Oomf, that was an ugly start to the Giants’ 2017 season which many have high expectations for. As always, the defense was locked in and kept the Giants in the game, whereas the offense was kept searching for answers. It’s hard to pin down what the exact problem was: the play-calling, the O-line, performance of Eli himself, or maybe the fact that receivers were simply not getting open. Whatever the problem, if the offense doesn’t fix itself and soon, we may be in for a long and disappointing 2017 season.
What went right for the Giants?
1. The bright spot from the 19-3 loss in Dallas was the Giants’ defense. They picked up right where they left off from the 2016 campaign. Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Jason Pierre-Paul are proving to be one of the best defensive lines in football. Also, rookie Dalvin Tomlinson can’t be forgotten as he played 43/74 snaps, had three stops, and had an 84.7 overall rating– per PFF– 5th best among his position for Week 1.
2. BJ Goodson was the player of the game. It appears the Giants have finally found a MLB they can rely on, as Goodson played 73/74 snaps and recorded 18 tackles including one for a loss. Goodson simply swarmed after the ball every play. He called the shots for a defense which did everything it could to keep the team in the game.
3. Although there was potentially contact that wasn’t called on some plays, Janoris Jenkins did an excellent job of shutting down Dez Bryant. Bryant was able to break one big play against Jackrabbit going for 35 yards, but otherwise had just one catch that went for eight yards. Jenkins was called for a PI on a play where he may have had his best coverage of the day, but it is what it is.
4. Orleans Darkwa barely had a positive impact, but his performance should not go unnoticed, (also, I wanted to put something about the offense that went right). Darkwa had just three carries compared to Paul Perkins’ seven, however Darkwa rushed for 14 yards whereas Perkins for 16 yards. Small sample size, but Darkwa’s 4.66 YPC was definitely better than Perkins’ 2.28 YPC. Darkwa came onto the field and just seemed to have a burst to him, which is something the Giants running game desperately needs. Should the coaching staff #FreeDarkwa and give him more touches and Perkins less in future weeks?
What went wrong for the Giants?
1. Oh boy, the offense. The O-line was in shambles. The right side garnered no protection for Eli; John Jerry specifically had an awful outing. Ereck Flowers’ performance also declined as the game progressed and he finished with a 53.4 rating, per PFF. The full ratings of the O-line: Weston Richburg 78.8, Justin Pugh 78.1, Bobby Hart 77.5, Jerry 73.4, Flowers 53.4. Having three parts of the O-line struggle will not do. Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo should be in panic mode, because if something isn’t done soon about the line and soon the Giants offense will be in jeopardy. Should they play DJ Fluker at RG? Maybe Fluker or Chad Wheeler at RT? Justin Pugh was a good tackle early in his career, but it wouldn’t make much sense to move him back after he’s settled into his role as a guard. Whatever moves the Giants may make would be a refreshing sight, because the line from last year continued to underwhelm one week into the season.
2. Where was Brandon Marshall? With Odell Beckham’s absence everybody was expecting the veteran to have a big game, but he only made one catch that came with 12 seconds remaining in the game. For most of the game Marshall wasn’t even targeted. Whether it was the play-calling or the decisions from Eli, it hurt the offense to not throw the ball his way.
3. Speaking of play-calling… Ben McAdoo did not start out the season well after a questionable 2016 slate. He retained play-calling duties for this year, and the Giants offense had the same stale approach as they did last year. An abandonment of the run game, no deep pass plays, and when they did pass it seemed to always be dump-off passes to whichever RB was on the field. Besides a couple of drives, the Giants offense continuously went 3 & Out. Perhaps the O-line inhibits what McAdoo can do on offense. Maybe Eli had a poor night of running the offense. All these issues could be at hand, but there’s no doubting the play-calling could be and needs to be better.
4. Eli Manning is a $100M quarterback and 2x Super Bowl MVP, he has to play better, bad O-line or not. Even on plays where he had decent protection, Eli seemed scared to throw into a Cowboys secondary that got worse this offseason and was unproven. He didn’t hesitate to check-down to his RBs quite often, and gave up on plays much too early. A better O-line would help, but Eli still had a bad outing regardless.