Painful is certainly one way to describe the experience of watching the New York Giants offense try to come together under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Those who were hoping that last year's offensive showing was an anomaly, one in which the Giants started the season 0-6 and quarterback Eli Manning threw a career-high 27 picks, have cause to squirm after three weeks of preseason play. While adjusting to a new system always requires ironing out a few kinks, what New York has shown thus far is not encouraging despite its 3-0 mark.
The Giants pulled out another victory Saturday against Indianapolis, but the poor play of the young Colts backups is more to thank for that. New York started to pull it together early in the fourth quarter when Curtis Painter orchestrated an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped off with a touchdown pass to Kellen Davis.
Manning struggled in the first four series against the Colts after failing to complete a pass last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He went 6-of-7 passing for 43 yards in the Hall of Fame game, but he hasn't completed a pass of more than 10 yards to date in the preseason, though he at least finally attempted to.
On his first drive Saturday, Manning was 0-of-1 passing and the offense went three-and-out. On the second drive—a three-play, minus-4-yard affair that was over in just 1:33—Manning threw an incomplete pass and then was sacked. With a brief interlude for a muffed kick return that Indianapolis recovered, Manning's third series went as follows: incompletion, interception negated by a penalty, Victor Cruz fumble negated by a penalty, six-yard completion, incompletion, incompletion.
The goal in this new offense is for Manning to complete 70 percent of his passes, per Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. His career completion percentage is 58.5 percent. Over the past two games, he's completed just 11 percent.
On the night, Manning was 1-of-7 passing for six yards and a sack, his record saved from the further blunder of an interception by Kelvin Sheppard's illegal contact penalty.
It was backup Ryan Nassib who righted the ship in the fourth quarter, throwing for 158 yards and adding a touchdown to Painters' to put the Giants up by one.
Why are the Giants' best players having so much trouble adapting to McAdoo's fast-paced West Coast offense? Though the playbook is simpler, the tempo is higher, and in fairness, the starters still haven't played a meaningful number of snaps in live-game action.
Learning the new concepts will take time, and while it's nice to think that's a process the Giants can complete this preseason (especially given the fifth game), Manning's comments to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News suggest that fans may not be happy with what they see from this offense into the beginning of the regular season.
I think with any offense in any season, you still need to improve as the season goes. There’ll be some concepts that I think we’ll be better at than others. You still have to figure out what routes guys run the best, and what concepts I feel most comfortable with, and figure those things out.
Of course, Manning and the receivers aren't the only players who need to perform in this new system. The offensive line is making life difficult not only for Manning but for Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings, both of whom averaged just 2.4 yards per carry against Indianapolis.
The return of left tackle Will Beatty wasn't enough to spark this group, which could barely give Manning a pressure-free play.
Cruz, Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan were nearly invisible against the Colts, while rookie Corey Washington, running with the threes, has had the game-winning touchdown (granted, against backup defenses) in all three preseason games.
Unless the Giants plan to start Nassib and Washington in Week 1, Manning and the first-team offense have to begin to click in McAdoo's system.