The New York Giants played the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season. The team’s defense looked pretty darn impressive despite being on the field for nearly the entire first half. A 19-3 loss was never going to be about the defense though. Instead, it was the offense that gobbled up headlines.
According to reporters who were at the game, the Giants’ offense did indeed show up for this contest. Those of us watching on television were unable to verify this.
And yet, we still owe New York a bit of a break in our unending cremating of how the offense performed. To some degree, we knew this was going to happen once it was confirmed that Odell Beckham Jr. would be inactive.
The degree to which the NY offense struggled could not be imagined. However, a Giants attack sans Beckham was never going to be good. He is arguably the best weapon in the NFL for a reason. The entire Giant offense revolves around him and works through him for a reason. He is that good. It leaves the rest of the unit in deep trouble when without him, but units aren’t supposed to excel without their best player. For evidence of that, just look to Indianapolis without Andrew Luck or follow how Arizona performs after the injury to David Johnson. The reason teams have stars is to play through them as often as possible.
New York knew there was a good chance it would be without Beckham for this game, which would explain why the game plan was to dink and dunk every pass. The more alarming aspect of the performance was the inability to run the ball, which plagued this team all through last season. Dallas had a very good run defense in 2016, which may have carried over. Giants fans know, though, that this team won’t be able to generate running room against anyone playing like this.
Coach Ben McAdoo’s silly declaration that a running back doesn’t matter when there’s no room to run blew up in his face (as we knew it would). Indirectly referencing his own offense, though, he is kind of right. It didn’t matter who lined up in the New York backfield. No one was going anywhere. Eli Manning himself rarely found time to stand and wait in the pocket on passing downs. And when he did, the pass attempt still went underneath or into the flat.
It’s disappointing that the Giants didn’t even try to force the issue downfield without Beckham. It isn’t that surprising though. Evan Engram is a rookie unknown. Brandon Marshall is in a new offense, not playing the role he expected to be in. Sterling Shepard was one of the only pieces doing damage on Sunday, and he averaged fewer than seven yards per receptions. He was the dink and the dunk.
The Giants have an extra day of rest before playing the Detroit Lions on Monday night of Week 2. The offensive line needs a lot of work. The offensive play-calling still is in transition. But most of all, all New York needs is a healthy Odell Beckham. That, at least, will get this group back to respectability and allow the defense to control games.