7 Keys to Victory in New York Giants' Week 2 Matchup
The New York Giants will host the Detroit Lions on Monday night in their 2017 home season opener. That evening, the club will also honor more than 40 members of the 2007 Super Bowl champions during a halftime ceremony.
No pressure on the 2017 Giants team to live up to the greatness that was the 2007 version, right?
Actually, there is—and should be. After eight months to figure out the underlying causes of the 2017 offense's inability to score, head coach Ben McAdoo is still searching for answers.
He can probably start with a revamped offense in which the front office tweaked the receivers, right ends and running backs but left the offensive line intact, hoping continuity would somehow magically erase all the issues the unit experienced last year.
That hasn't been the case, but the good news is the Giants have played well at home under McAdoo, who led them to a 7-1-mark last year.
They have also won four out of the last five games against the Lions, including a 17-6 win last year, and have won four straight prime-time televised home games.
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Date: September 18, 2017
Station: Monday Night Football, ESPN
Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Kickstart the Offensive Line
Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Giants offensive line didn't have its best showing last week.
Per Pro Football Focus, the grades reflected as much. Center Weston Richburg, left guard Justin Pugh and right tackle Bobby Hart (balky ankle and all) graded out the best, while right guard John Jerry and left tackle Ereck Flowers did not.
While the fanbase is panicking and trying to come up with solutions to fix the unit after one game, the players themselves—including the man they protect—are a picture of calm.
"At the end of the day, the people that are making the decisions are the people that are paid to know football," Pugh said when asked how the group has been handling the criticism.
"They are the ones that are putting us out there, right? So, the people that are just going to watch on TV and want to make assumptions, that's a whole other story. So, we got to go out there and keep handling our business and keep our nose to the grindstone. We can’t worry about the outside noise because we have games to win and we have to get ready for Detroit."
Pugh said the only thing the group can do is go back to work to correct whatever deficiencies it still has.
"That's the only way you can get better," he said. "You got to work on the mistakes you made and correct them. That's the only way you're going to fix it."
And that's good enough for quarterback Eli Manning, who has not lost faith in his blockers.
"They’re going to do their job, so everybody just needs to step up their game a little bit," he said. "We don't have to go recreate anything. We just have to execute, play better football."
Get WR Brandon Marshall More Involved
The Giants signed 6'5" receiver Brandon Marshall to give Manning a big, physical receiving target.
However, they were unable to get Marshall involved in the mix last week, targeting him four times, the first of which came toward the end of the second quarter.
Marshall's final stat line? One reception for 10 yards.
"It wasn't a whole lot of doubling," Manning said when asked if the Dallas Cowboys doubled Marshall more than they thought. "They played, maybe played a little bit more shell defense or two-high a little bit more on some third downs. Then, played some quarters—hadn't seen a (Cowboys defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli coaching staff ever do."
Despite the new wrinkle added by the Cowboys, Manning admitted there were opportunities to get Marshall the ball.
"Just couldn't connect on a couple of those plays," he said.
This week, they better figure out how to connect, regardless if they have Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) back in the lineup.
Whether it was what the Cowboys did or what the Giants offense wasn't doing, all the personnel upgrades the front office made to help the passing game didn't have the desired effect.
If that doesn't change starting this week, it's going to be a long year for the Giants.
Pressure QB Matthew Stafford
The Cowboys have one of, if not the, best offensive lines in pro football, so it really wasn't a surprise that the Giants' pass rush was relatively quiet last week.
This week, the Giants are facing a Lions offensive line that, despite missing tackle Taylor Decker (shoulder), has not missed a beat with Greg Robinson—the No. 2 pick by the Rams in the 2014 who was traded to the Lions this year—manning the left tackle spot.
So far, so good for Detroit, who have allowed just one sack and four quarterback hits, per NFLcom.
If the Giants plan to slow down Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, they best turn up the heat in the kitchen and force him into some hurried throws. Per Pro Football Focus, he completed just 51.7 percent of his pass attempts when under pressure last season, suffering 37 sacks in the process.
On a night when Giants legends Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the pass-rushing trio of the 2007 Super Bowl championship team, are expected to be in attendance, what better way to make them proud than for the current trio—Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Romeo Okwara—to get on a roll?
Beware of WR Kenny Golladay
Lions rookie receiver Kenny Golladay, their third-round pick this year, continued his strong preseason showing in last week's season opener, catching two touchdown passes in the 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Lest anyone think these were ordinary passes, they were more of the spectacular variety, which had some Lions fans who have been longing for the days of Calvin Johnson wondering if perhaps the 6'4", 213-pound Golladay might fill the void if just a little.
While it's only one game, ESPN's Michael Rothstein lists Golladay as a Lions player whose arrow is pointing up, noting that the 23-year-old figures to "continue to get a good share of Detroit's work in three-receiver sets."
If so, Golladay, who played 23 snaps as an outside receiver and eight in the slot when sent out on a pass route, per Pro Football Focus, likely will go against Giants cornerback Eli Apple, who last week struggled in coverage against the Cowboys.
Shake Up the Running Back Rotation
The Giants' running game was supposed to be re-energized after its offseason makeover in which second-year man Paul Perkins was promoted to the starting role, and tight ends Rhett Ellison and Shane Smith were added to help with run-blocking.
That hasn't been the case, though. In the preseason, Perkins rushed for 2.7 yards per carry, the lowest rushing average of the running backs.
Meanwhile, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa averaged 5.1 yards and 4,5 yards per carry in the preseason.
That statistical trend has carried over to the regular season. Perkins averaged 2.3 yards per carry last week, gaining 16 yards on seven carries. Vereen wasn't given any carries, but Darkwa—running behind the same offensive line as Perkins—managed 14 yards on three carries, his longest run being 12 yards.
What the box score didn't show is that Darkwa looked surer of himself running the ball than Perkins.
Given Perkins' continued struggles and those of the offensive line, giving Darkwa more of a chance to run the ball to find out if he can keep up a respectable pace can't hurt at this point.
Hope Odell Beckham Jr. Is Back
Life without receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sure hasn't been pretty for the Giants, has it?
Since joining in 2014, Beckham has missed six games in his career, five due to injury and one due to a suspension. In those matchups, the Giants have been outscored by their opponents 159-123 and have gone 2-4 in those games.
In the last two games Beckham has had to miss—a Week 16 suspension in 2015 and last week's regular-season opener due to a sprained ankle—the Giants were outscored 68-20.
Good news might be coming for New York and Beckham, though. Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Giants are much more optimistic about his chances of playing Monday night than they were last week leading up to Dallas.
Even if the offensive line protection is inconsistent as it was last week, at least with Beckham on the field, the Giants have a receiver who can take a short pass and turn it into something more.
Beckham hasn't worked with the team since suffering his injury August 21. While he has said in the past he hates missing practice, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants either hold him out or limit him when they return to practice Thursday to give his healing ankle even more time to stabilize.
Dial in on the Details
Whenever a player says an opponent did things to the team they weren't quite anticipating, that's usually not a good admission.
"I mean Dallas did some things that I would say caught us off guard up front," left guard Justin Pugh said, adding, "At the end of the day, they are still doing the same things that they have always done. There were a few wrinkles that they threw in there, which obviously is going to happen in Week 1."
That's where the extra film study and attention to detail is really going to benefit the team, especially Monday night against a Lions team that tries to confuse the opponent by throwing out multiple defensive fronts.
"They do a good job I think defensively mixing up their coverage, mixing up the different looks,” quarterback Eli Manning said.
"So, we have to look at it, but they're a good defense. I think they do a good job of playing kind of every coverage you can imagine and mixing up how they're doing it. So, we have to be prepared and be ready for everything they throw at us."
If they're not, it's going to be another long night.
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.