The absence of Odell Beckham Jr gave the New York Giants enough of an excuse in their sluggish season opener, but the reality is their offensive woes have extended to when their star receiver has been on the field as well.
Facing their NFC East rivals on the road to open their campaign, the Giants looked stuck in preseason mode as they were dominated 19-3 by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night in a contest that exposed their offensive deficiencies of late.
It was the seventh straight game, dating back to 2016 (including playoffs), in which New York failed to score at least 20 points – the longest such streak since 2003.
While Beckham’s presence would have helped in Week 1, he played in six of the seven aforementioned games, proving the Giants’ issues on that side of the ball are far too multi-faceted for the playmaker to cover up on his own.
“Obviously he’s a tremendous player, but we have players and we have to play better than that,” quarterback Eli Manning said.
“We have to do a better job finding completions on third [down] and converting those third downs. We just have to do a better job.”
It starts at the offensive line, where New York are relying on shaky tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart to give Manning enough time.
On Sunday, the Cowboys recorded three sacks and even when Manning did throw against limited pressure, he and his receivers often couldn’t get on the same page.
“I hung in the pocket, moved around. I wasn’t looking at the rush,” Manning said. “My eyes were downfield. I did an okay job moving around and trying to extend a couple of plays.”
Eli Manning has thrown an interception and been sacked three times by the Cowboys 4-man pass rush. pic.twitter.com/3OZKdT6Vf1— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 11, 2017
The timing was particularly off between Manning and newcomer Brandon Marshall, who came over from the New York Jets in the offseason as a free agent.
Marshall grabbed just one of the four passes thrown his way as the veteran receiver, who was brought in to complement Beckham, was a non-factor in his debut.
For too long, Ben McAdoo’s play calling has leaned on Beckham’s ability to turn simple slant routes into monster gains, and the Giants have struggled to diversify as the rest of the league has caught up.
As a result, New York’s defence has been forced to carry a bigger burden and stay on the field longer, as they did on Sunday against the Cowboys when they faced 71 snaps.
The unit, which allowed the second-fewest points in 2016, was a major reason for the Giants’ 11-5 record last season, but if New York hope to reach the playoffs again, the offence will have to start doing their fair share.
“The thing I thought about after the game was we’ve just got to start faster. We’ve got to be more efficient,” Marshall said. “If we do that, who knows how the game goes, right? (Maybe then) there are opportunities for other guys.”