The New York Giants front office was charged with an interesting job this offseason: Retool a team that went 9-7 and barely made the playoffs, while respecting the intangibles of a group that won the Super Bowl.
It was a unique predicament, one that guaranteed some interesting storylines going into 2012.
What should they do? Aggressively pursue players to fill the gaps, real and perceived?
Or, stay put with the hope that one more year of experience and the return of several key players from injury would make the XLVI champs even better?
Giants brass did the former and, in a very un-Giant manner, they did so with little success.
The Giants 2011 campaign was marred by a poor running game, shoddy pass defense and weak pass protection for quarterback Eli Manning. Improving each of these areas was a goal during the offseason. The 2012 campaign is not looking much better.
So far, two weeks into the regular season, we know this much:
- The Giants rank 24th in rushing, averaging a mere 88 yards a game.
- The team ranks 22nd in passing defense and 25th in total defense.
- Manning is still scrambling for time and no one has emerged as a reliable No. 3 receiver.
- The San Francisco 49ers are light years better than them at this juncture.
Giants Secondary Remains a Primary Problem
In the season opener, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo attacked veteran left cornerback Corey Webster, passing up an opportunity to exploit Michael Coe, who was making his first NFL start in place of Prince Amukamara.
Webster got burned by Dez Bryant on a 38-yarder that set up a score late in the first half, and then again by Kevin Ogletree on a 40-yard touchdown grab.
To make matters worse, Justin Tryon and Antrel Rolle did not fare any better, getting beat by Miles Austin on a 1st-and-30—no, that's not a typo—b-e-a-t on a 1st-and-30.
And, if the rookie Coe felt left out in the opener, he made up for it with an abysmal showing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, in particular getting burnt by Vincent Jackson.
In sum, it's not pretty: Two weeks into the season the G-Men are giving up 9.6 passing yards per attempt and have given up five TD passes, good for third and second-worst respectively in the league. This is while defensive backs across the league are jamming receivers 10 to 15 yards out, while replacement refs spend time looking up the rule book.
No Balance with No Running Game
The Giants are averaging 88 yards rushing per game, good for 24th in the league, and don't yet have a back who has broken 100 yards for the season.
Ahmad Bradshaw is tops at 94, with a decent 4.3 yards per carry. Alas, once again he went down with an injury and is expected to miss Thursday's road game against the Carolina Panthers at the very least.
Coach Tom Coughlin threw rookie David Wilson in the doghouse after fumbling away his third carry of the season and has yet to let him out.
And, beyond that, there is little to be excited about beyond a solid performance by Andre Brown in Sunday's exciting win over the Bucs. Take away Brown's long run of 23 yards, and he averaged 3.7 yards per carry, nothing to write home about.
Eli Still Under Pressure
The Giants O-line has been manhandled by the Cowboys and Bucs despite Eli's amazing 510-yard rescue effort Sunday.
In the second half of Sunday's game Manning finally started to get sufficient time to look for a second and third receiver and, more importantly, the line run blocked more efficiently.
Tom Coughlin may tell you otherwise, but I'd hazard that the improved run blocking was a direct result of the Giants moving Sean Locklear to right tackle and Will Beatty over to left tackle after David Diehl went down with a knee injury.
With the new line in place, the patient Brown suddenly found holes to run through and forced the defense to think—if even for just a little while—about the run, paving the way for Manning to have that monster second half.
The Giants may have caught lightning in a bottle Sunday and perhaps that second half is a harbinger of things to come. However, if the rest of the season goes anything like the first six quarters of 2012, expect another up and down year, wrought with poor pass defense, a weak running game and a quarterback who's one big play away from getting clocked.