2017 Season Grades so Far at New York Giants' Bye Week
The New York Giants' 2017 campaign enters its bye week, when the players will take some time away from what has been a difficult and disappointing 1-6 season.
"I think we need to get away from it for a little bit," head coach Ben McAdoo said during his Monday conference call. "We need to get away from it, we need to clear our minds, get our bodies back and get back with a fresh outlook, as tough as that may be.
"We need to come back—we have a lot of football left to play. We had a lot of fight in us (Sunday) and that needs to continue."
What doesn't need to continue are the mistakes and poor performances that have put the Giants at or near the bottom of the class in key areas.
With that said, let's have a look at those areas and see how the team graded out through seven games.
When you ask your franchise quarterback to play behind a leaky offensive line, with no running game and receivers who are a significant drop-off in talent from the All-Pro caliber ones you lost to season-ending injuries, it's a tough pill for any QB to swallow.
Yet, that is the situation Eli Manning has found himself in this year. A quick review of his stats from the first seven games last year compared to the first seven of this year are quite telling.
In 2016, Manning completed 175 of 270 pass attempts (64.8 percent) for 1,984 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions while having absorbed just 10 sacks in the first seven games of that season.
This year, Manning is 167 of 260 (64.2 percent) for 1,600 yards, 10 touchdowns, and five interceptions and has absorbed 17 sacks through seven games.
To be clear, though, Manning isn't blameless in the decline of the passing game. He's missed some open receivers and has had trouble connecting on the deep ball, which was once a strength of his.
Therein lies a big part of the problem, though. Whereas once you might make the claim that Manning was capable of carrying the offense all by his lonesome, those days are long gone. And when he doesn't have a strong enough supporting cast, as is the case this year, the results are going to reflect that.
Ever since the Giants made the change to get Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman more involved in the running game due to a rib injury to Paul Perkins, their running game has perked up to produce two 100-yard efforts in the last three games.
However, the New York running backs have to operate behind the same leaky offensive line that their quarterback does, which means anything goes.
What Gallman and Darkwa have brought to the table is elusiveness, per Pro Football Focus. The former leads the Giants running backs with a 48.7 elusive rating, while the latter is third (behind Shane Vereen) with 11.2.
Darkwa and Gallman are averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively.
The only question involving the running game is why the coaching staff didn't make the change to Darkwa and Gallman sooner after watching Perkins (1.9 yards per carry average) struggle.
After finishing fourth last year against the run (88.6 yards per game), the Giants run defense this year is ranked 23rd, allowing 120.7 yards per game.
What's more, in six of their seven games this season, the Giants' once-feared run defense has allowed the opponent to exceed 100 yards rushing.
Part of the problem has been the defensive front. The Giants lost Johnathan Hankins via free agency and have not had a healthy Olivier Vernon for a full game since Week 2—he has actually missed the last three games.
Another part of the problem has included missed tackles and linebackers who have been unable to shed blocks and fill gaps.
The saving grace for the run defense has been the play of defensive tackle Damon Harrison. Per Pro Football Focus, his 11.6 run stop percentage is third among all defensive interior players, behind Linval Joseph (16.2) of the Minnesota Vikings and Steve McLendon of the New York Jets (13.4).
Harrison's 16 stops tie him for third place among defensive tackles who have played in at least 75 percent of their team's run defense snaps.
Statistics such as hits and hurries also factor into the grading of pass rushes, though to take things a step further, if those hits and hurries are resulting in incomplete passes or turnovers, then you know you have something special even if the sack totals are low.
Unfortunately for the Giants, their numbers—low to begin with—haven't been helped by the fact Vernon hasn't been healthy since suffering a sprained ankle in Week 3.
In the first four games in which the 27-year-old was active, he led the Giants with 11 pass rush pressures, including 2.0 sacks.
In seven games, the Giants have managed just 32 hits against opposing quarterbacks. That hasn't been nearly good enough considering the financial investment this team made to upgrade the pass rush.
It's also quite alarming that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has had to rely more heavily on safety and cornerback blitzes to help the front four get the job done.
The Giants started out slowly in pass coverage, but thanks to better showings from cornerback Eli Apple and free safety Darian Thompson, the team sits 15th in the NFL in passes defensed (35).
That doesn't mean the coverage is worthy of a high passing grade. The play by the linebackers in this area has, at times, looked like an unorganized mess. The inability to stop opposing tight ends, who have scored eight times in seven games, is also concerning.
Using stats from Pro Football Focus to calculate the Giants linebackers' NFL Rating, only one of the group—Jonathan Casillas—has a rating under 100 (82.0) through the first seven games.
Lastly, the Giants have allowed the sixth most average passing yards per game so far, this season (258.7 per game).
The good news is the Giants are in pretty good company in this last statistic, joining the Patriots, Eagles and Chiefs as teams who have logged a higher average per game. In this case, though, misery shouldn't enjoy company as New York can be better.
There has been a lot of things wrong with the Giants special teams unit this year, none bigger than the stretch of inconsistent punting by Brad Wing.
Whereas Wing was so good last year, he's had at least one clunker punt in his weekly batch this season; the aforementioned clunker usually being so bad that the opponent has been able to cash in on the Giants' misfortunes.
The biggest gaffe by Wing was a poor punt that set up an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in Week 2 by the Lions.
While the blame for the poor punting is not Wing's alone—the awful coverage and the coaching staff's insistence on having him be a directional punter, which he has yet to show he can be, are part of the problem—the shanked punts certainly don't help.
In the return game, meanwhile, the Giants were hoping Dwayne Harris would reach a financial incentive placed into his contract this past offseason in which he would get a performance bonus if he averaged 10.0 yards per return.
Unfortunately, the 30-year-old suffered a season-ending broken foot, but before misfortune struck, he finished with a pedestrian 6.9 average that was built on some head-scratching decisions and uncertainty by him regarding when to field punts and when to let them hit and roll into the end zone.
Kicker Aldrick Rosas, who came into this season with no prior regular-season experience, started as the lone bright spots on a unit that has clearly caused special teams coordinator Tom Quinn to develop his largest amount of gray hairs in his 12 seasons with the team.
Lately, Rosas has fallen on hard times, with three missed field goals in his last three games, including one block.
Better late than never?
Not if you're the Giants and are talking about McAdoo's decision to delegate the play-calling to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
It took McAdoo until his team was 0-5 this year before he finally woke up and realized that by holding the dual role of head coach and play-caller, his team was in a downward spiral.
Before that, there were numerous decisions made by the second-year head coach and fourth-year play-caller that left Giants fans screaming in frustration.
Such decisions include going for it on fourth down inside the opponents' 5-yard line, play-calling sequences that didn't appear to fit the situation, and the delay of game penalties that McAdoo tried at one point to blame on Manning only to later admit he could have done a better job with the communication.
Although the team's company line has been that it was McAdoo who decided to delegate the play-calling to Sullivan, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch told NJ Advance Media's James Kratch that he and business partner John Mara "discussed the team's play-calling situation in the past, both together and with McAdoo," adding that the topic had been discussed most recently before the Giants faced the Denver Broncos.
"I think it was a very good adjustment that the coach made," Tisch said. "It was discussed last week. ... He knew it was the right thing to do."
That ownership even had to bring up the topic—whether directly or indirectly with the head coach, who must have seen his team starting to implode, not just offensively but also with the discipline-related issues of cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple—is the biggest head-scratcher of them all.
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.