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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 23, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, November 5, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
While my last preview was well received by some, others correctly pointed to the fact that it really wasn’t a “game preview” about the upcoming opponent. To be honest, given the abyss the Giants find themselves in, I don’t really see the point of doing traditional game previews other than the impulse to routinely go through the motions. So right or wrong, I intend to use this spot to provide a weekly “state of the Giants” article as we move closer and closer to incredibly important January decisions to be made by the Mara and Tisch families.

The sense of “blah-ness” among New York Giants fans (1-6 record) and the NFL in general (empty stadiums, declining ratings, injured stars) is palpable. I’ve never seen anything like this. There have been periods in recent years where the NYG fan base felt the Giants were on the wrong track and far away from a championship, including ironically, a couple of times before the Giants last two Super Bowl wins. But even during these dark periods, the fans cared. They screamed, hollered, bitched. Something has changed and I can’t really put my finger on it yet.

Unfortunately, the Giants too appear to simply be going through the motions. No one seems particularly angry or upset… owners, team management, coaches, players. I don’t really know what I want them to do, but Jerry Reese’s press conference seemed more-of-the-same bullshit as does McAdoo’s repeated claims that “we are practicing well” and “we are playing hard.” Again, this isn’t a roster filled with Dave Browns and Jeremy Lincolns. The 2017 New York Giants are not supposed to be 1-6. They were supposed to be a contender. And regardless of what others are claiming, players don’t appear to be afraid of Coach McAdoo, with two Pro Bowl corners simply not showing up to work. And as I predicted, the injury list is growing and players don’t appear to be returning very quickly. We’ve seen this before (see Jim Fassel’s last year).

When things don’t go well, the immediate fan reaction is to call for change. Sometimes that is a mistake. And I’ve been guilty of that as well. I remember saying the Giants were going nowhere with Tom Coughlin in 2006. Imagine if the Giants had fired him then? Same with Bill Parcells after his disastrous 1983 season. On the other hand, the Giants clearly stayed with Dan Reeves a year too long. My point? How much of a problem is Ben McAdoo and his staff? Is it premature to fire him? Or is sticking with him for another year, while making cosmetic changes to the assistant staff, doubling down on a bad decision to promote him to head coach in the first place?

Then there is Jerry Reese. Right now, Reese and his staff are entering the final stages of scouting 2018 NFL Draft prospects. Reports are being written and analyzed. Do you fire Reese in January when the bowl games are wrapping up? Same with the scouts? Do the Giants find a sacrificial lamb (Marc Ross)? Who replaces them and what material do they use to make draft-day decisions a few months later? But again, is doing nothing doubling down on a structure that isn’t working?

Complicated business. Monumental decisions.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Paul Perkins (ribs – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (ankle – probable)
  • OC Weston Richburg (concussion – out)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (knee – out)
  • DT Robert Thomas (calf – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – probable)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – questionable)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Sometimes we lose sight of the forest through the trees. When Tom Coughlin hired Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator in 2014, I was intrigued to see the New York Giants employ the West Coast Offense and join the ranks those teams that had high-powered passing offenses. Plus, it was becoming obvious that Eli Manning was suffering in a 5- and 7-step drop passing offense behind an offensive line that could not protect him. When Kevin Gilbride was “fired”, the overwhelming reaction on BBI was one of relief. And McAdoo’s early impact on Manning was very positive. Manning enjoyed a career renaissance as he approached his mid-30s.

Now for my side tangent. With my son entering high school and playing in the marching band, I have been attending quite a few Friday night high school games this year. Our local team started off 5-0, using a pistol-type, pass-heavy offense with a variety of formations and personnel groupings. The coach is very unconventional, taking chances I cringe at (i.e., going for it on 4th-and-5 on their side of the field with a 6-point lead). “Maybe this is the direction the league really is going,” I thought. “More like the Arena League and less traditional.” That all changed in Week 6 and our team’s home-coming game. My folks were in town and I said, “Wait to you see how good our 5-0 team is!”

The first thing I noticed was how big the linemen were on the opposing team. “Holy crap, those guys look like college players.” (When I got home that night, I checked their roster, and yup, their linemen were all in the 6’3”, 260lb-range). They just abused our 5-0 team up front. It was smash-mouth personified. They ran, ran, ran and our team couldn’t stop it. And it got worse as the game went on. They hung 50 points on us and had they not called off the dogs in the 4th quarter, it could have been 70. On the other side of the ball, we couldn’t run and became completely one dimensional. Our only points came on a kick return. The other team was just bigger, tougher, more physical, and nastier. We never had a chance.

My point is we sometimes get caught up in the jazzier aspects of the game… the one-handed catches, the 8-yard slant pass that goes for a 70-yard touchdown. But no matter how much the game changes, the game really is still won or lost in the trenches. Yes, you need a good quarterback. Yes, you need to be able to pass the ball in 2017. But if you can’t run the football, you are a finesse team. And the Giants have been a finesse team for far too long. That’s where the offensive inconsistency, including short-yardage and red-zone issues come from. Nothing is really going to change with the Giants until they become a physical offensive football team again.

As for this week’s game, Justin Pugh being out complicates issues on the offensive line. Bobby Hart, who has struggled mightily this year, will regain his starting job at right tackle. John Jerry and D.J. Fluker will be the guards. Weston Richburg has now been absent for over a month. And Pugh is hurt yet another year. The Giants offensive line is even more of a mess than it was a year ago. How is that possible?

It will also be interesting to see how effective or ineffective Sterling Shepard will be with no Odell Beckham on the field.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I know I’ve sounded very critical of the defense this year. Yes, I hold them to a higher standard than the offense because a greater investment has been recently spent on that side of the ball. Coming into 2017, we all knew the Giants still had issues on the offensive line and potentially at running back. But most of us figured the defense would pick up where they left off. They didn’t. Worse, the minor mutinies have been on that side of the ball. Ben McAdoo is receiving a lot of justified criticism for players not respecting him, but what about Steve Spagnuolo? What does it say about him that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins felt they could just walk out like that? And very troubling was this line from ESPN writer Jordan Raanan earlier this week:

“Players who spoke to ESPN about the situation have offered up explanations ranging from some players not caring anymore now that the season is lost to a lack of overall respect for McAdoo and some of his coaching staff, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.”

Is it merely a coincidence that the suspensions involved two Pro Bowl players in the defensive backfield? Perhaps. But something smells fishy. And this bears watching – especially by those who think Steve Spagnuolo might be a viable candidate to replace McAdoo.

What I will be looking at moving forward is how many defensive players are skipping games with injuries and how hard are these guys still playing in the 4th quarter of games, regardless of the score. Note that Olivier Vernon – who had never missed a game before this year – has now been out for over a month. His replacement – Kerry Wynn – is now out too. So are two of the starting linebackers. It’s disconcerting that B.J. Goodson keeps getting hurt. If you can’t rely on your middle linebacker to be there every week, you need a new middle linebacker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Regardless of what transpires in January, Tom Quinn must go.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on if a good week of practice should translate to good football during games: “Absolutely.”

Coach McAdoo on why that has not happened: “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

THE FINAL WORD
The Giants should be 1-7 by 4:15PM on Sunday.

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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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