Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, September 18, 2017
The issue is not that the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. There is no shame in that and the Giants certainly can recover from 0-1. The issue is the way the Giants lost. I’ve been preaching since last year that the Giants offense has become a one-trick pony: Eli Manning finding Odell Beckham for the big play. Take that away and the Giants offense becomes one of the worst in the NFL.
So what did the Giants do this offseason? They swapped Evan Engram/Rhett Ellison for Larry Donnell/Will Tye, Brandon Marshall for Victor Cruz, and Paul Perkins for Rashad Jennings. They rolled the dice by going with the same offense line. The results so far have been no different. Even without Beckham in the line-up, the Giants should have been able to generate more than three points and 13 first downs (2 in the first half!) with the weapons the team has against that Dallas defense.
This will sound like an overly-dramatic overreaction, but Ben McAdoo and the offensive brain trust are running out of excuses. So is the entire franchise for not being able to put together a viable offensive line in years.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
- WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
- OL Bobby Hart (ankle – probable)
- OL D.J. Fluker (leg – questionable)
- DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
- LB B.J. Goodson (leg – questionable)
- LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
- CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Ben McAdoo and his offensive assistants were clearly out-coached by the Dallas Cowboys staff last Sunday night. The Dallas defense knew what New York was going to do and the Giants coaches had no answer for it. Obviously, execution also matters. And Eli Manning looked like a quarterback playing out the string of a possible Hall of Fame career. The offensive line still can’t block. The running backs can’t create on their own. And the receivers who played didn’t provide many yards after the catch.
This is the Giants offense:
- They have some talented wide outs and tight ends who can hurt you in the passing game.
- They can’t run the ball.
- They struggle on third down and in the red zone.
So defending the Giants is easy and predictable. Focus on taking away the big plays in the passing game by playing soft, conservative coverage. You don’t have to blitz a ton because you can pressure the now-jumpy Manning with just four defenders against an offensive line that struggles with stunts. Largely ignore the run. Make the Giants nickel-and-dime you because they are likely to eventually stall on 3rd down. The proof is in the pudding. The Giants have not scored 20 points in a game for seven games in a row now, including against the Detroit Lions last December (a 17-6 victory for New York). Right now, Ben McAdoo’s offense without Tom Coughlin’s overall influence isn’t working.
How do the Giants overcome this? The simplest solution would be to run the football and keep running it until the opponent has to move an extra defender into the box. But the finesse New York Giants seem incapable of playing smash-mouth football. The other solution is just keep moving the chains with short- to medium-passes. Bing, bing, bing… down the field. And perhaps your receivers start generating serious yards after the catch. Force defenders to play tighter coverage.
The Lions play the same wide-nine defense up front that the Eagles have played. It’s a get-to-the-QB-at-all-costs scheme that is particularly troublesome for the Giants given the state of their offensive line and the immobility of Eli Manning. The Lions ends will play wide of tackles Ereck Flowers and the gimpy Bobby Hart (ankle), angled towards the QB, largely eschewing the run. The Giants are an ideal team to run the wide nine against.
Whether or not Odell Beckham (ankle) plays or not, the Giants are toast unless Eli Manning starts playing with greater toughness and confidence (easy for me to say, but I’m not the one being paid $20 million per season). He has to just say “fuck it” and be the Eli of old. Get Brandon Marshall into the action and I’d keep hitting Engram and Ellison over the middle. I’d be tempted to start Shane Vereen and keep the Lions off balance with runs with Vereen early (you can bring in Perkins later in the game). Last year, the Giants ran the ball more than they passed against the Lions. While the Giants only averaged 3.6 yards per rush, they kept the aggressive Lions defense honest.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
People are going to accuse me of nit-picking, but the Giants defense didn’t do enough to help the team win last week. For now, the defense has to carry this team. That means getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers. Last week, the Giants didn’t force one turnover, only had one sack, and allowed Dallas to convert on over 50 percent of their chances. The struggling Giants offense was also encumbered by horrible field position. The defense has to create better opportunities for the offense. It is what it is.
The Lions don’t run the ball well, but they can hurt you with their passing game. Matthew Stafford may be inconsistent, but he is certainly capable of putting up big numbers and he has a knack for leading his team from behind in the 4th quarter. And he has a plethora of targets to choose from including wideouts Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay; tight end Eric Ebron; and pass-catching running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Look for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to cover Tate out of the slot and Janoris Jenkins to cover Jones. That will play a lot of pressure on Eli Apple (who had a rough game against Dallas) to cover the emerging Golladay (two touchdowns last week). Golladay is big (6’4”) and he can get deep. Landon Collins and the linebackers will be challenged by Ebron and the running backs in pass coverage. This is a bad opponent to be missing Keenan Robinson. And now Goodson is bothered by a shin injury. We may see more three safety packages, especially if the Lions can’t run the ball. The Detroit Lions offensive line has been completely revamped. The defensive line should and must get after Stafford.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the few bright spots from last Sunday was the play of Dwayne Harris. He looks like he still can make an impact both as a returner and cover man. They’ll need a strong game from him and his teammates because Detroit has one of the strongest special teams units in the league. Aldrick Rosas still really hasn’t been tested (he made a 25-yard attempt in the opener).
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Lions: “They are a different team (from last season). (On offense) they are playing very well. They are hot. They had a nice come-from-behind win, which they can do. That has been (quarterback) Matthew Stafford’s M.O. The quarterback’s playing well, playing with a lot of confidence, extending plays. They possess some matchup problems for you, for anybody they play with the backs out of the backfield and the tight end with some size and speed in Ebron, and the receivers that they do have. Whether it’s a guy who is quick underneath or a big man that can run pretty well.
“On defense, it starts up front for them. They are doing a nice job of getting after the quarterback, pushing the pocket, and they mix in those wide nine fronts, which are a challenge. They squeeze the pocket and they squeeze the run at the same time. (Jarrad) Davis is a young linebacker who’s continuing to grow and learn the pro game. They threw him in there right off the bat and he’s developing for them. (Free safety Glover) Quin does a good job directing the secondary. They are very multiple. They have a lot of calls. Special teams is where they probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve. They are very good on special teams. They have a bunch of core players. They roll maybe eight different guys in there that have a lot of value on special teams for them, and they are very good.”
THE FINAL WORD:
This is not a must-win game, but it is darn close. Going 0-2 would be bad. Another game of not reaching 20 points would be bad. Another game where the team can’t reach the 50-yard rushing mark would be bad. Another game where Eli isn’t the old Eli would be bad. The defense and special teams may have to come to the rescue, especially if Beckham is out another week.