Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 8 Loss
The offense could do very little wrong for most of the game, as quarterback Eli Manning completed 30 of 41 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns despite having some protection breakdowns.
His numbers were aided by Odell Beckham Jr., who coming off his first full week of practice in a few weeks, was dynamic, finishing with eight catches for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
The defense? Somewhere between arriving at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and taking the field for the start of the game, the Giants defensive players must have sipped whatever the Saints defensive players were drinking as both defenses combined to allow 1,030 yards of offense, 614 allowed by Big Blue.
So what have we learned this week about head coach Tom Coughlin’s team besides the fact that despite being in first place in the NFC East, they have a long way to go before actually proving themselves worthy of the division crown?
Read on…assuming you have the stomach to do so.
The Defense Might Need to Be Simplified
If the Giants defense looked confused at times Sunday, particularly in pass coverage, no, that wasn’t your mind playing tricks on you.
“We just had a breakdown in the defense all day and (Drew Brees) picked us apart. We just weren’t on the same page in the secondary and it showed,” safety Landon Collins said after the game.
“I mean with the Saints, they call a lot of plays and get on the field fast and run them. That’s their goal: for their offense to line up fast to get our defense off balance,” added cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
“And when they are doing that, we as a defense are looking at the sidelines looking for our calls. And when it’s not coming in fast enough it’s a challenge.”
So here’s the thing about the defense. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system is one that, middle linebacker Jon Beason, in an interview with SiriusXM Radio, said is, “the most complex” he has encountered in a career that has seen him play for five defensive coordinators.
The problem with a complex system is that when you are shuffling guys in and out of the lineup because of injury, such as when Jasper Brinkley had to step in for Beason to orchestrate the calls, that can be a problem.
It can also be a problem when you have rookies and seldom-used players who have been forced into action not only trying to adjust to the speed of the game, but who also now must think before they act on every play, an occurrence that slows things down tremendously.
So here’s a suggestion, however crazy it might sound. Simplify things. Allow the players to play faster by giving them less to think about and to process when they’re out there.
This isn’t a knock against the players’ intelligence, but it wouldn’t be surprising if in this case, it’s the equivalent of asking the players to speak a foreign language fluently before being fully convinced that they grasp the concepts of sentence and grammar structure, not to mention the words.
Remember, the Giants simplified their offense when they transitioned from Kevin Gilbride to Ben McAdoo, and we have seen the positive results of asking the players to do less thinking and more playing.
At the end of the day, football is about beating the man lined up across from you, so why couldn’t the same concept of “less is more” be applied to the defense?
The Running Back by Committee Approach Needs to Be Revamped
The Giants current running back situation is similar to a person who owns multiple cars only to realize that all it takes is one vehicle to get to the desired destination, and a spare to occasionally give the primary vehicle a break.
This is the approach the Giants need to take rather than trying to give a spattering of touches to all four running backs. The committee is simply too large, and it’s hurting the offense.
The Giants running game has produced just one 100-yard rushing performance, that coming last week against Dallas.
They have a young runner in Andre Williams who is never going to be known for his pass receiving abilities, and hence pretty much tips the opponent that he’s either a decoy or a running play is coming whenever he’s on the field.
So here’s an idea. Let Orleans Darkwa and Rashad Jennings be the team’s one-two punch. Let Shane Vereen be the third-down back where he can either run or catch the ball.
Williams? According to Pro Football Focus, his two career 100-yard rushing performances (in 2014) both came when he received a minimum of 20 touches, something he’s never going to get in a committee, let alone one that’s four-man deep.
Williams is a hard worker who is not in a good situation with this team. It might behoove him and the Giants to see if they can trade him to a team that’s in need of a running back, especially if they’re going to insist on keeping this committee approach.
Rueben Randle Is One Frustrating Player
Quite frankly, that’s disturbing, especially this year—his contract year when Randle should be the very model of consistency.
Now while it needs to be acknowledged that Randle dealt with knee tendonitis back in the summer, a condition he’s presumably gotten back under control, any discomfort he feels shouldn’t be an excuse to run lazy routes, drop passes and not try to make plays above the X's and O's.
On the Giants’ final drive of the game, quarterback Eli Manning went deep to Randle along the sideline.
Yes, the ball was slightly overthrown, but Randle didn’t appear to fully extend for it or even make a diving attempt to bring it in with the game on the line. That’s not playing above the X's and O's.
Per Pro Football Focus, Randle was the intended target on one of Manning’s interceptions this season, that coming in Week 7 against Dallas on a play where Randle might have broken up the interception had he stuck a hand in there.
Since being drafted, Randle has been the target on 14 of Manning’s 45 interceptions. Over that same period, Randle has been credited with 11 of Manning’s 80 dropped passes since 2013.
Jay Bromley Needs to Play Ahead of Markus Kuhn
Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn is a hard worker, a good teammate and a shining representative in the community for the Giants organization.
Yet for all the solid qualities he possesses, he is yet another feel-good story—the second-ever German-born athlete to be drafted by an NFL team as of 2012.
Unfortunately, feel-good stories don’t always evolve into solid football players, and right now, the Giants need—especially on defense—football players instead of feel-good stories.
In Kuhn’s case, he has started three games this season and sadly, has done very little if anything with the playing time he received.
According to this week’s game book, Kuhn received 34 snaps on defense and came up with—wait for it—a big fat goose egg in both the defensive and special teams snaps.
Kuhn, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract, has played in 168 defensive snaps this season—he missed three games with a knee injury. Pro Football Focus has him down for just six tackles and four stops (for zero or negative yardage).
That’s not very good production on a defensive front that desperately needs playmakers. In fact, that's the kind of production that should warrant a benching, regardless if the effort was there.
So why not play second-year man Jay Bromley more? Bromley has played on 218 snaps so far, recording 16 tackles and nine stops. He also has five total quarterback pressures to Kuhn’s two.
Probably because such a move makes too much sense.
The Giants Miss Prince Amukamara
There were many reasons why the Giants defense gave up as many passing yards and touchdowns as it did, but perhaps no reason was bigger than the absence of cornerback Prince Amukamara.
With the fifth-year pro sidelined with a partially torn pectoral muscle, the Giants have had to turn to Jayron Hosley in his place and the results just haven’t been pretty.
Hosley’s current NFL Rating is 126.6, as he’s allowed 19 of 25 pass targets to be completed for 307 yards (107 after the catch) and two touchdowns.
Against the Saints, Hosley allowed all six pass targets against him to be completed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in what was by far one of his worst games of the season.
When Hosley had to leave the game multiple times to deal with injuries, Trevin Wade was the next man up and the results were even worse.
He too allowed two of the Saints’ touchdown passes in what was a forgettable showing.
Advanced stats via Pro Football Focus, unless otherwise noted.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.