By Aaron Weiss
Everyone’s favorite New York Giants’ weekly recap is back for the 2017 season (for any masochistic Giants’ fans, John did a great video recap on our Youtube Channel covering the Giants’ week one loss to Dallas). The New York Giants failed to gain any traction in the 2017 season, falling to the Detroit Lions 24-10 on Monday Night Football. Let’s break it down and look ahead to what’s upcoming next week!
Aldrick Rosas – We’re going to have to start with baby steps. In an uninspiring game, and season to date, perhaps we’re seeing the birth of the next great Giants kicker? Granted, it’s incredibly early to hand him that title, which currently belongs to Lawrence Tynes, and the kid has only kicked three balls, none longer than 35 yards. But in a league where missed extra points and field goals are becoming more and more frequent, and teams are blowing 2nd round picks on failures at the position (looking at you Tampa Bay), it’s nice to think that Rosas, only 22, could have a successful career racking up points for the G-Men.
Odell Beckham – The Giants’ premier receiver didn’t have a standout day, but coming into the game as a game time decision, he did look somewhat like his old self. Beckham was limited, playing only 60% of offensive snaps in the game and despite the limited showing (and self describing himself at 80% health) he was Eli Manning’s second favorite target on the night. Most importantly, Odell looked like he walked away from the night unscathed, meaning that he should only be better in Week 3.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – The defense played without two key starters, most important of who was shutdown corner Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins. Still, at the ripe old age of 31 DRC played like a quality CB1, racking up a PFF score of 78.3, 3rd best among all Giants, and he wasn’t really exposed in pass coverage. He did miss a few key tackles on blitzes and other plays close to the line of scrimmage, but for a secondary with few veteran leaders, DRC stepped up in a big way.
Eli Manning – Obviously the Giants offense is currently mortifying, and as is the case with all offenses everything does start with the QB. However, if the season ended today Eli would have his best single season completion percentage by 9.2 percentage points. Eli completed 68.8 percent of his passes this week, throwing for 239 yards and 7.5 yards per pass. He also threw a touchdown and an interception, and he had a huge 20+ yard dime of a pass dropped by an untouched Brandon Marshall (more on him in a second). This year’s Eli does not look like the high flying Eli of the past few years that won then OC Ben McAdoo the head coach position, but he does look like 2016’s Alex Smith, who completed 67.1 percent of his passes at 7.2 yards per pass. Maybe at age 36 Eli is no longer the gunslinger he once was, and clearly his statistical success is not enough to carry the offense, but if 2016’s Alex Smith was good enough to make the AFC divisional round (with some help from head coach Andy Reid), then perhaps Eli can do the NFC equivalent with the help of Coach McAdoo and more.
Evan Engram – As much as it was any Giants’ night, it was Engram’s. Engram caught 4 passes on 7 targets for 49 yards and a sweet TD, on a great play call by Coach McAdoo that gave the rookie tight end a free release off the line of scrimmage. Engram continues to look fast and fluid at the TE position, although he still isn’t close to Rhett Ellison’s prowess as a blocker. Engram also had a nice pass from Manning broken up by a hard hit from Darius Slay, and some of Engram’s thunder was stolen by backup TE Jerell Adams, who had a sweet 38 yard catch in relief of Engram (that was the longest reception of the night). Still, Engram is clearly taking advantage of Odell Beckham’s limited presence by developing a good rapport with Eli Manning, something that not everyone else is doing….
Brandon Marshall – After being heralded as the receiving complement to Odell Beckham, Marshall has looked like a shell of himself two games in. Granted, he still is learning his way around the new system, and no one expected him to be WR1 material, which has been his de facto position with Odell limited so far, and he hasn’t been targeted a tremendous amount. All the same, Marshall has caught two passes in two weeks, and after not making his first catch until the final minutes of the week one game, Marshall dropped one perfect 30 yard pass from Eli that would’ve put the Giants in Lions’ territory early in the fourth. Instead the Giants would punt two plays later and give up an 88 yard return for a touchdown. He also had no chance at contesting a jump ball in the end zone. Marshall should see more opportunities when Odell is fully healthy, but right now he looks like he’s behind Odell, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Shane Vereen, and Roger Lewis in Eli’s pecking order.
Time of Possession – The Giants gained more total yards, more 1st downs, an equal number of turnovers, and more yards per play than the Lions, and yet despite these paper stats and the fact that this was a one possession game going into the 4th quarter, the Giants never felt like they were close to competing. This is predominantly due to the time of possession, where Detroit outperformed New York by over 5 and a half minutes. After a whole two games (which granted is a small sample size), the Giants average time of possession is just around 26.5 minutes, which is in the bottom five of the league. This is predominantly due to the Giants’ inability to sustain drives, only having one drive last longer than five minutes, and one drive last longer than 10 plays. Despite admirable efforts by the defense, this team will only go as far as the offense takes them.
Paul Perkins – I maintain a good amount of faith in the second year running back, leaving a good chunk of blame for the Giants woes in the running game for the offensive line (more on them later), but two games in and Perkins is out there looking like last year’s Rashad Jennings. He was the lead back with seve carries, but only managed 10 yards, for an abysmal 1.4 yards per rush. Both Shane Vereen (6 for 28, plus 3 for 27 as a receiver) and Orleans Darkwa (3 for 17) looked more capable of making something out of nothing than Perkins, which considering the state of the offensive line is something the running backs need to be able to do. This committee should still be led by Perkins for the time being, but unless things start to improve look for Darkwa or even rookie Wayne Gallman to take the reins as the lead back.
Ereck Flowers/The Offensive Line – Had Jerry Reese not had the tremendous signings that triggered a defensive renaissance, the state of the Giants’ offensive line would be an immediate fire-able offense. After an abysmal year in 2016 where the Giants’ offensive line ranked 20th in the league by PFF standards, Reese went out and basically left the line untouched; he signed former San Diego Charger DJ Fluker (which, if you couldn’t cut it on San Diego’s 31st ranked offensive line, you probably can’t cut it anywhere), and he drafted OT Adam Bisnowaty with the Giants’ last pick. Bisnowaty ended up on the practice squad while other UDFA’s made the 53 man roster, but the entire starting line from last year returned, and it still looks awful. The horror show starts with and stars LT Ereck Flowers, who notched a PFF score of 47.3 while being continually wrecked by Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah. His only saving grace was that he was somehow better than Lions LT and penalty connoisseur Greg Robinson. Still, if Jerry Reese won’t put Flowers at RT, which is where he was initially drafted to play and where might still perform best, then he really belongs on the bench.
Meanwhile starting RT Bobby Hart aggravated an ankle injury on the 2nd play of the game, forcing him out and pushing starting LG (and perhaps the Giants’ best O-lineman) Justin Pugh to play at RT. This left Eli’s blind side covered by the aforementioned Ereck Flowers and Brett Jones, and while Manning was remarkably calm for how pressured he was, he was sacked 5 times. While there probably isn’t much that can be done to improve the offensive line this season, Reese will have to make massive changes in the offseason if he wants to retain his job (and he still has it to begin with), and in the interim he will have to pray that Eli continues to be the ironman he’s always been.
Starting MLB BJ Goodson was out, meaning undrafted rookie Calvin Munson was the man in the middle for the night. He played remarkably well, notching 7 tackles and a sack, although he also got beat early on for a long Eric Ebron reception; in fact much of Ebron’s success and Detroit’s leading receiver could well be attributed to Munson.
There were some miscues on special teams, with the aforementioned punt return (which came with a fair share of awful tackling), and a 37 yard shanked punt by Brad Wing. Still, Wing outperformed Lions’ punter Jeff Locke in terms of yards per punt.
Each team had one turnover, with Jason Pierre-Paul forcing a strip sack on Matt Stafford, only for Eli Manning to have a pass tipped for a pick one play later.
Injuries – Other than Bobby Hart, the only Giant injury appeared to be J.T. Thomas, who hurt his groin and missed the second half. Obviously the top 4 injury concerns right now are Odell’s health, Hart’s health, and the statuses of Janoris Jenkins and BJ Goodson, who both sat out the game. All in all not a bad day in terms of health.
NFC East Picture:
Despite being 0-2 New York is only a game and a half out of the division lead, with Dallas getting creamed in Week 2 by Denver (after efficiently handling the Giants in Week 1), Philly getting manhandled by Kansas City, and Washington making up for their Week 1 loss against Philly by beating the Rams. It is too early to count the Giants out, but since 1990 only 12% of teams who started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. The Giants will need to be strong in divisional matches and win next week to continue to keep the division a close race.
Next Week: The Giants go on the road to face division rival Philadelphia in what is as close to a must win game as possible for a Week 3 matchup. The Philly offense looks solid, albeit not particularly inspired; it’s not any more intimidating than Dallas or Detroit. However, as always the Giants’ chances will boil down to their offensive productivity, and with this offensive line going up against the defensive monsters that are Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, and Brandon Graham, my first thought isn’t if the Giants win, but rather if Eli Manning makes it out of there alive. I have to admit things look grim, and if the Giants are going to win look for the driving force to be a certain bad boy wide receiver who may be fully healthy come Sunday.
Prediction – Eagles win 24-20