Preview and Predictions for New York Giants' Week 2 MNF Matchup
The Giants find themselves in this spot not just because of last week's lackluster 19-3 loss to Dallas, but because the loss has followed disturbing trends that date back to last year.
One of the most notable trends is seven straight games (including postseason) with the offense failing to score more than 20 points, while in six out of their last nine games (postseason included), they have failed to convert on at least 40 percent of their third-down attempts.
For those who think that the potential return of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from an ankle injury is going to save the Giants from their continued struggles, that might not necessarily be the case.
Beckham, listed as questionable on the injury report—he'll be a game-time decision Monday night—is a dynamic player who will help a little, but it will still take the concerted effort of the other guys on offense, including the play caller, to get things going.
With that said, let's look into the crystal ball to see what might be on the horizon for the Giants as they prepare to take the Monday night stage for the 63rd time since Monday Night Football came on the air.
The Giants Defense Will Get a Turnover
While everyone was focused on the fact that the Giants offense didn't show up for last week's game against the Cowboys, a fact that flew under the radar was that the defense failed to record a takeaway for the first time since a win over Baltimore on October 16.
Dating back to last year, the Giants are now 3-3 in games (including the postseason) in which the defense failed to record a takeaway.
Since returning to practice this week, members of the defense have been especially dialed in on getting back on track in the takeaway department.
"Yeah, that's how we feel," said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "The guys take a lot of pride in that. … I am glad they feel that way. I think we should all feel that."
Last year, the Giants defensive backs combined for 17 interceptions, with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6) and safety Landon Collins (5) contributing 11 of those picks. The defense also forced 13 fumbles, recovering seven.
Despite knowing that a takeaway or two would help the offense, Rodgers-Cromartie said it's important to not press things.
"You've got to let the game come to you," he said. "I think we've got a smart group of guys that are doing that, just letting the game come to them.
"Now, maybe if we get down a couple of scores or something like that, then somebody's got to jump something, that's on the individual. But for the most part, you've just got to let it come to you."
Hopefully they won't be in a position where they're down and they feel the need to press this week.
RB Orleans Darkwa Will Get More Touches
It's difficult to give any running back a chance when you fall behind early in the game by multiple scores, but if the Giants want to have a more balanced offense, they have to stick with the run early and often and consider giving more touches to running back Orleans Darkwa, who unofficially is third on the depth chart.
All Darkwa has done is make the most of his touches whenever they've come his way. In the preseason, he led the Giants with an average of 4.5 yards per carry (20 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown).
Getting just three touches against Dallas in Week 1 behind the same offensive line starter Paul Perkins had in front of him, Darkwa ripped off the Giants' longest run of the young season, a 12-yarder, which helped him to finish with an average of 4.7 yards per carry (three rushes for 14 yards). Once again, it was the best on the team among the running backs.
"We didn't have very many carries last week to begin with, so we need some more rushing attempts," McAdoo said when asked what would need to take place for Darkwa to get a bigger slice of the pie.
He's correct, but on the other hand, the Giants, who were down 16-0 at the half, passed the ball twice as many times (12) as they ran it (6). In the second half, when the offense looked a little more fluid, they still stuck more with the pass (26 times) while only rushing six.
Darkwa said this week he's hoping to see his carries increase, but he also understands that there are only so many balls to go around between the running backs.
"Yeah, I hope so. Running backs want to be able to get carries, but we have a lot of talented backs in the room and I think everybody deserves carries and opportunities. So, when we get those opportunities, we've just got to make the most of them."
Still, it's hard to ignore Darkwa's 3.9 career rushing average since entering the NFL in 2014, or the fact that each year since he has been with the Giants, he's averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry per season, with last year's injury-shortened season being the exception.
Eli Manning Will Throw Multiple TD Passes
Quarterback Eli Manning has had three instances in his career when he's strung together consecutive games without throwing a touchdown pass.
The first occurrence was in his rookie season, when between November 28 through December 12, 2004, Manning went three weeks in a row without tossing a touchdown. He next had that misfortune in 2010 (September 26-October 3) when he had a two-game dry spell.
The last time he accomplished that forgettable feat was in 2012 (October 28–November 11), a three-game scoreless streak for the franchise quarterback.
Having been denied a chance to throw a touchdown pass last week, Manning is facing the possibility of starting another scoring drought for the fourth time in his career.
It's probably safe to say that Manning is long overdue for a multiple-touchdown game, the last of which came December 18, 2016, against the Lions, this week's opponent.
If Manning is to avoid going 0-for-2 in the passing touchdown department, he needs to be better than he was last week, regardless of if he has Beckham on the field.
"I think in terms of, just things that can be better, he would be the first guy to tell you that there's some plays he'd like to have back from either a standpoint of accuracy or decision that are made, whatever the case may be," said offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
"The key point I want to emphasize is there's so many areas where we all have to get better. And that's what we really zeroed in on here."
Giants fans are no doubt hoping they've done enough in practice to snap the drought.
WR Brandon Marshall Will Be the Leading Receiver
Even if Beckham is active and on the field for the Giants Monday night, there are still questions about how effective he will be after a little more than four weeks of rehab for a high ankle sprain he revealed is a six- to eight-week recovery period.
Although McAdoo told reporters this week that there is more optimism about having Beckham back, that optimism could well be tied to the fact that Beckham, who revealed that he has been receiving round-the-clock rehab, continues to inch further and further away from the initial injury.
That leads us to the plan at receiver. Last week, the Giants took heat for not getting receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught one of his four pass targets for 10 yards, more involved in the offense.
It might behoove the Giants to get Marshall more involved and a lot sooner in the game. In his last two seasons, the New York Jets went 7-4 when Marshall recorded over 100 receiving yards.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Eli Manning and Marshall didn't connect on any passes during the preseason, raising some concerns that the two might not have gotten on the same page yet. Before the Dallas game, Manning, however, was optimistic of that happening sooner than later.
"Brandon and I will be on the same page, but, again, there's always a learning curve," Manning said. "We're on the same page. It doesn't mean we'll complete every pass that I throw to him, but we've gotten a lot of work and communicate all the time about the different things. So, I expect us to go out there and make the plays that we need to make."
Monday night would be a great time to start making the plays they need to make.
The Giants Defense Will Get Multiple Sacks
Last week against the Cowboys All-World offensive line, the Giants All-World defensive line managed one sack and three hits against quarterback Dak Prescott in 39 passing plays.
The front four of defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, and tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson will need to do better this week in penetrating through a Lions offensive line that is missing starting left tackle Taylor Decker.
Even if they're not getting their hands on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, if they can at least pressure him into releasing the ball sooner than he'd like and keep him from extending the play, that will help.
With the Giants defense having been challenged by defensive coordinator Spagnuolo to up the ante this week, look for a highly motivated unit to play angry and to take its frustration out against the Lions offensive line, against whom the Giants will record their first multi-sack game of the young season.
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.