It’s clear the start of the 2023 NFL season has not gone the way New York Giants fans had hoped. The 1-2 start, including two losses by a combined 70-12 score, has readjusted perceptions about the team. 2022 may have unfairly raised expectations and it is becoming clear that this version of the Giants still is not close to competing with the big boys.
Progress is not always linear. Teams on the right track don’t always improve in the W-L column each season. There have been some rumblings among fans that the jury is still out on Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll. Of course it is. The jury is out on every executive and head coach every season. Jim Fassel took a team that probably had no business being in the game to a Super Bowl, and yet he was fired three years later. Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls and was fired four years later. No one is safe.
However, the Giants will never improve unless there is some stability within the organization. I’ve been warning fans for years that once you start over, any progress made by the previous regime is gone. I can tell many, if not most, fans still haven’t accepted this reality. “How long does it take to rebuild this team? This offensive line? This defense? It’s been 12 years!!!” No, the Giants reset in 2022. It’s been one year for THIS regime, not 12. If you fire the general manger and head coach, the counter goes back to zero. And the odds you are going to do better than Schoen and Daboll are not good, especially with this ownership and their hiring history. My point here is to cut the crap. Stop reacting emotionally to every setback and start using your head. Spoiler alert, the Giants are not going to the Super Bowl in 2023. The last thing this team needs is another regime change.
Many of us warned that the 2023 Giants may be a better team but end the season with a worse record because of the murderous schedule. What’s bothering everyone is how uncompetitive the team was in Week 1 and Week 3. It’s not shocking that the Giants are 1-2, but it is more than a bit surprising how badly they were beaten in their two losses. Regardless of the W-L record moving forward, we need to see a more competitive team, a team making progress and heading in the right direction.
Big picture overview. If you told Giants fans that the team would be 1-2 at this point, most would not be shocked and most would have not preached doom and gloom. It’s still all in front of this team. As Wink Martindale said this week, the Giants can still shape their own destiny. The period between San Fransisco 49ers on September 21 and the Seattle Seahawks on October 2 was a de facto bye week. Hopefully the team reset and got its mind right.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – doubtful)
- TE Daniel Bellinger (neck – probable)
- LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring – out)
- OG Ben Bredeson (concussion – probable)
- DL D.J. Davidson (elbow – probable)
- OLB Azeez Ojulari (hamstring – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Speaking of reacting emotionally, the constant search for one or two scapegoats is as tiring as it is misleading. The 1-2 start is not due to the offense or defense as a whole. And it’s not due to Daniel Jones or Evan Neal. It’s not a copout to say everyone has had a role in this; it’s simply reality. When the offense is not performing, it will affect the defense. When the defense is not performing, it will affect the offense. Special teams can have an impact on both too. So does coaching.
Big picture again. The 31-point second-half explosion against the Cardinals counts. Through three games, Arizona has been a far more competitive team than anticipated, including soundly defeating a Dallas Cowboys team that whooped the Giants. Nevertheless, the Giants’ offense has been a big disappointment through three games. The Giants only had 14 first downs and 171 yards of total offense against Dallas and 10 first downs and 150 yards against the 49ers. Zero and 12 points. You can’t win with those numbers.
What has been the problem? A big portion of the “blame” lies with the fact that the Cowboys and 49ers are two of the very best defenses in the entire league (though the loss of Trevon Diggs is huge). Probably the biggest problem for New York has been the state of the offensive line. The special teams breakdown on the blocked field goal in Week 1 not only changed the complexion of the game, but it led to Andrew Thomas’ hamstring injury that is likely to now nag him all season. It was a disastrous result and bad omen for this team. The best offensive player on this team is not Saquon Barkley or Daniel Jones. It is Andrew Thomas.
Without Thomas, the Giants have the the youngest and most inexperienced offensive line in the NFL. Joshua Ezeudu has started four games since being draft, two at left tackle. Ben Bredeson has started 11 games in his four seasons. John Michael Schmitz has started three games as a rookie. Marcus McKethan has started two games after missing all of his rookie season. Evan Neal has started 16 games in two years. There probably have been times in the long history of the NFL where this happened before, but it can’t be often. And yet we have fans scratching their heads why this unit had issues against Nick Bosa and the 49ers defensive front. Those asking how long will it take to fix the offensive line seem to be completely ignoring that this current unit has collectively 36 total starts. That’s as green as it gets. They have literally started over.
There are those who say Daniel Jones has been a problem this year. Perhaps. I don’t really see it. Could he play better? Sure. But he also demonstrated against Arizona what he can do if the defense forces three-and-outs, the running game presents any sort of a threat, the offensive line can give him even a little time, and his receivers get open and don’t drop the ball. None of that happened against the 49ers. Let’s see how Daniel performs when he has help. No, he doesn’t have to have everything “perfect” to succeed. But the defense has to force the other team to punt. And the running backs have to gain more than 22 yards in a game. Jones also can’t be under pressure literally almost 50 percent of his drop backs.
Which brings us to Saquon, who is doubtful for the game. No one on BBI will accuse me of being a Barkley apologist. After all, I was advocating the team shopping him before the trade deadline last year. But this team and this offense is a different animal with Saquon in the lineup. Don’t believe me. Look at how other teams defend the Giants when he is or isn’t on the field. It’s one of the reasons why I shake my head at those who claim running backs no longer matter in the NFL. Of course they do. And they will always matter. Whether Barkley plays and how effective he plays on his ankle sprain moving forward will be a huge factor in how productive this offense will be. If teams have to focus on Barkley, it opens things up for the receiving targets. And visa versa.
The Seahawks. While Pete Carroll (defensive coach) is one of those guys you love to hate, you have to admire his ability and consistency as a coach as well as multiple rebuilding efforts. Seattle is a young and rising team. They were a surprising 9-8 playoff team last year and have already beaten the Detroit Lions this year. Don’t forget, last year the Giants were 6-1 when the Seahawks soundly beat New York by two touchdowns.
A lot has changed since that day. Marcus Johnson started at wide receiver. The tight ends were Chris Myarick, Lawrence Cager, and Tanner Hudson. Tyre Phillips started at right tackle and struggled. Jon Feliciano was the center, Mark Glowinksi the right guard, and Josh Ezeudu started his first NFL game at left guard.
Seattle is currently ranked 30th in defense in terms of yards allowed and 29th in points allowed. They are 31st against the pass and 6th against the run. Last season, the stats were similar with run and pass rankings flipped. The point here is while Seattle has talent, this isn’t the Cowboys or 49ers. If the Giants are going to finally get it going on offense, now is a good time to do it. Provided the young offensive line can somewhat do their job.
The problem for the New York offense last year had reared its ugly head again this season. The Giants have to get something going early in the game. It was a problem against Seattle too in 2022, as the Giants were scoreless in the first quarter and only had seven points by halftime. Move the ball early, get some first downs, get a lead for your defense.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Despite continued offensive woes, the focal point of fan ire shifted dramatically to Wink Martindale’s defense this past week. The Giants still don’t have a turnover. The pass rush has been a big disappointment. New York is 24th in yards allowed, including 28th in run defense. Missed tackles against the 49ers were a huge problem. Wink’s defense in 2022 was excellent on third down and in the red zone, but so far have disappointed this year, particularly on third down.
Again, each unit affects the other. One of the ways for the offense to become more productive is for the defense to get the opposing offense off of the field. Turnovers also lead to favorable field position and easy scoring drives. It’s all interconnected.
The problem for the Giants is Seattle is averaging almost 30 points per game (4th in the NFL) despite being middle-of-the-pack in both rushing and throwing the football. They also have a number of dangerous players including Kenneth Walker, one of the more dangerous running backs in the NFL. The receivers are very good and compliment each other extremely well, including D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Seattle also has a trio of tight ends they will employ as both blockers and receivers. All of these weapons make it easier for resurgent Geno Smith to perform. Smith threw for 30 touchdowns in 2022 and has done a decent job of protecting the football.
The weak spot right now is a banged up offensive line with injury issues at left tackle, center, and right guard. The time is now for Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kavyon Thibodeaux, and the returning Azeez Ojulari to make a difference. For the Giants to have a chance in this game and hold Seattle to 20 points or less, the front seven must win their individual matchups. The linebackers and secondary will have their hands full with the receiving targets. First and foremost, the Giants absolutely must get their run defense issues resolved. In all three games thus far, the defense has allowed opposing offenses to do far too much damage on the ground. If Walker gets going, the team will be in for a long night.
Many things have changed in football over the years. But one thing has not and I doubt will ever change. You stop the run and make the other team one-dimensional. Then you can get after the quarterback. It’s always been that simple. Martindale did this in Baltimore. For some reason, it has not translated to New York. If you stop the run, you are the more physical team. By making the other team one dimensional, that will lead to sacks, hits on the quarterback, mistakes and turnovers on their part. The crowd also feeds off of this.
Speaking of physical, I don’t want to see anymore standing around on defense while the ball carrier is still alive. Swarm to the ball. Gang tackle. If you put on the NY helmet, you have responsibility to live up to a defensive legacy that is bigger than you.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Despite the final score (27-13), the game against the Seahawks in Seattle was close into the 4th quarter. Indeed, it can be argued that the game really was primarily influenced by two fumbled punt returns by Richie James. Seattle’s special teams are coached by Larry Izzo, who was an assistant special teams coach with the Giants under Tom Coughlin from 2011-2015.
FROM THE COACHES:
Mike Kafka on the offense: “We obviously want to start a lot faster.”
Wink Martindale on the defense: “We still control the narrative.”
THE FINAL WORD:
We all know this is a big game. 1-3 can become 1-5 very easily. At that point, we will all be looking at the NFL Draft again in October. On paper, Seattle is arguably the better team. They certainly have played better and been coached better than the Giants thus far this year. But this is a winnable game.
On offense, get the ball to Jalin Hyatt and Darren Waller. I also think Daniel Bellinger has been underutilized as a receiving threat in two tight end packages. Defensively, stop the run. Then your big four pass rushers (Lawrence, Williams, Thibodeaux, and Ojulari) need to get to Geno Smith.
If the Giants can win this game, and somehow steal a win against the Dolphins or Bills, they will be in respectable shape at 3-3. But it must start with Seattle on Monday night.