As the New York Giants opened the season with a disastrous 0-6 start, each cog in their armory has come under media and public scrutiny. The weakest link tag is being passed around the Giants football team like a hot potato this season with each component spending some time under the ominous label at one point or another.
The defensive front-seven was the first to come under fire with the lack of production from its previously-revered pass rushers all too apparent. The Giants picked up Jon Beason in a trade and his presence galvanized the first line of defense. The Giants recorded their highest team-sacks outing of the season in Week 10 to further deflect the attention.
The offensive line was next up in front of the firing squad when their frailties came to the boil during a nightmare Week 3 outing as the Carolina Panthers defense dropped Eli Manning seven times for a combined loss of 45 yards. Since David Diehl‘s return from injury five games ago, things have started to look up; the Giants have conceded fewer sacks (8) in this time as they did in a two-game span across Weeks 2 and 3 of this season.
The Giants’ secondary has been no stranger to criticism this season, looking increasingly exposed and susceptible as the team opened the season allowing more points across the first five games than any team in the Super Bowl era. The reemergence of such experienced heads as Antrel Rolle and Terrell Thomas has gone a long way towards the thinking that this problem is now solved. Thomas was even recognized with the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in Week 9 to further solidify their standing.
Andre Brown returned from injury this week and helped himself to 115 rushing yards and a touchdown to maintain the chronology of problems solved and give relevance to a run game that has been nonexistent for the most part this season. Brown carried the ball 30 times on his return from a broken leg, and at the sixth time of asking it appears that the Giants have another box checked in terms of areas that are no longer cause for major concern.
It may appear harsh to focus on the negatives given the fact the Giants have regrouped to the haven of a three-game winning streak, though there is one area that has remained decidedly lackluster over the past few weeks. The carousel of concern has rolled around and now has quarterback Manning and his bunch of (supposedly) talented receivers firmly in the firing line.
The most concerning issue is that the Giants’ passing game has failed to prosper against some of the league’s most generous defenses during their three-game winning stretch. No Giants receiver topped 50 yards against the Minnesota Vikings‘ 29th ranked pass-defense in Week 7. Things got worse a week later as the Giants were to rely on five field goals for their only offensive scores against a Philadelphia Eagles side that ranked dead-last at the time against the pass. The Eagles have given up the most fantasy football points to wide receivers this year, but Victor Cruz led the Giants in Week 8 with a humble 8.70 points on a day that promised much more.
The most recent game as hosts to the Oakland Raiders was the best opportunity yet at turning the corner for the passing personnel. Just one week prior the Raiders allowed Eagles QB Nick Foles to help himself to over 400 passing yards and seven touchdowns which should have been like a red rag to a bull for the likes of Manning and Cruz. Instead, they combined for their least-effective performance of the season in terms of yardage; Manning churned out just 140 passing yards whilst Rueben Randle led all receivers with a mediocre 50 yards through the air.
The G-Men are without a 100-yard-receiver since Week 5 and Cruz hasn’t seen the end zone in his last five outings. Sooner rather than later, the Giants are going to need to lean on their passing game, yet if they can’t expose such giving secondaries as the Eagles and Raiders there is a recurring problem.
The Giants’ next three opponents: Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, each have pass-defenses ranking 20th or below providing ample opportunity to get back on track. It’s caution to the wind time for Manning and company as these next three games will ultimately decide their fate for 2013.