Yesterday, the New York Giants were handed their worst loss in the Tom Coughlin era, losing to the Carolina Panthers 38-0 and are off to the worst start since 1996, Dan Reeves’ final season as coach. This has been a trend lately, a trend of not being able to compete when it matters.
Last season, the Giants beat the New Orleans Saints 52-27 but were facing a must-win game against the Atlanta Falcons the next week. The Giants lost 34-0. The next week the Giants needed a win which could have given them a shot at winning the NFC East and they were beaten by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14. To start the season this year, the Giants have been outscored by an average of 38.3 to 18.
The problem didn’t start this season. In fact, it was clearly evident last year when the Giants had major difficulty running the football and sustaining drives while at the same time failing to stop the opponents rushing attack. This year, the Giants rushed the ball a total of 49 times for 133 yards through three games, an average of 2.7 yards per rush and just 44.3 yards per game, good enough for last in the NFL.
This isn’t the fault of the running backs. This is an offensive line issue and the offensive line has not been performing for over a year now. Left tackle Will Beatty was abused and was a major factor in the Panthers being able to sack Eli Manning six times in the first 17 minutes. Right guard Chris Snee was once a Pro Bowl caliber lineman but now it looks as if he is on the downside of his career. Center David Baas looks overmatched a lot of the time and hasn’t been close to what the Giants were hoping for when they got him as injuries and ineffectiveness have been the story of his Giants career. Right tackle Justin Pugh is a rookie and is expected to make mistakes but right now the Giants can’t afford any mistakes so his issues become glaring.
Yesterday, the Giants needed to come out and set the tempo. They failed miserably. Eli Manning was sacked three times in the Giants first nine offensive plays. The Giants had 18 total yards of offense two minutes into the third quarter, 14 of which came from Manning running for his life. The Giants run game never had a chance to get started as Carolina’s defensive line simply pushed back the offensive line and met the ball carrier in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage.
This isn’t a coaching issue. The coaches can set the game plan but it is up to the players to execute and right now they are not executing. It isn’t an effort thing, it is a talent issue. The Giants are not talented in the trenches to be a competitive football team. Maybe things change on the offensive line when David Diehl returns from thumb surgery and he slides into left guard and pushes Kevin Boothe to center to replace David Baas. But that might not be enough.
The players will talk about how they will turn it around. They will pump themselves up and tell fans this isn’t over. That will be just what it is, talk. This is a problem that can’t be suddenly fixed. This isn’t an issue that can be hidden. The Giants won’t come close to the NFC East title. They will win a few games to be sure but a Top 10 pick I the upcoming NFL Draft isn’t that far away.