It is going to be a difficult week for the New York Giants offensive coaches at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The team may be entering the bye with a winning record, but it has a sputtering unit that hasn’t come anywhere close to reaching its potential.
The Giants are 20th in total offense (through seven games) and are tied for 25th in points per game (19.0). The first seven weeks of the season have unequivocally been a disappointment.
It will be up to Ben McAdoo and his staff this week to diagnose the problems and brainstorm solutions. They will spend much of the week self-scouting and "everything is on the table," according to McAdoo.
What they should find is a predictable unit with no running game and a quarterback getting the ball out so quickly in order to avoid turnovers and hits that it has limited their big-play ability. It’s not a lost cause though. There are nine weeks (and possibly more) remaining to get it right.
Here are some possible solutions:
Get Odell Beckham Jr. the ball early
The star wide receiver's targets aren’t down much. He averaged 10.6 balls last season and is having 10.0 thrown his way this year. The slight dip was expected. He’s now playing alongside Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard rather than Preston Parker and Rueben Randle.
The problem is that that Giants aren’t getting the ball to Beckham early enough. He has just seven catches for 51 yards in the first quarter, by far his least productive period this season. He has zero first-half touchdowns. No wonder the Giants are 31st in the NFL with just 14 points scored in the first quarter this season. Beckham has totaled at least 145 yards receiving in every quarter except the first.
McAdoo and quarterback Eli Manning need to find ways to get their top playmaker involved earlier, in order to have him and the offense in rhythm before they're trailing 10-0.
These are more tweaks than anything else. The Giants aren’t exactly loaded with talent from top to bottom.
But rookie running back Paul Perkins and tight end Jerell Adams could provide some spark at stagnant positions. Perkins has shown some good signs and is averaging 1.2 yards per carry more than starter Rashad Jennings. Orleans Darkwa, who started several games in Jennings’ absence, is averaging a full yard more. They could benefit from increased opportunities.
Adams, a seventh-round pick out of South Carolina, isn't likely to be the answer at tight end at this point of his career, but given a chance, he could be a slight upgrade over Larry Donnell and Will Tye, who have struggled with their blocking. It’s at least worth a look coming out of the bye, and it seems likely to happen.
The answer needs to come from in-house.
“We are confident in the players [who] we have at that spot,” McAdoo said. We are going roll Jerell and Tye in there some more with Larry and let those guys compete and whoever is playing the best is who we will go with.”
The Giants will most certainly explore trades, including for Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas. But the likelihood is that nothing will happen. General manager Jerry Reese has never made a move in nine years at the trade deadline.
Scheme Nobody runs more three-wide-receiver sets than the Giants. They’ve gone with this personnel grouping more than 90 percent of their offensive plays this season, in part because they believe it allows them to get their best players on the field.
“Well, we felt that it put us in the best position to be successful,” McAdoo said. “But again, we are going to go back to the drawing board, take a look at it and see if we can change things up heading into Philadelphia.”
Even though they don’t have a natural fullback and their tight ends’ blocking is questionable, at best, the Giants would benefit from other groupings. It would make them less predictable and potentially more successful in the running game.
It’s hard to pound the ball with eight or nine defenders in the box and three smallish wide receivers on the field, especially in the red zone. But they've tried, albeit unsuccessfully.
The Giants aren’t changing personnel groups often. They're keeping their wide receivers in the same spots more than previous years, and they’re running the same two run plays (inside zone and power) over and over again.
It has made them way too predictable an offense. Opposing defenses can also tilt their pass coverages to the left side of the Giants offense. An eye-opening 231 of Manning’s 270 pass attempts (86 percent) have gone to the middle or left side of the field. Only 14 percent of his passes have been thrown to the right.
It is also all but guaranteed the Giants come out of the locker room in the third quarter and are intent on jumpstarting the running game. They have handed the ball off on the first offensive play of the second half in six of seven games. You know it's coming; opposing defenses know it’s coming. The Giants have gained six yards on those six carries.
The offense needs to become less predictable in order to be more efficient and effective.
This is obvious. Everyone from the offensive line to the quarterback to the tight ends to the running backs to the wide receivers to the coaches needs to perform better. There have been too many mental mistakes, penalties and poor performances offensively throughout the first seven weeks. There is potential for improvement at every position on offense over the final nine games.