If ever the New York Giants offense was going to click into motion and become the explosive force it is capable of being, then the time is now. Ben McAdoo’s side represent the only thing standing in the way of the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys clinching the NFC East division on Sunday.
Week One saw the Giants inflict the only defeat Jason Garrett’s side have suffered this season but of course, a lot has changed since then. As much as the 8-4 Giants will relish the home advantage at the MetLife Stadium this weekend, they will be wary of the regularity in which the same issues continue to crop up.
Their highly talented offense hasn’t and still isn’t living up to expectations and is producing far from what is required. Key defensive injuries also loom over their week 14 contest and mean the depth of this roster will be put to the test.
Just stop holding
The term ‘holding’ can’t be used without the name Ereck Flowers being mentioned in the same sentence at the moment. Flowers has been called for eight holding penalties so far and has been flagged 12 times. He is, albeit, tied with four other players in that respect but that just isn’t acceptable given how great a chance the Giants have of making the playoffs.
Fans have started to label him a liability after his most recent holding offense came in the end zone, leading to a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers who went on to win 24-14. The decision to select the left tackle out of Miami in the first round of the 2015 draft has been called into question after a run of disappointing performances.
A misfiring offense partly comes on the basis that Eli Manning is getting nowhere near enough time to assess his options down the field. Though it comes down to a poor collective effort from the offensive line, Flowers is offering his quarterback limited protection on the outside. Manning supposedly overlooking the opportunity to target some of his receivers perhaps comes down to how little time he has to think. Giants guard Justin Pugh has been quick to defend his fellow offensive lineman.
He told the New York Post: “He’s going to keep learning from mistakes, correcting them, trying not to make the same mistake twice and keep working on getting his hands inside, that will help eliminate the penalties. We got confidence in him, he’s a great dude.”
The Giants offense has suffered from a lack of balance over the past few weeks, as has the team altogether. New York sits 31st on the list of most rushing yards this season with their running game emerging as a primary concern ever since the very first game.
Shane Vereen’s versatility as a running back has been missed dearly with Rashad Jennings and 2016 fifth round draft pick Paul Perkins struggling to find any kind of consistency. A combination of Jennings and Perkins only ran the ball 13 times against Pittsburgh who, in comparison, ran the ball 30 times.
Besides this, recent weeks have seen the team’s receiving weapons underused after being tipped, at the beginning of the season, as a unit capable of achieving big things. Victor Cruz was the latest to endure a quiet game in last week’s loss to the Steelers, being targeted zero times despite creating some great openings for himself.
Cruz told Giants.com: “I saw that there were definitely some areas of the ball game where I could have gotten the football, or was open enough to receive the football. But a multitude of things, like Eli (Manning) getting flushed to the opposite side or just getting sacked or getting pressured or whatever the case may be, kind of negated that.”
This followed on from Sterling Shepard’s minor involvement in the 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns the week before. 16 of Manning’s 39 attempted throws were directed at Odell Beckham, Jr. against the Steelers, with Shepard’s eight targets posing as the second highest.
The Giants have scored under 20 points on five occasions this season and are yet to have scored over 30 points, despite averaging 26.3 points per game last season with a weaker offense. They cannot continue to rely on their defense stepping up and must play their part if the Giants are to give the Cowboys any serious problems.
How deep are the Giants on defense?
Dallas will enter this weekend’s matchup licking their lips with their impressive offensive line set to come up against a Giants defense missing Jason Pierre-Paul. The defensive end has been sidelined for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a muscle injury he suffered during the defeat to the Steelers. JPP has been a crucial figure under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and boasts a record of seven sacks this season.
He put in a standout performance against the Browns in week 12 that saw him earn the title of NFC Defensive player of the week for the fourth time in his career. He became the first Giants player since George Martin on November 24, 1985, to have scored a touchdown and have three sacks in one game.
The Giants have Kerry Wynn, Owa Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara waiting in the wings ready to step in upon request. Odighizuwa has discussed the need to be prepared for moments like this and has assured he is more than ready to fill in.
He told Giants.com: “That’s what we’re here for. Me, Kerry and Romeo, playing that reserve position, we know what it is. We have to be ready when our name is called. I think that’s just what it is and what it comes down to at this point. It’s our time. Our name is being called and we have to replace him as best as possible for this week.”
The loss of Pierre-Paul promises to make life more difficult but the Giants will remain confident given how well defensive end Olivier Vernon has been playing since arriving in the off-season.