It was a frustrating day for the Giants offense, with a lot of their performance looking eerily similar to 2017. The offensive line continues to be a mess. Eli Manning was not sharp. Receivers dropped passes. Too many penalties and negative plays. Too many missed opportunities. With that being said, there were some positives and some signs that this year will be different for big blue.
Before we get into the good stuff, we need to point out the negatives, because they ultimately decided this game. First, the offensive line got outclassed in every way. Right Tackle Ereck Flowers set the tone on the very first play of the season with a tripping penalty. He was called for a holding just two plays later. Flowers allowed a sack in the 2nd quarter, got beat for the initial pressure that led to the Jaguars’ pick-6, and was generally bad in every phase of the game. It was not pretty.
Flowers was not the only guilty party up front, though. Rookie Left Guard Will Hernandez was driven into the backfield several times. The Jaguars have a very deep and versatile defensive line rotation. They sometimes like to come out with 3 defensive ends in passing situations. This leads to one of their better pass rushers getting a favorable matchup against a guard inside. This happened to Hernandez. Welcome to the NFL, Will.
Besides Flowers and Hernandez, Center Jon Halapio often found himself in Eli Manning’s lap. Right Guard Patrick Omameh and Left Tackle Nate Solder weren’t much better. The unit as a whole got dominated in the running game (46 yards on 22 carries if you remove Saquon Barkley’s long touchdown run where he made multiple defenders miss). Their poor performance in the passing game kept the Giants from sustaining drives. Not to mention, they were the main culprit for most of the Giants’ negative plays. Their missed blocks and penalties resulted in New York taking 16 of their 62 offensive snaps with the line to gain for a first down at 11 yards or more. That’s more than 25% of their plays.
The offensive line was also a major reason for many of the Giants’ missed opportunities. Take the play below. This was on their last offensive play of the first half. The Jaguars brought an all-out blitz and played man-to-man across the board with no safety. Eli Had Odell Beckham Jr. 1-on-1 vs Jalen Ramsey. Beckham won, and had a lot of field to work with. The snap was just a bit off and the pressure got to Manning too quickly. Both prevented him from being able to plant his back foot and deliver a strike to an open Beckham.
You could argue that Eli needed to stand in there and make that throw in the face of pressure. The snap really threw him off, though. These are the little things that cost you a game, especially against a great defense.
Eli wasn’t without any blame on Sunday. We wouldn’t say that he had a bad game necessarily, he just wasn’t great. Manning needs the offense around him to be working as designed to have success. That’s not a knock on him, by the way. Eli is a solid quarterback that can be great when his system works, which is something you can’t say about most quarterbacks. When his system doesn’t work, or when there are breakdowns up front, his performance suffers dramatically. Sunday against the Jaguars was no exception. He was not as precise as he needed to be in a game that demanded it.
Below, you can see a play in the 3rd quarter where he had an open Odell Beckham, Jr. for what would have been a touchdown. He overthrew Beckham, and actually made the wrong type of throw.
That ball should have been thrown a little more across the field instead of on top of ODB.
It wasn’t all bad for the Giants on Sunday. Saquon Barkley showed why he was the #2 overall pick on several occasions. His agility, explosion, and ability to make tacklers miss created most of what the Giants got in the running game on Sunday. He’s a versatile threat that the Giants can and will use all over the field.
Additionally, Pat Shurmur’s approach was very encouraging. The Giants actually looked like a versatile offense on Sunday, something that’ been missing for several years now. We saw Shurmur align Barkley and tight end Evan Engram on the perimeter several times. Beckham was used all over the field. Shurmur was able to get him inside on players not named Jalen Ramsey. We saw a mix of trips bunch formations, aligning with 6 o-linemen, and a healthy combination of shotgun, pistol, and under-center plays. As this offense evolves and gets more experience together, these types of personnel distributions and multiple formations will make life difficult for defenses and much easier for Eli Manning.
What was even more encouraging about Shurmur’s approach on Sunday? He seemed to realize that his offensive line was outmatched against Jacksonville. He didn’t just run his offense assuming the protection would be there simply because it was supposed to be. He actually did things to neutralize the Jaguars’ pass rush, like utilize play action and roll Manning out.
There are no moral victories in football, but the Giants offense did show some good things against one of the best defenses in the league. It will be exciting to see where New York goes on offense this season. They certainly have their faults, but they have a ton of weapons and a head coach who seems to have a good idea of how to use them.
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