The Giants currently find themselves in possession of second place in both the NFC East, behind the Cowboys, and the Wild Card hunt, behind the Packers. With a 4-3 record, and half the season left to play, anything is possible. But the New York Giants are anything but a lock for the postseason at this point. With a few changes however, they just might be able to sneak in, and we all know what happens when Eli Manning gets to the playoffs… *cough* 18-1 *cough*.
So if there is any chance at all that come January, the Giants are still in the conversation, here are a few things that need to happen between now and then.
Offensive Play Calling
It doesn’t take an expert to see that the Giants’ play calling so far has been uninspiring, to put it nicely. First of all, it would help if they could step out of the 11 personnel scheme at least occasionally. Three wide receivers, one tight end and a running back, 96% of their snaps this season have come out of this exact formation. That’s too much.
It’s obvious that New York feels as though having their highly-lauded trio of receivers on the field for almost every snap gives them the best chance at winning, especially without a semblance of a running game. But that’s the kicker, clearly the Giants are unable to run out of this package, what with being last in the league in rushing yards and all. If you can’t run the ball, then your offense has become purely one-dimensional, and your receivers are now at a disadvantage.
So what’s the answer? Start varying the scheme a little. I’m not saying overhaul the whole offense completely, but starting to mix in some different looks could go a long way in helping the offense’s production. Maybe throw in a jumbo package every now and then, with backup lineman Will Beatty as an extra tight end, or center Brett Jones as an h-back. Of course this would mean subbing out a receiver, but let’s be honest, Victor Cruz is on the wrong side of twenty, and has just not come back from two years sidelined by injury. I’m sure he could use a breather now and then.
Head Coach Ben McAdoo is justified in wanting the best players on the field at any given time, but you must also put them in the best position to succeed, and bland play calling does the opposite.
Fresh Legs on the Field
While the Giants have had a few issues with injuries, especially to their secondary, the bye week should mean that all the starters are back at 100%.
The Giants secondary is in much better shape. Safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe good to go. CBs Eli Apple and DRC healthier.
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) October 31, 2016
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul have each tallied roughly 96% of snaps at defensive end. There’s no doubt that they are both impressive players, and despite a lack of sacks, have been a major contributing factor to the success of the Giants defense. But New York also has some young blood on the sideline. With both Romeo Okwara and Owa Odighizuwa showing promise on the defensive line, increasing their snap counts and mixing them in with some NASCAR packages can give Vernon and JPP some much needed rest.
It could also be beneficial if the Giants were a little more varied with their personnel on offense. The tight end position has been a problem this year. Tight end Larry Donnell has largely been a liability in passing and blocking, and second string Will Tye, while still a slight upgrade, lacks the height advantage. Rookie Jerell Adams could be the answer here, and we’ve already seen his snap count increasing. Pull Donnell out of the lineup in all but red zone situations, and let Adams and Tye fight it out for the starting spot. Adams was known in college as a proficient blocking TE, and Tye was a serviceable starter last season, both have far higher ceilings than Donnell.
Errors and Turnovers
This one is a no brainer, so I won’t bother saying too much. The Giants currently have a turnover differential of -7, making them tied for 29th worst in the league. Fumbles, interceptions and drops have plagued this offense, particularly in opening drives, which makes it hard to gain any kind of momentum early. In the last few weeks it has improved, and needs to continue to do so.
3rd Down Efficiency
I want to give the defense a bit of a pass on this one. The Giants rank dead last in time of possession, averaging around 25 minutes per game, which isn’t all that surprising when you can’t run the ball. If you are asking your defense to be on the field for that long every game, then you are asking too much. So while the defense ranks 24th in the league on 3rd down stops, they also have a league high 3rd down attempts against them.
The offense gets no pass on this one though, and I won’t apologize for the pun either. Their inability to convert on 3rd down, where they rank 28th in the league, is actively harming the entire team. Mostly this has been because they are forced into 3rd-and-long situations constantly because of a lack of run game and predictable play calling. I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here. A few small changes here and there can have a massive knock on effect for every aspect of this team.
It isn’t quite do or die at this point, but it’s getting close. The Giants have the talent, of that I’m certain, but if they can’t adapt at all and decide to stick with the same plan that barely got them above .500, then a playoff berth will have to wait another year.