In 2015 the New York Giants were eighth in yards-per-game with 372.0 and sixth in points-per-game with 26.2 with Ben McAdoo as their offensive coordinator. However, after finishing 6-10 for the second consecutive season, ownership decided that it was best for the team to part ways with long-time head coach Tom Coughlin. With their offense representing the bright spot of their team the Giants hired McAdoo as the head coach in the offseason to replace the two-time Super Bowl champion Coughlin, but New York hasn’t replicated its offensive success from a year ago. Despite an improvement in their overall record and a playoff berth, the Giants offense is 24th in yards-per-game with 330.7 and 25th in points-per-game with 19.4. Their success is attributed to their defense that has them allowing only 17.8 points a contest – good for second in the NFL.
Prior to the season it was justifiable to believe that New York would have one of the strongest passing attacks in the NFL. Especially with Eli Manning having a nice core of receivers to throw to in Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and rookie second-round pick, Sterling Shepard. Manning’s touchdowns dropped from 35 in 2015 to 26 this season, and he’s turning the ball over a bit more through the air, throwing 16 interceptions compared to 14 a year ago. Manning has also seen his Y/A diminish from 7.2 in 2015 to 6.7 in 2016. Manning is certainly not the only one to blame, but his inconsistent play is part of the offensive struggles.
What’s contributing to his struggles is the lack of the a run game and poor protection from his offensive line, with a slight regression in his overall ability. The rushing attack is nonexistent for the Giants, as they are averaging 3.5 yards per carry – tied for 29th in the NFL. This has put a lot of pressure on the passing game.
Poor Pass Protection
New York’s offensive line hasn’t been able to give Manning a great deal of time to deliver the ball to his receivers. While playing in a Walsh offensive scheme should mean the ball will be out much quicker, a quarterback does need some time to complete passes. The team has used high draft picks on their offensive line since 2013, taking Syracuse G Justin Pugh (1st), Colorado State C Weston Richburg (2nd), and Miami T Ereck Flowers (1st) the last four drafts. Despite investing valuable draft capital on the offensive line, the unit is still a need. Out of the three, the player who has become a disappointment is LT Flowers, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The problems with the line can’t be placed solely on Flowers, but I want to outline what Manning has dealt with from his blindside. Flowers (#74) gets beat because of his poor use of his hands as he doesn’t know when it’s time to strike the rusher.
It’s 1st and 10 from Green Bay’s 11-yard line, with the Giants down 19-6 in the third quarter and inside the red zone. New York is in 11 personnel with running back Paul Perkins (#28) alongside Manning in the shotgun. The ball is snapped and Manning looks to the right side of the field and sets to throw. However, he’s immediately hit by OLB Nick Perry (#53) and sacked for a loss of six.
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Perry beats Flowers on the play because of his hands. Flowers doesn’t time his strike well enough, drops his head, and lunges, allowing Perry to swat Flowers away to rush around him for an easy sack. This has been a problem for Flowers all season as this is the reason he’s been giving up sacks. There was a play against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14 in which Flowers allowed DE Benson Mayowa (#93) to run around him before making contact and gave up a sack that lead to a lost fumble.
Manning has led the NFL’s 19th-ranked red zone offense scoring a touchdown 53% of the time. A mistake by Flowers on the play above against the Packers leads to a 2nd and 16 that the offense is unable to convert on the next two downs, resulting in a field goal. If mistakes like these are worked on, New York would have a better chance of converting red zone opportunities to touchdowns. If Flowers can’t improve his pass protection he might be better suited for right tackle like he was expected to play coming out of college.
Poor Decision Making
Another red zone opportunity for the Giants came on a 2nd and 4 on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 9-yard line with the Giants down an obscure score of 5-0. New York is once again in 11 personnel with two receivers on the left side of the formation and a tight end and wide receiver on the right. New York runs this personnel package a lot and a lack of variety could be a part of their struggles. Pre-snap, Pittsburgh has six players around the line of scrimmage, but William Gay (#22) drops back before the ball is snapped.. When the ball is snapped both James Harrison (#92) and Lawrence Timmons (#94) drop into coverage making a total of eight Steelers dropping into coverage while just three men rush:
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At the back of his drop, Manning reads the left side of the field in order to draw safety Mike Mitchell (#23) closer to the middle of the field away from tight end Larry Donnell (#84).
Manning now believes that Donnell should be open, but he makes the mistake of losing sight of Timmons dropping into coverage. Timmons makes a nice play to intercept the ball and return it downfield setting up Pittsburgh’s offense with good field position.
This past Sunday the Giants offense once again didn’t show up. A few promising early drives ended with critical drops by Beckham Jr. and Shepard. The offense also couldn’t take advantage of the defense forcing the Green Bay Packers to punt on their first five drives. Flowers allowed Julius Peppers to run by him and hit Manning on a couple plays and struggled for most of the evening. Heading into the off-season New York is going to have to try to upgrade their offensive line through the draft and/or free agency. This could allow Manning, who’s 36, one more chance at a Super Bowl run late in his career.
Check out more of Joseph’s work here, including a look at Scott Linehan and the Dallas Cowboys’ Jet Sweep Screen, the offense Doug Pederson will run with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the impending QB decision in Dallas.
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All film courtesy of NFL GamePass.