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Placing blame on the Giants’ 0-2 start

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Giants starting off the season with two duds.  The first was a 20-15 loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars that felt like a game that slipped away.  They had plenty of opportunities to score and did not capitalize, and in the end a muffed punt was their downfall.

As for the second loss?  It was about as embarrassing a performance as Giant fans have seen from their offensive line.  Eli Manning was under siege the entire game, the Dallas front seven were using all kinds of stunts to stay ahead of the patchwork line, and Saquon Barkley looked to be the only one capable of making a play.  In essence, the same mistakes the Giants have made offensively for the past three seasons reared their ugly head again.

So what’s the deal?  Who is to blame for their 0-2 start?  Who will be the whipping boy going if things start to go very wrong?  The answer is everyone but breaking it down further, things get a bit more complicated than they seem.

The offensive line is a mess, but Eli Manning hasn’t helped himself either

The easiest scapegoat for this terrible start is the offensive line.  Ereck Flowers might be the worst lineman in the entire league, let alone on the Giants.  Nate Solder has underperformed so far, long gone is Justin Pugh, and Center Jon Halapio is out for the season with a fractured leg and ankle.

The biggest problem with the offensive line is that there’s very little communication.  As Cris Collinsworth noted many times through the Sunday Night debacle against the Cowboys, the line wasn’t getting beat physically.  They were getting beat by the Cowboy’s scheme, their stunts, and the blitzes the Cowboys implemented.  Eli Manning was sacked six times and lost a fumble and that was all thanks to the offensive line.

However, Eli Manning is not a saint in all of this either.  Eli fans defend him to the death because he has two Super Bowl MVPs, was benched for Geno Smith last season and is already considered the greatest quarterback in Giants history.  They need to realize that Eli through the two games has missed many throws, many of them deep which is concerning considering that used to be Eli’s strength.

In addition to missing some of his deep shots (and underthrowing too), he had the yips on Sunday night and checked down to Saquon Barkley earlier than he needed to.  He was most certainly under duress for the entirety of the game, but if he missed a few open receivers because he either left the pocket too early to scramble or checked down to the Giants stud running back.

The Giants still somehow haven’t fully utilized their weapons

In fairness, Saquon Barkley has only played two games this season.  He is clearly going to be a stud for years to come, and any notion that he isn’t a good player based off of the offensive line play is nonsense.  The issue is that the offensive coordinator, whether that be Pat Shurmur or Mike Shula, have not figured out how to both protect Eli Manning and utilize their weapons.

The Giants are one of those rare teams where they have multiple home run threats on every play.  Saquon Barkley showed against Jacksonville that he can turn nothing into something, scampering for a 68 yard touchdown in his first professional game.  Odell Becham Jr. is one of the most talented receivers in the game, and Evan Engram is a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers as he is a hybrid wide receiver/tight end.

How has this team not scored 30 points since 2015?  It’s because they can’t pull the strings at the right time.  This season, they’re trying to set up the run with the pass when it should be the opposite.  They need to utilize Barkley’s speed and hide the blocking of the line by doing jet sweeps and other outside plays.  They need to do WR screens, quick slants, and plays in space to let Odell Beckham Jr. do his thing.  They can’t have these slow developing plays because they’re not going to work when Eli Manning runs with molasses in his legs and his line can’t hold a defender for more than two seconds.

There’s still zero pass rush being generated

Probably the most underrated issue of this Giants team is their lack of a pass rush.  In all honesty, their past success as a hounding defense, with studs like Armstead and Straham, have given the Giants a pass for a few years now.  They spent over $200M on their defense, but they ranked 30th overall in the league last season and they aren’t off to a good start this year either.

It all starts with the defensive line.  Missing Olivier Vernon is huge, but they still have some good players in Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin.  Damon “Snacks” Harrison is a great player, but he’s more of a run stuffer than a guy who gets after the quarterback.  They don’t have a guy like a Dante Fowler or a Demarcus Lawrence who can take over a game.

The lack of pass rush hinders the abilities of the secondary, as they’re scrambling to keep up with the wide receivers.  Eli Apple is now hurt, and as seen on Sunday it’s not going to be a good season if they leave B.W. Webb on an island.  Without that pass rush, non-elite quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Blake Bortles can move around in the pocket and weave their way down the field with low-risk passes.  It’s a never ending cycle that needs to change if the Giants are going to turn this season around.

Is an 0-2 start ideal?  No of course not.  It’s the worst start you can get off to, especially considering their next four opponents are all quality teams.  If things continue to go this way, they can get through this rough patch in the schedule at 0-6 or 1-5.  Eventually the Giants are going to have to clean things up, and it all starts with the three things mentioned above.  If they can make improvements each week, they’ll get this season back on track.  If not, they may be looking to draft a quarterback next year.

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