Giants Quarter-Season Recap: Good, Not Great

New York Giants
New York Giants /

New York Giants

A quarter of the NFL-season is complete. Actually though. Feels like it started today…

As usual, you have your expected. Aaron Rodgers is really good, the Patriots are winning, and Chiefs’ receivers still don’t really score touchdowns. And the unexpected. The Bengals are red hot, Devonta Freeman’s a touchdown machine, and Andrew Luck isn’t Andrew Luck, at least right now.

As for the Giants, they didn’t draw up a 2-2 start, but it’s where they’re at. Those two losses were back-breaking but telling. And the two games they’ve won, while a bit sloppy, were taken handily. There’s a ton of season left, and teams will continue to find their identity, some will get hot, others cold, etc.

But these first four games send fans an important message. They indicate a team’s strengths, their weaknesses, and whether it’s to stay calm–or panic. There’s a lot we’ve learned about the Giants to this point, and I’ve tried to narrow it down to a few key points. I lay them out here:

1. The Giants Are Almost A Playoff Team

The Giants are close–they are–and a weak NFC East gives them a leg up for a playoff spot, but they’re just not there yet. Winning on the road in Buffalo is terrific, no matter how bad it looked. And the Giants did look pretty good, but they had trouble closing once again, and if it wasn’t for 17 Bills penalties, Big Blue really may not have won that game. They still give up too many big plays as well. 111 yards to Charles Clay is just not acceptable for a team competing for a playoff spot. And their pass rush is pretty non-existent, more on that later.

This team has done some nice things, and in my eyes, they’ve outperformed expectations. They’ve taken double digit leads into every fourth quarter this year, they’re not turning the ball over, and the run defense has been stellar. But they aren’t playing at that dominating level just yet.

They have the potential to be a playoff team. I think we’ll find out more about this team going forward when they start to play some better competition (New England and Carolina)  later in the season

2. Eli Manning Is Thriving Even More In Ben McAdoo’s Offense

Aug 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass while New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin watches during the pregame warmup for their game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Eli looked great last year with McAdoo on the sidelines, and finished especially strong. Now, Manning has really taken off. We just don’t see Eli post a 7:1 TD:INT ratio, and he’s done so without Victor Cruz and with unproductive  Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell. Manning is finding ways to make big plays with Odell Beckham and move the chains with a committee of running backs.

Other players around Manning, like Randle and Donnell, need to step up. If they can’t prove they can get open, teams will turn their full attention to shutting Odell Beckham down and the offense will lose a key dimension. Right now though, Manning is doing what the league’s elite quarterbacks do by making the players around him better. Other players need to step up. But for now, Eli’s doing great and doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

3. The Giants Still Need A Pass Rush

This is holding the Giants back. I want to say the team misses Jason Pierre-Paul, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. This team needs multiple pass rushers and they just don’t have them right now. Will DaMontre Moore or Owa Odighizuwa emerge? Possibly, but right now neither one of them has a sack. The Giants won’t get far if they continue to get that little production off the edge. It’s pretty amazing they’ve been right in every game with that little pressure coming from their top four defensive ends.

The run defense has been excellent, but without a pass rush, it’ll be tough to squeak out more victories moving forward.

4. The Giants Can’t Expect Much From Victor Cruz

Oct 5, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) makes a catch during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. The New York Giants defeated the Atlanta Falcons 30-20.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This is an unfortunate one. The always hard-working Cruz is having trouble just getting to practice at the moment, and he can’t seem to get his lower body healthy. He certainly has time to do so, but the more time he misses, the more skeptical I become. It was going to be very tough for him to come back from his torn patella tendon in the first place. Add a serious calf injury to the mix, and I can’t help but wonder what type of explosiveness he’ll have when he eventually returns to the field. Remember, Cruz is a player who very much relies on explosive moves. Whether he gains it all back remains to be seen, but even if he does regain some of it, he needs time to get in football shape and get his legs working under him.

It’s not to say Victor Cruz can’t do it. He went from undrafted free agent to captain, he’s beaten his fair share of odds. But he’s climbing quite a hill right now, and I just don’t think it’s fair to expect much from him until he gets fully healthy.

Next: Giants Win: What Went Right