Well, Giants fans, last Sunday the day arrived. Our brutal 2018 schedule kicked off against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have one of the best defenses in the league. It was either going to be slog or a blowout. It turned out to be the former, but an interception, a couple overthrows, and a muffed punt proved to be fatal errors committed by the Giants that prevented them from clinching a very winnable game. They lost 20-15.
Just had a chance to rewatch the game. The Week 1 #Daily5:— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 10, 2018
1. Odell Beckham looked great. Saquon Barkley got better as game progressed. #Giants will go as far as those two take them. They're tremendous.
2. Gotta like what you see from Pat Shurmur's offense schematically. It's sharp. Multiple. Guys constantly moving around the formation + open. Lots of screens and swing passes to slow pressure. Plays will be there to be made. As Odell said: "good place to start" #Daily5 #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 10, 2018
3. Ereck Flowers and the right side of the offensive line are a problem (as expected). Don't see it getting much better. And it's not like the Giants have many -- or any -- other options on their roster. Get used to it for another season. #Daily5 #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 10, 2018
4. The defense played well. Good sign that they'll be improved unit from last year. Dalvin Tomlinson, Kareem Martin and Eli Apple three guys that stood out. Apple is big for this defense. Allowed one completion for six yards on four targets. Encouraging start. #Daily5 #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 10, 2018
5. Giants need their QB to make more plays, even if it's under heavy pressure. That's how teams win in the NFL these days. Eli Manning settled for too many throws short of marker in second half, missed Odell for TD in third, threw pick six. Not good enough. #Giants #Daily5— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 10, 2018
First NFL game by notable RBs drafted in Top 5 since 2006:— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 11, 2018
NYG Saquon 106 yds, 2018;
JAX Fournette 100, 2017;
NO Reggie Bush 67, 2006;
DAL Ezekiel Elliott, 51, 2016;
OAK Darren McFadden 46, 2008. -- per @NFLResearch
Here’s the team-by-team break down.
The Jags had 17 first downs to the Giants' 15. Both teams were 4-13 in third down efficiency. Jags had 13 drives to the Giants 12. Giants had 324 yards in offense to the Jags 304. They also had more passing yards; Giants had 210 to Jacksonville’s 168. Rushing yards were also not far apart, with the Jags clinching 137 yards to the Giants 114, the bulk coming from rookie running back and #2 draft pick Saquon Barkley having a nice 68-yard touchdown.
Both Eli Manning and Jags QB Blake Bortles threw a pick, though Manning’s resulted in a touchdown. Without that, it’s possible that the Giants could have won 15-13. It’s also possible that if Giants wide receiver Kaelin Clay didn’t screw up the punt in the last minute of the game, the Giants, with Odell Beckham, Jr., who had 11 receptions for 111 yards, and Barkley—could have created something. No dice. And yes, as with last year, and the year before that, the offensive line is weak. The left side seems pretty solid with Nate Solder and Willie Hernandez, but Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers on the right needs work. Flowers’ fifth year option has already been declined by the Giants, who hopefully can get rid of him sooner rather than later, given his anemic performance. His two penalties on the Giants’ opening drive killed it. He’s become a disappointment, but we’re stuck with him right now. Unless, the Giants take a look at some of these players who were released. There are available players who should be looked at by the front office:
The Giants can't afford to roll with Flowers at this point. Is Chad Wheeler the answer? Probably not, but he's no worse than Flowers. They have to consider other options, though, and Gettleman owes it to this offense to check in on veteran Austin Howard, released by the Colts; Austin Pasztor, released by the Falcons; and Jeremiah Sirles, released from the Panthers. Sirles played for Shurmur with the Vikings.
Another developmental option is New Jersey native Jamil Demby, a rookie who was surprisingly waived by the Rams over the weekend.
Maybe the Giants feel as though Flowers is their best option, and they clearly know more about what is on the market than we do. But, bringing in competition for Flowers, even if you're just trying to see the replacement value in a possible switch, is worth it. We're not talking about big bucks here, and that will undoubtedly come in 2019.
This isn't about making fun of Flowers with ridiculous memes on social media, or posting emojis of wilted flowers, either. What we saw against the Jaguars just validates what has become conventional wisdom: his in-game technique is not improving, and that cripples the offense.
Flowers' struggles are hampering the Giants' offense, and that was explicitly shown in the first drive, where he was given a penalty for tripping after being beat by the Jags pass rush. That penalty wiped away a nice reception/gain by Odell. Yet, while commentators and fans alike point to Flowers as the weak link in the offensive line chain, the irony is that Flowers is the last man standing:
They are all long gone from that 2015 New York Giants offensive line room -- Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh, Marshall Newhouse, Geoff Schwartz and Will Beatty. Their coach at the time, Pat Flaherty, is on his second job since.
The only key piece from that unit that remains is Ereck Flowers. It’s an incredible feat of circumstance and unexplained resilience. Flowers is not only still with the team, he’s still starting, despite any sort of significant track record of success. To date, it’s one of the biggest upsets of the season.
If you watched the Giants' 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, it didn’t take long for Flowers’ presence to be recognized. For an offensive lineman, that’s never a good thing. He committed penalties on two of the first three plays and it didn’t get much better as the game progressed.
Now, there were spots of good play from Flowers. Saquon Barkley’s nasty 68-yard dash the ended with his first career touchdown was due to Flowers making blocks. Overall, the whole offensive line is new. They’re shaky. Hopefully, they can gel together as the season progresses, but this will and has been a lingering issue for the Giants. For all the improvements seen from the Giants, they’re not going to be a 3-13 team. At the same time, the same missed opportunities of offense will occur because the offensive line cannot protect Eli. On top of this, the Giants are facing some pressure regarding passing on Jets QB Sam Darnold, who absolutely torched the Detroit Lions 48-17, despite throwing a pick-six in his first drive. Did Big Blue make the right move?
Tight end Evan Engram needs to catch the ball. The Athletic’s Patricia Traina, who also contributes to Forbes and other publications covering the Giants, noted other issues, like punt returns, field position, flubbing third down conversions, and the running game. Yes, we have Barkley, but he can’t do it alone—and with a trashy offensive line, maximizing his potential—and there is a huge ceiling on that—will be difficult to execute. Again, it’s the offensive line—and there seems to be some available options to replace Flowers out there.
With the Giants heading to Dallas this Sunday, it represents another chance for Big Blue to clinch a win. Jacksonville was a winnable game. Dallas might be even more so. The Cowboys decided to let star wide receiver Dez Bryant go—and not replace him. The same with former tight end Jason Witten, who retired at the end of the 2017 season. He’s now an analyst for Monday Night Football. Also, offensive tackle Travis Frederick has been sidelined with an autoimmune disease. Dallas’ offensive line is also shaky. They also don’t have nearly as many offensive weapons as the Giants. You saw that with their anemic opener against the Carolina Panthers, where they scored only eight points with all their starters. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott couldn’t find anyone that was open. Yes, they have running back Ezekiel Elliott, who wasn’t utilized all that much, but the Giants' front seven has proven well in stopping the run game. I believe in you, Snacks!
This will be another low-scoring game, but the Giants should, no—they have to come out of this with a win. I think they will, but we’re still in rebuild mode, which hopefully gets turned around the right way by shoring up that offensive line. Here are some of the missed offensive opportunities by the Giants due to the offensive line trouble. NFL Network's Brian Baldinger looked at the tape:
.@Giants left too many points on the field Sunday. This should have been a layup. I am not here to place blame but anyone in that NYG locker room knows that this is a “gimme”. #BaldyBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/67GM4Y4rrp— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 10, 2018
Baldinger has also broken down why Flowers is bad at his position: