What’s Happening in New York? The Struggles of Big Blue

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Here is a bright spot fellow Giants fans, we didn’t lose during the bye week. We reminisce to the long long ago, a time of high hopes and blissful dreams. We were a confident people filled with conviction and pride when donning our blue. I am of course referring to August, where the perceived fate led false credence to the Giants fans imagination.

There would be no playoffs; rather we would be witnessing two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league start to come into their own in the NFC East. Once the year concludes, we can point at the dearth of talent in the decimated wide receiver room to help explain the underachieving season, but we as Giants fans know that’s not the entire truth. I stated in my post 2017 draft article, that this could be a very long season for Giants fans if Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart did not develop as Jerry Reese planned. Although I wasn’t wrong, I truly overlooked the fundamental issues with this football team that have led to this spiraling 1-6 start.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Giants Offense/Special Teams  

Eight straight games, dating back to 2016, without scoring 20 points in a game. It took until the 4th quarter of Week 3 against the Eagles to exceed this number under an offensive minded head coach that was calling the plays. And this is with arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the NFL on your team.

Everything from play calling to execution has been in shambles and this team is not talented enough to make costly mistakes and penalties. The Sterling Shepard drop on 3rd and goal against the Eagles, which set up Ereck Flowers to get beat by Vinny Curry on 4th down leading to a negative run for Darkwa. The John Jerry delay of game penalty in the same game, which essentially cost the Giants the game. This team is not talented enough to commit costly errors.

Eli Manning is constantly under duress and has already been sacked 17 times in 7 games, which is 4 away from his 2016 total. The shuffling of the offensive line helped the Giants beat the Broncos, but there is more than meets the eye here. Justin Pugh is a natural guard, but he is also our best right tackle at the moment, since the position was essentially ignored. This is important to pay attention to because Pugh is a free agent next season and tackles are worth much more than guards on the open market. We may not be able to afford Pugh’s services, with the cap strapped nature of this football team and a possible contract for Odell Beckham Jr. looming.

We all dreamt about the greatness of the talent we have at the skill positions on offense, but it was rendered ineffective and injuries took their toll. As for the special teams, Brad Wing has been a major disappointment and his two most important punts this season went for 28 and 15 yards, which helped lead to two close losses. Rookie kicker Aldrick Rosas has missed three field goals and the poor punt coverage in the Lions game that led to Jamal Agnew’s 88-yard touchdown all but sealed the fate for the Giants on Monday Night Football. This team does not have the talent on the roster to make poor mistakes, especially on special teams.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Giants Defense

This vaunted unit from 2016 was 2nd in points against, while ranking 3rd against the run, only surrendering over 100 total yards rushing 6 times. The 2017 Giants have already matched that number through 7 games. The disparity could be attributed to injuries or the struggling offense that averages 4.3 3rd down conversions a game (ranks 30th in the league). The inept offense forces the defense to be on the field far too long. Big Blue’s offense ranks 31st in time of possession, while running 68.7 defensive plays a game, which also ranks 31st. Outside of Jason Pierre-Paul’s three sack night against Denver, rushing opposing quarterbacks has left a lot to be desired.

One can see the struggles, but the defense has had some bright spots of late, so let us bring some positivity to conclude this section. Eli Apple and Darian Thompson are both playing much better in the last 3 weeks. The Giants defense reverted back to their opportunistic style with 4 takeaways in the last 2 weeks. The defense showed true resiliency halting an 18-play drive by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks at the 1-yard line, with 11 of the plays coming in the red-zone. Maybe we should have expected regression from this unit, but a defense cannot do everything.  

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Coaching  

It took an 0-5 start for head coach Ben McAdoo to finally relinquish play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan; and wouldn’t you know the team came out with a varied run game and beat the Broncos. McAdoo seemed overmatched in several aspects of being a head coach so far. His in-game decision making process has been very questionable from play-calling sequences to situational football. Unnecessarily avoiding the easy points with a subpar offense that help lead to multiple losses became an unwanted trend that Giants fans have endured all season.

The team has only played complimentary football once this season and that was against Denver. He has a new slick back look, but still lacked the creativity to consistently move the football. I was elated when I heard he gave up the play calling duties, but when I heard his smug explanation I realized the sense of arrogance that McAdoo carries. He seems to be about as personable as a foot and bears a sense of entitlement that I do not feel has been earned. We have seen his personality rub players the wrong way as well and yes losing breeds negativity. Not only was there the Dominique Rodgers Cromartie incident, which resulted in a one game suspension, but Janoris Jenkins, arguably the Giants best defensive player, has been suspended as well by the team. These suspensions really say something about the state of the locker room under Ben McAdoo’s supervision.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Front Office

The biggest issue with the Giants coming into 2017 was clearly the offensive line. The Giants seem to be the only team that valued Ereck Flowers as a 1st round tackle in 2015 and Bobby Hart was a 7th round pick, so Jerry Reese’s vote of confidence was blind optimism. Since drafting Ereck Flowers, Reese has only drafted two offensive linemen (Hart and Adam Bisnowaty, who didn’t make the team). It is by far their poorest unit and the Giants did little to create competition in the waning years of Eli Manning’s career. Sadly, the Giants will be seeing Andrew Whitworth in Week 9, who was the most coveted tackle prospect that the Giants failed to pursue because of his age in the 2017 free agency. This proved to be a mistake, as the Rams, under a proven offensive genius in Sean McVay, have become one of the better teams in the NFL.

My issues with the 2-time Super-Bowl winning general manager run deeper than just the offensive line. Reese has failed to provide depth to this football team. The Giants have only three players that they drafted signed to second contracts (Eli, the Chargers drafted him, but you get it, long snapper Zak DeOssie, and Jason Pierre-Paul).

Consistent teams like the Packers, Patriots, Seahawks, and Steelers have more future hall of famers that they drafted than players the Giants have signed to second contracts. There is little to no retention of talent that Reese has hit on in the draft, which is few and far between. In the three drafts from 2011 to 2013 there are only three players that are currently on an NFL roster: Prince Amukamara, Justin Pugh, and Johnathan Hankins. There are only 2 starters on the Giants roster from the 2010 to 2013 drafts. Our division foes have more drafted pro-bowlers in that time frame.

That is absolutely inexcusable and is one of the defining factors to why this team is 1-6. Failing on mid-round picks has become a concerning trend with Reese and it is very apparent that drafting Odell Beckham Jr. saved his job, but for how long? We all applaud Reese for bringing in Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Olivier Vernon in the 2016 free agent cycle, but totally overlook the fact that they were all signed because Reese has failed in the draft. If the team was competent during the draft season, they wouldn’t have spent over 200 million dollars to band-aid the real issues that are present.

I look at Dallas, Washington, and Philadelphia’s offensive line with envy, as I see our 36-year-old immobile quarterback get hit time and time again and all I think about is how faulty this mission statement was for the New York Football Giants.   

2017 is one of the most disappointing Giants seasons in recent memory. Nothing has gone this team’s way and that is due to a plethora of factors. The offensive struggles, defensive regression from 2016, injuries, many questionable decisions by a 2nd year head coach, and a general manager that has not replenished this roster through the draft, while maintaining stubborn blind faith in players that he over drafted. The future of this franchise is up in the air. Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz are names that Giants fans will become all too familiar with, and this season could be a blessing in disguise. There are leaders on this team. Core players that can be built around and should be here for the long haul. We may look back at 2017 and become thankful one day.

Thankful that we transitioned from an all-time great Giants quarterback in Eli Manning to the next all-time great because the Giants will more than likely have a top-5 selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. We could set ourselves up for the next 15 years! But that is more than likely just my stupid fandom and my glass half full mentality. In the meantime, there is plenty of football to be played in 2017, so let’s see who deserves to be on the team and who plays hard down the stretch. For us fans, ruck up ladies and gentleman because it is going to be one long journey, with a very uncertain destination.

Nick Falato wrote this article, check out his other work here, including a look at USC quarterbacks of the past and how it applies to Sam Darnold, and evaluations of the Los Angeles Chargers‘ and New York Giants‘ 2017 NFL Drafts. Follow Nick on Twitter @nickfalato.

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