I’m sick of talking about the offensive line. In fact, when I woke up Monday morning still trying to shake the stench from Sunday night’s game, I swore to myself I wouldn’t complain about the offensive line at all this season. It’s a poor offensive line and it will remain that way all year. Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie are not walking through the door. (I know who I left out of that group, and yes, it was intentional.) The reason I’m moving on is because the line is an easy excuse for why the offense can’t execute, but it shouldn’t be the main one. There is enough talent on the roster for the New York Giants to overcome their struggling line. Their main issues on offense are a stale scheme and a franchise quarterback who may be on the decline.
When the Giants transitioned from Kevin Gilbride to Ben McAdoo, they did so to incorporate west coast concepts into their offense. They no longer were going to be a team that looked to drive the ball down field before looking for the short easy completion. One of the main benefits of the west coast offense is that it allows the quarterback to get the ball out quickly and gives receivers opportunities to pick up yards after the catch. Most fans agreed the offense needed a refresh, but the results have not suggested the offense has gotten any better. In McAdoo’s three years as offensive coordinator/head coach, the offense has ranked 14th, 16th, and 22nd in DVOA.
For reasons McAdoo will likely never explain, the Giants did not attempt to drive the ball down the field last year. This was a common theme during the 2016 season and continued Sunday night against the Cowboys. Eli Manning ranked 31st out of 37 quarterbacks who threw for at least 1,000 yards last year in yards in the air per pass attempt. Is Eli just playing within the design of the offense? Or are fans seeing the early signs of a quarterback on a steep decline? Those questions won’t be answered after the first game of the year, but the film does reveal there were opportunities for big plays against the Cowboys.
Dallas is in cover two to Eli’s right. At the top of the screen, Lewis streaks past the corner and appears to be open. It is unlikely the safety would come over in time to make a play. Manning briefly looks to his right before coming back down to his left. He isn’t comfortable attempting the pass to a covered Shane Vereen and takes the sack.
Both Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall run in-cuts right in front of the safety covering the middle of the field. If Eli is able to anticipate when Marshall comes out of his break, he has a chance to fit the ball into a tight window before the pocket collapses. Instead, his attempt to hit Paul Perkins on a drag route falls incomplete.
Evan Engram and Shepard run short routes and grab the attention of the linebackers. This leaves the middle of the field wide open for Marshall. Eli is forced to immediately step up after Bobby Hart gets beat but does have an opportunity to quickly reset his feet and hit Marshall. Manning ends up scrambling to his right and forces an incomplete pass.
Dallas appears to be in cover three. Both corners at the top and bottom of the screen are running up the sideline while facing the quarterback. One Dallas safety drops down while the other stays high. Marshall, located slot left, sprints up the seam against the safety who dropped down. He appears to be in great position to gain separation, but Eli never looks his way.
Marshall is located at the bottom of the screen. The Cowboys are playing cover two across the board. Marshall does a great job of gaining inside leverage on the corner, giving Manning plenty of room to drop the ball over his shoulder on the sideline. Once again, Eli doesn’t look his way and settles for the short completion.
A Few Other Plays…
This is a poor route by Engram. If he flattens his route more instead of running directly at the safety, he has an opportunity to catch the ball for a big play.
The only thing poorer than the decision by Eli to throw this ball is the play call itself. Look at the route combinations; no one is running past the 50-yard line except Lewis. Let’s erase this play from the playbook and never speak of it ever again.
Let’s end on a positive note. This was the best ball Eli threw all game.