7 Keys to Victory in New York Giants' Week 5 Matchup
That's because the Chargers roll into East Rutherford, New Jersey, to visit the Giants for an early-afternoon game.
Will Sunday's game end up being another snoozefest or might the Giants and Chargers finally put a more competitive and more fundamentally sound product on the field?
We'll find out at the weekend, but until then, here's a look at what the Giants need to do if they want that elusive first win of 2017.
Get off to a Fast Start
Pop quiz: Can anyone name the last time the Giants scored a touchdown in the first quarter?
The answer is coming up in a moment (no cheating), but here's a hint: It hasn't happened yet in 2017.
That's right, New York has been blown out by the opponent 23-0 in the first 15 minutes of play, a trend this team needs to put to bed in a hurry.
"We are studying it right now," head coach Ben McAdoo said of his team's scoring drought in the first quarter. "We are taking a look at it. Putting time and effort to see what we can do to go out and start a little bit faster and get some confidence early in ballgames."
Really, there should be no reason why the Giants—or any team for that matter—shouldn’t at least score on their opening drive.
Coaches tend to spend a majority of their week scripting the first sequence of plays, but if they're being too predictable or just not anticipating what they might get from the other side, then that's on them and not necessarily the players.
P.S. The answer to the quiz is Dec. 8, 2016, when Eli Manning connected with receiver Sterling Shepard on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 9:23 left in the first quarter. The Giants' last score of any kind in the first quarter was a 22-yard field goal by Robbie Gould in the 2016 regular-season finale against Washington.
The Giants are long overdue.
Shut Down DEs Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa
Per Pro Football Focus, Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have combined for 30 pressures, including nine sacks, against opposing quarterbacks.
That's not good news for the Giants offensive tackles, projected this week to be Ereck Flowers on the left side and Justin Pugh on the right.
"They both get after it. They're multiple. They do different things. They have a variety of rushes that they're very good at," said Pugh, who also noted the Chargers move Bosa and Ingram around to get the best matchups.
Pugh believes Flowers and whoever ends up at right tackle—there is an outside chance Bobby Hart regains his starting job this week, though no announcement has been made by McAdoo—will be up to the challenge.
"We've gone against Olivier Vernon and JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) during camp, so our tackles should be ready," he said.
Eli Manning probably hopes he's right.
You might be thinking, "Duh!" when you read this particular slide headline, but the fact is the Giants defense have not tackled well at all this year.
According to data provided by Pro Football Focus, the Giants defense has 37 missed tackles through four games. Safety Darian Thompson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie share the lead in this category with six apiece.
Against the Bucs, the Giants recorded eight missed tackles, with safety Landon Collins leading the way with two.
McAdoo always talks about mastering the fundamentals. Well, it doesn't get any more fundamental in football than to use proper tackling form to not only bring the ball-carrier down to the ground but also avoid potential injury.
Stuff the Tight End
There's something about the Giants defense and opposing tight ends that historically hasn't gone well for New York.
That unfortunate trend has continued this season. Opposing tight ends have scored at least once against the Giants defense in each of the first four games, with last week seeing two Bucs tight ends, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, contribute a touchdown a piece.
"I think we've played some good tight ends that create matchup problems," McAdoo said when asked about his defense's struggles against tight ends. "Their yards per catch isn't outrageous, but they do have some completions against us. I think it's more than just targets, it's completions."
He would be correct. Opposing tight ends have caught 26 of 34 pass targets for 239 yards and five touchdowns this season against the Giants.
This week, the Giants get Antonio Gates, a potential Hall of Famer whose skills might be in decline but who is still a dangerous part of the Chargers' passing game.
Given the success the Giants' foes have had in using their tight end, don't be stunned if Gates is featured this week.
The question is will New York finally figure out how to shut the position down? If they can't, it could mean another long afternoon for the Giants and their faithful fans.
Keep Feeding Wayne Gallman the Ball
Running back Orleans Darkwa (back) is on the mend, which means if he continues to make progress, he could be back in the lineup Sunday after a one-week absence.
If that happens, then the Giants will almost certainly make one of their running backs inactive for the game.
Wayne Gallman received that unfortunate distinction the first three weeks of the season, but after being pressed into duty last week when Darkwa had to sit, the rookie delivered the goods, rushing for 42 yards on 11 carries, his yardage total being 46.1 percent of the Giants' season-high 91 rushing yards through four games.
That's not the only thing Gallman accomplished. In addition to showing he could pick up the blitz, he forced two missed tackles in one game, per Pro Football Focus, putting him second on the team behind Paul Perkins who has three in four games.
"He's a guy that came in, there were a lot of new things for him," McAdoo said. "Pass protection was one of them and working through reads in pass protection is different the way you do it, whether it's a scan protection, whether it's an inside-out protection or cross key type read form, he's grown there."
The Giants will need to have their best runners on this field this week against Chargers inside linebacker Jatavis Brown, whose 41 tackles is second on the NFL. Gallman should be one of those running backs and there shouldn't even be a debate about it.
Stop Leaving Points on the Field
In case you weren't sure, McAdoo the play-caller is a gambler. The problem is he has a long way to go before he is ready for the high-stakes table.
While McAdoo is trying to show faith in his offense and, perhaps more importantly, in his ability to match wits with the opposing team's defensive coordinator, it hasn't worked.
Guess what? It's not going to work until the team shows it has mastered the fundamentals, such as handling combo blocks, catching catchable passes, and getting the play from the sideline and to the huddle a lot quicker, to name a few.
Until the Giants offense is running more smoothly, McAdoo needs to consider playing the percentages, especially given how close his team has come to a win these last two games.
This team has yet to show it can overcome self-inflicted wounds, including those that are created by its offensive play-caller.
Manage Third Downs on Each Side of the Ball
If you want another reason why the Giants haven't helped themselves toward a win, look no further than third down from the defensive side of the ball.
In their 11 wins last year, the Giants defense held opponents to a 30.6 percent conversion rate on third down. This year, that percentage has jumped up to 41.8 percent.
The Giants defense might catch a break here against a Chargers team that has converted just 30 percent of their third-down attempts this year, putting them 27th in the NFL. If New York can stuff quarterback Philip Rivers and company, they will give themselves a good chance for success.
While on the subject of third down, the Giants offense has converted 37.3 percent of their third-down attempts, 22nd in the league. The Chargers defense has allowed opponents to convert on 46.4 percent of their third downs, fifth most in the league.
If there was ever a week for the Giants to snap out of their third-down blues of 2017, this would be a good time.
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 noted.