Does Giants’ season path depend on victory over Ravens?
By Curt Macysyn
The New York Football Giants (2-3) are sputtering after a once promising 2-0 start. That promise has turned into reality with a three-game losing streak. This week, Big Blue takes on the Baltimore Ravens (3-2); similarly positioned with a two-game losing streak. In the NFL, momentum can come and go quickly. On Sunday, what path can be taken to right the ship against Baltimore?
Path #1: Wide Receiver Sets
There have been many things written about the New York Giants’ receiving corps already this season. Some are valid, and some are not. First, let’s take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the room: Odell Beckham, Jr.
Hopefully OBJ has reached the turning point this season. His game against Green Bay was his best of the young season. The production was not there because the offensive line and Eli Manning fell down on the job.
Secondly, the G-Men have been very predictable in the play calling and the wideout sets. There were several great points made by N.J. Advance Media on Oct. 14, 2016. “For most of the first four weeks the Giants lined up with the same personnel grouping on every play: Beckham and Cruz split wide on opposite sides of the field with Shepard in the slot, joined by a tight end and a running back,” Dan Duggan writes.
“Shepard has played in the slot on 93.9 percent of his snaps this season, which is tied for the most in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Beckham has played in the slot on just 10.7 percent of his snaps this season. Last season, Beckham played in the slot on 25 percent of his snaps and was the most productive receiver in the NFL from the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.”
Point being, that the strength of the offense is at wide receiver. Giants need a game plan that accentuates that strength to put pressure on Ravens’ defense.
Path #2: Pass Rush On Flacco
With an injured offensive line protecting immobile quarterback Joe Flacco, the Giants need to thrive. Getting pressure on Flacco is not enough, the time has come for defensive line to dominate.
How bad has the defensive front four been?
“Through five games, the Giants are dead last in the NFL with four sacks — and two have come from the secondary, one by safety Landon Collins and the other by cornerback Leon Hall,” according to the New York Post on Oct. 13, 2016.
That level of production is simply not acceptable.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has tried to defend his embattled unit, by framing the discussion. “I only really know the sack numbers when somebody tells me,” Spagnuolo said. “Sacks are great, they’re effective, they make a huge difference. It is not the telltale [sign], in my opinion.”
Three of the four players on the starting unit come with a big price tag. It’s time for them to earn their money. If the Giants sack Joe Flacco five or more times on Sunday, I guarantee a victory.
Path #3: No Self-Inflicted Wounds
Time will tell if the explosive time bomb called Odell Beckham has been detonated. Judging from his play in Green Bay, as well as comments from teammate Victor Cruz, the worst is over. But it did not hurt Ravens’ cornerback Jimmy Smith to take one more swing at OBJ this week.
“All of that extra hitting and talking, that’s not going to fly,” Smith opined according to a report on ESPN.com. “That’s not my game. I like to line up and play. Give me your best shot and I’ll give you mine. But if you hit me after the whistle, there’s going to be a fight.”
If teammate Victor Cruz’s comments are any indication, Smith took a swing and missed. “I think he’s in a whole different space,” Cruz said according to Newsday on Oct. 13, 2016. “Even after those comments, I don’t think it fazed him. I don’t think he’s even thinking about those type of things to do anymore.”
Hopefully, the Beckham situation is solved, but Ereck Flowers needs to be monitored carefully. The Giants cannot withstand a similar performance from the embattled tackle like they had last week. Will Beatty is poised and ready to jump in. Flowers should start, but be on a short leash.
Path #4: Production Matters
One big difference between the Ravens and Giants are mid-season adjustments. This week, the Ravens jettisoned offensive coordinator Marc Trestman in favor of Marty Mornhinweg, something the G-Men would never do. In previous seasons, the Ravens have cut starting defensive backs for poor play right after a game.
On the other side of the coin, the Giants do not engage in many (if any) mid-season adjustments. Shame on them.
Realistically, a starting position should be written in pencil, not etched in stone. Yet over the past several years, we have seen enough Jacquian Williams, Corey Websters and Rueben Randles to last a lifetime. Sprinkle in a few Adrien Robinsons, Jayron Hosleys and James Brewers to show that players work their way off the roster and not onto it.