you are not going to win many football games.

  • McAdoo/Offensive Coaches: They seem over their heads. They preach balance and “heavy hands” but this team is as finesse and one-dimensional as it gets outside of the Arena League. With few exceptions, individual players don’t seem to be getting better. When is the last time you thought, “Man, our offensive staff really out-coached the other team?”
  • Quarterback: The New York Giants as a franchise squandered the last six years of Eli Manning’s career. Now 36, the #1 question this franchise faces is how long to stick with Manning. Is another year of the McAdoo-Manning combo really going to turn things around? Or do the Giants really want Manning to go through another dramatic coaching/offensive system change at the age of 37? It is hard to see the Giants pulling the cord on Manning, but they did it with Phil Simms so nothing is impossible.
  • Wide Receivers: The fact that we are talking receivers next and not running backs is an indication of how the Giants and the NFL have changed. But the #2 question the New York Giants face is whether or not to re-sign Odell Beckham, Jr. to what undoubtedly will be the highest non-quarterback contract in NFL history. Take Beckham off of this team, and a dreadful offense would become unwatchable. He’s the only guy causing non-diehard fans to tune in. And other than his atrocious run-blocking effort, Beckham certainly isn’t dogging it. He’s a super competitor who wants to win. But the Giants should be at least a little concerned about giving a player who has been difficult to control/influence one of the biggest contracts in sports. Will he become more powerful than the coach and even more difficult to manage? Does this team want to tie up a huge portion of its salary cap to a wideout? My guess is that Beckham isn’t going anywhere, but the situation bears watching as the Giants continue to lose. Brandon Marshall isn’t the future of this team. The Giants should cut him, re-sign Taverres King or sign Travis Rudolph from the Practice Squad, and play the young receivers.
  • Running Backs: Wayne Gallman should be made the starting running back. Paul Perkins needs to sit. Once Perkins (ribs) is healthy again, cut Orleans Darkwa (an injury-prone player who has no future with this team) and re-sign fullback Shane Smith from the Practice Squad. Gallman, Shane Vereen, and Perkins (last chance) should get remaining 2017 playing time. If someone gets hurt, Darkwa can be re-signed.
  • Tight Ends: One of the few bright spots is Evan Engram. He looks like the real deal. The Giants appear to be in good shape here with Rhett Ellison and the under-utilized Jerell Adams.
  • Offensive Line: It seems incredibly odd to me that the Giants did not prepare for a viable back-up plan if one (or both) of their young tackles struggled. Justin Pugh should have been moved to left tackle in camp. Ereck Flowers should have been moved to guard or tried at right tackle. What’s disturbing about Flowers is that a prospect who was supposed to be a mauler in the ground game now can’t seem to do anything well. He looks like a complete bust. Chad Wheeler needs another year or two in the weight room, but I’d be tempted to play him now and let him gain the experience. Re-signing John Jerry was a mistake. Well-respected OL Coach Mike Solari hasn’t delivered the goods in New York. No one appears to be getting better. And Jerry Reese and his scouting department can’t evaluate offensive linemen. This mess has been going on for years now.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The narrative that Steve Spagnuolo simply needed better players is rapidly falling apart. The 2017 New York Giants defense is beginning to resemble the dreadful 2015 version. The Giants can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer, and they are beginning to give up late-game leads again. (The defense squandered TWO 4th-quarter leads in BOTH of the last two games).

  • Defensive Line: The most shocking development has been the poor play of the defensive line. Coming out of the preseason, this group was healthy and looked poised for a monster year. The ends – who have played too much and are now struggling with injuries – have been a huge disappointment. Neither Jason Pierre-Paul nor Olivier Vernon are justifying their current contracts. The tackles have been a bit better. None of the back-ups – both outside and inside – have distinguished themselves. The Giants will need to spend a premium draft pick on a defensive end in 2018.
  • Linebackers: Jonathan Casillas had a strong season in 2016, but that now looks like it will be his career year. He is not playing well. Keenan Robinson has regained his injury-prone reputation and also is not playing as well. Hopefully B.J. Goodson will be part of the solution moving forward. Devon Kennard is more of a situational player. Like the offensive line, Jerry Reese and staff seem incapable of drafting athletic, play-making outside linebackers. Depth at this position is putrid.
  • Defensive Backs: The negatives here have been the continued inconsistent play of Eli Apple (1-3 bad plays per game offsetting otherwise solid performances) and the failure of Darian Thompson to turn into the player anticipated by the coaching staff. Moving forward, the Giants have to determine how much Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has left in the tank beyond the 2017 season. And if Thompson doesn’t have “it”, the team still has a major hole to fill at free safety.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Quinn should have been fired years ago. It’s hard to be overly-sympathetic with the owners, front office execs, and coaches when something this obvious is not acted upon. The Giants have now lost three games in a row largely due to special teams breakdowns. Interesting that things started to go really south again once Larry Izzo left the Giants after 2015.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Yada, yada, yada… No one is listening at this point.

THE FINAL WORD
Those of us who are old enough have seen the warning signs before. When your star players start throwing the coaching staff under the bus, things can turn ugly fast. Odell Beckham’s comments about the Bucs knowing what plays the Giants were running is reminiscent of player criticism directed at Ray Handley, Dan Reeves, and Jim Fassel. Whether this criticism is valid or not is moot. Fingers are beginning to be pointed. Next warning signs? More and more players showing up on the injury report and not coming back quickly.

The biggest draw for this particular game is that this is likely the last time Eli Manning and Philip Rivers will play against each other. Eli has never been on the winning side of this match-up (0-3).

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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