The New York Giants are 0-2 yet again.
Much of the blame for their record falls on the shoulders of Elisha Nelson Manning. Blaming No. 10 is such an annual rite of passage that when co-owner John Mara was asked about it at Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund event he sarcastically said, “What else is new?”
At least one person isn’t trying to hear blaming Manning for the Giants’ winless start: former teammate and current NFL analyst Shaun O’Hara.
O’Hara believes the Giants’ issues are mental as opposed to physical. Their play on the field seems to support that. The Giants were not outplayed in their losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. In fact, the Giants lost both games by a combined 12 points.
At the same time, the offensive line allowed six sacks of Manning against Dallas raising their season total to eight. No. 10 has also been hit 14 times. A meme of Manning after one of the Cowboys’ sacks made the rounds on social media this week. No quarterback would be able the withstand the lapses in protection he’s had to deal with.
O’Hara believes the offensive line needs to, as he said on Twitter, “stop beating themselves”. He said the issues begin with “basic protection schemes”. The offensive line needs to master the little things before they attempt more advanced protection schemes.
David Diehl, a former teammate of Manning and O’Hara, suggested the insertion of John Greco into the starting lineup will help. Greco will be the starting center after Jon Halapio suffered a season-ending broken ankle against Dallas.
“Greco is a veteran player. He can play both center and guard,” Diehl said in an interview on WFAN Radio. “He’s played for two (head coach) Pat Shurmur teams and he knows this offense inside out. Having him in front of Eli Manning as a vested veteran will give Manning more confidence moving forward that he can have some more taken off his plate. Greco can call all of his protections, he can go from weak to strong, so it will just take more for Eli to diagnose the coverages and get the ball out of his hands.”
Manning completed 69.1 percent of his passes through the first two games, easily the highest completion percentage of his career. Unfortunately for the Giants, he’s 56-of-81 for 503 yards with just one touchdown.
The Giants were just 1-of-7 on third down in the air in the first half against Dallas. The lone conversion occurred when Odell Beckham Jr. shook a Cowboys defender out of his shoes for an eight-yard gain. Manning didn’t put much zip on the ball either. Only two of his 20 pass attempts in the first half traveled more than 10 yards.
“You obviously want to get the ball own the field,” Shurmur said after the game. “We took our shits, like we did in the first game. They played back, and we couldn’t get the ball down the field. And we got pressure, and those didn’t work out the way we wanted.”
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The Cowboys’ six sacks of Manning are more than any game last season.
The Giants’ first two games draws attention to an already existing problem: Manning’s lack of mobility.
He has never been anything closely resembling a mobile quarterback. The Giants cannot hit the broken plays seen every week in the NFL. Manning is settling for checkdowns even when there’s time to throw the ball. He averaged 3.2 yards per completion against Dallas and is 4.34 yards per completion this season. Only Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Blaine Gabbert, and Andrew Luck have thrown shorter passes per attempt than Manning.
This means Beckham, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the ball. Even Saquon Barkley, who tied an NFL record for receptions by a rookie running back with 14, only had 80 yards against Dallas. The Giants didn’t get in the end zone until one minute, 27 seconds left in regulation.
“They did a good job mixing up their coverages. I don’t know if they did anything specifically,” Manning said after Sunday’s game. “They just did a good job giving us pressure and not enough time to get the ball down field.”
If the Giants scored 21 points against Jacksonville and Dallas, they’d be 2-0 right now. They were 31st in scoring last season and currently tied with the Cowboys for 29th with 14 points per game. Only the winless Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals scored fewer points through the first two games.
The Giants offense is operating in the same manner it did under Ben McAdoo. There was much dinking and dunking going on McAdoo’s version of the West Coast offense. It was supposed to be different under Shurmur. Sometimes, the defensive pressure makes these plays necessary. It could also be ingrained in Manning’s head. Shurmur said Davis Webb needed to find completions before he was sent was packing.
Manning is confident the team will right the ship, that they only need more time working in this new offense. Beckham, who missed 12 games in 2017, hopes the team gets it right “way sooner than later”.
It gets no easier for the Giants in the interim. Their next game is against the Houston Texans, a winless team with a dominant defense in their home opener.
This is followed by home games against the New Orleans Saints (Week 4), Philadelphia Eagles (Week 6), and Washington Redskins (Week 8). They will also travel to play the Carolina Panthers (Week 5) and Atlanta Falcons (Week 7) before their Week 9 bye. Four of their next six games are against playoff teams from a season ago.
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.