Nov 102017
 
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Steve Weatherford, New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Steve Weatherford – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, November 12, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
It’s hard to believe that we are only halfway through this mess. The Giants have had other hopeless seasons that were over at the midway point, but I’m not sure this level of despair and/or indifference has been reached in decades. And yet, we still have eight more games to play.

How bad are your 2017 New York Giants? 28th in offense. 30th in defense. Special teams that play a role in each mounting loss.

There may not be a better example of how transient the National Football League has become than this match-up. Six years ago, these two teams were on top of the NFC, playing in one of the most memorable conference championship games ever played. It was a hard-hitting slug-fest in the best tradition of the Giants-49ers games from 1981-1990, and it ended dramatically in overtime

The 49ers looked like an up-and-coming team who would be good for a long time under a head coach who was sure to be in San Francisco for years to come. The Giants’ road had been far rockier, but it looked like Eli Manning had truly reached top-tier quarterback level as he dragged a weak running and defensive team to the playoffs by throwing to young targets Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. (In hindsight, it was Eli’s best season of his career). The Giants even had a new surprising tight end in Jake Ballard. Again, it was anticipated that these players would be around for years to come. Tom Coughin surely had surely permanently cemented his job security in New York – even Bill Parcells said so.

The combined record of both teams in 2017? 1-16. These two teams are now battling with the Cleveland Browns for the dishonor of being labeled the worst team in the NFL. It’s a comical fight for the #1 spot in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Giants and 49ers have gone from the cream of the crop to laughing stocks in just six years.

The question here for the Giants is this: how low can you get? It is frightening to contemplate that the game against the Los Angeles Rams may not be the nadir of this season. Have the Giants’ players quit? Do they respect and fear the coaching staff? Are they afraid for their own jobs? We’re about to find out.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • OL Justin Pugh (back – probable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – questionable)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (knee – questionable)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (quad – out)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (quad – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – questionable)
  • CB Donte Deayon (ankle – doubtful)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Using the last three games as a guide, we see the only apparent road map for the New York Giants offense to remain respectable for the remainder of the 2017 season: run the football, sprinkle in Eli Manning passes to Evan Engram and anyone else who can get open, protect the football, and try to shorten the game. There were drives here and there against the Broncos and Rams where the Giants looked decent when they could run the ball. When they couldn’t against Seattle, it got ugly. And the problem against the Rams were the two first-half turnovers combined with the game rapidly getting out of hand.

The Giants simply can’t function consistently anymore just throwing the ball. They don’t have the receivers and Eli Manning is misfiring too often now. Regardless of the reasons, Manning’s effectiveness has clearly been trending down for two years in a row. He’ll be 37 in January and the Giants are going to have a shot at perhaps whomever they think is the best quarterback in the draft. This isn’t hard to figure out. There are many dangers for the New York Giants franchise moving forward. Making the wrong decision at General Manager. Making the wrong decision at head coach. Making the wrong decision at quarterback. Those are the three big ones. Change isn’t always good. But neither is loyalty. Not in this business.

Probably the most realistic ideal scenario is for Eli Manning to finish 2017 in respectable fashion, the Giants select the best QB in the draft, and for Eli as a starting quarterback to serve as a mentor for the new guy in 2018. Then Eli would have to decide in 2019 whether to retire as a Giant or keep playing with another team. It’s not the way we wanted it to end. We wanted to see him hoist that third Super Bowl trophy as MVP. But it isn’t going to happen. The Giants as a franchise botched it. They wasted the last six years.

The worst scenario would be to see Eli continue his shell-shocked play, get hurt, and watch Geno Smith finish the season. The Giants pass on the franchise quarterback and try it again with the same Reese-McAdoo-Manning formula in 2018.

I keep sounding like a broken record here, but the best thing the Giants can do on moving forward on this side of the ball is to finally determine what they have in Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, and Sterling Shepard. Orleans Darkwa is the team’s best back right now, but he’s not the future. Evan Engram is clearly a keeper. The offensive line is a mess. In their contract years, Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh were supposed take a step forward in 2017 but Richburg clearly hasn’t improved and is already on IR with a serious concussion. Pugh has missed time with injuries AGAIN. Bobby Hart has been a disaster. Ereck Flowers started off playing like crap but has settled down a bit. Are there ANY keepers on this line? Any at all? The Giants have spent three very high draft picks on this shit show! It is ridiculous.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Granted the Los Angeles Rams are one of the better offenses in football, but that was disgusting last week. The Rams had nine scoring drives. The Giants only forced two punts and did not accrue a sack or force a turnover. 3rd-and-33? Some may point to the missing players, but at least guys like Avery Moss were hustling out there. It will be very telling to see what kind of effort Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, and Landon Collins put forward in the secondary. Same with Jason Pierre-Paul, who is looking more and more like another front office re-signing mistake (see John Jerry on the other side of the ball). Olivier Vernon should be back this week. What kind of effort do we get from him after missing more than a month?

It bears repeating. The Giants were the #2 scoring defense in the NFL last year. Most of the same players are still here. Same coaching staff too. Now they are 30th in yards and 29th in scoring defense. DRC and Jenkins each missed one game with a suspension but the secondary has been healthy. Except for Vernon, same story with the defensive line. Now five linebackers are on the injury list with three key ones not playing against the 49ers. The Giants were forced to sign Kelvin Sheppard and Deontae Skinner this week just to have enough bodies. What if the 24th-ranked 49ers offense – with quarterback C.J. Beathard at the helm – move the ball up and down the field on the Giants? Can this defense that came into the season with the goal of being the NFL’s best sink lower? Can anyone on this team cover a a tight end?

Moving forward, the Giants can build around Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson. Those interior positions are hard to fill. Janoris Jenkins is a very good player. Landon Collins should rebound. Fingers crossed there. Avery Moss has flashed. But then there are question marks with JPP, Vernon, DRC, B.J. Goodson, Apple, and others. It is looking more and more likely that the constant revolving door at linebacker will continue in 2018 as Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are not long-term answers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Quinn’s unit is now a weekly disaster. Each game it is something new. Ironically, Quinn is one of the few remaining connections to the 2011 NFC Championship Game, where his special teams had a huge role in winning that game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Eli Manning: “I think that sometimes I take for granted the type of guy he is and the way he prepares. I say things in press conferences where you have to hold all players accountable. He’s accomplished so many things in this league at a high level, but he still needs to be held accountable. The past is something that we all learn from and we all hold dearly in some instances, and some instances we don’t. I respect everything he’s done and accomplished in this league. But right now, we need to win and we need to play better and I don’t like to grade players in the media or in the public, but everyone needs to be held accountable and he’s going to be held accountable just like everybody else in this building that’s under my watch. Period. Does that mean I don’t have faith and confidence in him? Heck no. I’ve got a ton of faith, a ton of confidence in him. I always have. I always will. Do I say it enough to him? Probably not. I wasn’t raised in a warm and fuzzy environment, but I do have a lot of confidence in Eli and I have confidence that we’re going to right this ship and make a run.”

THE FINAL WORD
This is the game that may determine how significant the offseason house-cleaning will be.

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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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