On the Ball: What’s Wrong With the Giants?
What’s wrong with the Giants? At 3–7 and sporting now a five-game losing streak, they’re even in danger of being mistaken for the hapless Jets.
That wasn’t the case at the beginning of the season when they looked like they could, at the very least, be in playoff contention and get 9–10 wins. Of course, any team with the capable quarterback/coach combination of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin should be able to reach that—as opposed to a team starting Geno Smith under center.
In any case, let’s take a look at what’s wrong with this team.
1. They can’t stop the run.
The Giants are last in the NFL in both rushing yards given up, at 145.0 per game, as well as yards per carry—4.9 an attempt. For perspective, Barry Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry for his career.
To be fair, the Week 10 loss to Seattle inflated their statistics a bit as the Seahawks ran for 350 yards and five TDs on 45 carries—an average of 7.8 yards per attempt.
Amazingly, the Giants were sixth-best last year in defensive rushing yards per carry at 3.8.
Why they’ve struggled this year so much is a bit of a mystery. Personnel-wise, they lost Will Hill (fifth in solo tackles last year) to Baltimore, while new Giants linebacker Jameel McClain is currently second on the team with 42 unassisted stops. Whatever the reason, they’re not getting it done.
2. They miss Victor Cruz.
Who wouldn’t miss Cruz? He does a great salsa dance when he scores, and he runs such smooth routes. Anyone would miss him.
Eli surely wishes he was back. Cruz hasn’t played since going down in the 27–0 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 12 and the Giants haven’t won since.
The former Pro Bowler has averaged just over 1,200 yards per season the past three years, and he was clearly Eli’s favorite target during that time. So much so, that the team signed him to a $43 million, five-year extension in 2013, and to have that much salary tied to someone on injured reserve isn’t easy to overcome.
Plus, with emerging tight end Larry Donnell having a breakout season, the duo could at least combine to neutralize whatever the shaky run defense is giving up.
3. They have nothing to show for their 2012 first-round pick.
Fresh off their Super Bowl win, the Giants took running back David Wilson with their first-round pick (32nd overall), and with his injury retirement this past summer, they now have nothing to show for it.
Any competitive team knows that building through the draft is how dynasties are created, as well as maintained. You can’t build through free agency effectively because generally you’re overpaying for players on the open market and you’re paying for their past performance. Besides, they’re usually older. Anyone who’s watched the Redskins under Daniel Snyder’s reign knows this—except Snyder of course.
Although it may seem pretty random to assign blame to a draft pick from two-and-a-half years ago, generally by players’ third season, they’ve hit their stride. Wilson showed flashes of a back with breakaway speed, but his neck injury made sure the Giants never fully saw his potential. At the least, it’s a contributing factor to their demise this season.
4. Eli and his picks.
This really is limited to his performance Sunday against the 49ers when Eli threw five interceptions, because he had only thrown one in the previous four games—all losses. The worst of his five picks on Sunday, though, was the one on the fourth-and-goal from the four with 4:50 left in the game.
This was after he had failed three times in a row on fade routes from the same location.
Although you can certainly say that Manning wasn’t to blame for all of them, this is the same guy who’s led the league in picks three times in the last seven years.