Giants Should Look To Power Running Roots To Survive Injuries on Offense
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How quickly a season can change for New York.
Perched atop the NFC East two weeks prior, the Giants now sit out of the NFC playoff picture if the season ended today.
With three receivers and three lineman stuck on the trainer's table, the Giants will look to avoid a three-game skid and keep their playoff hopes alive with a win against Jacksonville this week.
Already down Steve Smith and Ramses Barden at receiver, the Giants lost Hakeem Nicks to a lower leg injury for at least the next three weeks.
Along the offensive line, Shawn Andrews and Kevin Boothe make up a new-look left side for the G-Men, not to mention second-year tackle William Beatty occasionally filling in at either tackle spot.
For the first time in nearly five years, the Giants offense will have huge question marks up front, surely a discomforting feeling for Head Coach Tom Coughlin, especially with the Giants in need of a pick-me-up game at home against the Jags this week.
Eli Manning's struggles have been well-noted, but unlike in recent memory when the Giants offense has been able to weather his inconsistencies by running the ball, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have been stifled on the ground in their last two losses, turning in two sub-100 yards rushing performances in back-to-back weeks.
The Tiki Barber-esque fumbling problem that has plagued Bradshaw all season (he leads the NFL with six fumbles lost) needs to stop, plain and simple, or his starting spot will be in jeopardy.
While he remains great in space, the fourth-year pro from Marshall is at his best between the tackles, where he can use his great vision and lightning-quick cutback ability to turn any run into a big gain.
Apologies for the nostalgia, but during the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2007 their offense sought every opportunity to pound the ball on the ground; In turn, Eli became deadly on play-action passes, especially down the field.
Now it seems, the Giants' offense looks to pass first, and is slowly moving away from a ground game that still ranks among the league's best.
Devoid of a No. 1 receiver, Kevin Gilbride is said to be using TE Travis Beckum in more offensive packages (he scored against Philly), as his blocking prowess allows him to stay on the field without the Giants losing too much.
Mario Manningham filled in admirably for Steve Smith against Dallas (10 catches for 91 yards and a score), but as the Eli Manning's only threat in the passing game, he could receive far more attention than he could handle against the Jags.
To alleviate many of these issues, the Giants need to be effective in moving the ball on the ground, which could easily happen. Of their next few opponents, only Minnesota's defense presents a formidable challenge trying to stop the run.
Additionally, Andrews, Boothe and Beatty all weigh in bigger than the starters they replace on the offensive line, and the Giants need to take advantage of their size in the trenches. Boothe's thighs look like Earl Campbell's and Shawn Andrews has always been an above-average run blocker because of his quickness and athletic ability, making the Giants' left side a good place to start getting back into a groove on the ground.
Not only will Eli Manning settle down once the running game gets going, but the defense, which looked like it was on its last leg by the fourth quarter against Michael Vick last week, should benefit from the clock-eating consequences that come with a consistent running attack.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs could see their biggest workload of the year at home this week in a do-or-die game. With the Giants' season possibly on the line this week, the offense needs to get going early and often Sunday, and it will start with the production they get from the ground game.
Jesse Paguaga is an intern for Bleacher Report. He is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest in the BD Baseball Fantasy Department. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77.
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