There are lots of indicators that this is headed for at best a mediocre season for the Giants, and at worst, it could crash and burn right in front of our PSL-burdened eyes. The worrisome thing is that the same problems have cropped up in all three games so far this season, even the one win against Carolina.
Giants have shown an inability to run the ball effectively as well as an inability to block consistently for Eli in the pocket, for the passing game. This of course points to a real decline in the quality of the OL and as I said last time, this is not going to be fixed by players just trying harder. Giants coaches have to take a hard look at the game tapes and evaluate carefully who should be playing and who should be sitting. A total remake of the OL won't be possible until the off-season, but some in season changes should be made to at least salvage the season and give the Giants a chance. Don't be misled by the fact that at times Eli has had plenty of time to throw in the pocket. This happens when the opposing team rushes only 3 and drops 8 guys into coverage, which seems to have happened a lot over the first three games. When they rush four or (heaven forbid) blitz, the Giants OL has shown a surprising and disappointing inability to pick it up and provide some protection. If I were an opposing DC, I would use the same conservative strategy of dropping 8 into coverage. The Giants running game is now very spotty, so the only way the Giants offense is going to move the ball and generate some points is by Eli throwing the ball down the field. Therefore, the strategy should be: don't let the Giants talented WR corps go deep on you, keep everybody in front of you and make Eli hit 12 passes on you in each drive in order to get into the end zone. More than that, if the Giants can't run effectively, it makes it tough to score in the red zone, so the defense's strategy is tilted even more heavily towards keeping the Giants from scoring quickly and let them hit all the short stuff underneath. I know this might sound inane, because every defense doesn't like guys to get deep on them, but it's the difference between being conservative and aggressive on defense and what the game plan is agianst the Giants offense. Let Gilbride call his hook patterns, which he seems to do 8 out of 10 times and contain those WRs. With 8 guys in the db-field against the Giant offense, and with them frequently sitting in a zone so they can keep everything in front of them, it also explains why every tipped ball that goes off one of the Giant's WRs hands ends up in an INT. The DBs are flooding the backfield and they're staring at the QB's eyes, so they know where the ball is going. The OL is a huge problem and it is worse than it really appears because the Giants have such a talented QB and WR group that sometimes mask the problem.
The second recurrent problem which is a corrolary of the one above is the number of turnovers that the Giants have made. As far as I can tell, only one was really Eli's "fault", that being the left handed pass he threw to Boss on Sunday. Because the opposing defense is keeping most things in front of them, Giants don't get many long plays for TDs. Even the long plays that the offense does make often get stopped before the goal line, giving the offense another chance to make a mistake. (Don't bring up the Carolina game - Panthers stink and that's not a good example.) Bradshaw puts the ball on the ground way too often for someone who is not a real speed burner. I would play Jacobs more often. The Giants WRs are talented, but only Manningham has true breakaway speed. Giants could use one extra burner. The other reason that the Giants don't get into the end zone enough on long plays is that Gilbride's passing routes are so predictable and so conservative.
The third recurrent problem is the awful ST play. I just don't know how to explain it. Do the Giants have such bad athletes behind the offensvie and defensive starters? Is the ST coach unable to communicate to the ST players how to get downfield quickly and how to stay in their lanes? Does he know that not only do they have to stay in their lanes, but they also have to run more or less together so they don't create cut back lanes for the return guys? (BTW - this doesn't see to be the problem - the returners are just running straight at the Giants ST.) The same problems seems to exist on the other side of the ball - Giants get absolutely nothing out of their return game, which sure seems to make it seem like its slow/unathletic players and poor coaches.
I am not even going to bring up the punter. He is embarrassing. If he were a baseball player, he might be pretty good, because he hits about 1 out of every 3 punts. I know he has a good leg, but if he keeps missing the ball, it doesn't matter much how strong his leg is.
Defensive pass rush has been spotty. The DC has done some very interesting things and has been creative at times, notwithstanding the ridiculous coaching job he did against the Colts. I like using Kiwanuka as LB and he seems to be one of the best defensive players. Some players outplay their contracts and are due a raise; Kiwanuka seems like one. However, Osi is underplaying his contract and should be out the door. He makes an occasional play, but is not the pass rushing demon he is supposed to be and is paid to be.
When you have recurrent problems that the coaches can't fix and when you have both an offense and defense that alternately makes a lot of great plays and in the next minute makes awful looking ridiculous plays, it say two things to me about the Giants:
1. The Giants have some good talent at some positions on the roster but also have some real holes that they can't cover up. When the weak parts get by for a particular play or two or when the opponents don't take advantage of them, the Giants can make some successful plays. But when the holes are not closed, Giants make huge mistakes and the weakeneses are exposed.
2. The coaching is really mediocre. They can't fix the ST and the team makes the same mistakes over and over. If the coaches don't know what's wrong or don't know how to fix it, that's a huge problem and points to deficiencies in the quality of the coaching staff. But even if they know what's wrong and they can't get the players to do their bidding, they are also deficient as coaches, because coaches are supposed to be teachers. If they can't communicate and get the players to change, then they're not effective in that regard.
Maybe I'm being overly pessismistic and the Giants will turn the season around. But it seems clear from looking at the first three games that the Giants results match a mediocre-at-best forecast. The only Giants win came against what can now be understood to be an absolutely awful Carolina team. They may not win more than 3 or 4 games and the Giants needed a big second half against them in order to overcome a deficit and win the game. When the Giants played the only top team on their schedule, they were stomped by the Colts and when they played a mediocre Titans team, they did some good things statistically but were undone by a ton of msitakes. To me that says that the Giants will be able to beat the dregs of the league, will be competitive against the mediocre teams in the league and will get stomped by the better teams in the league. That sure looks like 7-9 to me.
Next post: what changes Giants coaches should make.