Giants' offense will only get better with key returns
The Giants are coming off of their best offensive performance yet. The team scored 32 points, and Eli Manning had his highest-graded game since last October. The duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle had a combined 14 catches on 16 targets for 195 yards and two touchdowns. While the offense did enough to win, though, it was far from perfect.
Looking forward, New York will likely have a few key players return from injury later this season, which should only help the offense improve the Giants’ playoff chances.
The Giants use 11 personnel on 70 percent of their snaps, making the third wide receiver a fairly important position. Preston Parker started the season as their third receiver, but dropped four passes compared to five catches, leading to his release. Dwayne Harris took over his role for the Thursday night game, but on 31 routes run, he was only targeted once and was held without a catch.
Next week, Victor Cruz is expected to return. After the first six weeks of the 2014 season, he had seven players miss tackles on him which, tied for third-most at the time. His 180 yards after the catch were good enough to be in the top 10. For part of his time in New York, he was the No. 2 receiver, with Hakeem Nicks as the No. 1, but he’s never had a receiver across from him like Odell Beckham Jr.; that should help lead to some favorable coverage. Even if Cruz isn’t at 100 percent right away, he should still be an upgrade to what the Giants have had this year in their third receiver spot.
The Giants offensive line should also experience some improvement as the season goes on. The weakest link on Thursday night was Marshall Newhouse. He has graded out poorly as a run blocker in all three games, and he allowed four pressures last night. With Ereck Flowers out, John Jerry was added to the starting lineup, and he had the second-lowest run block grade for the Giants. They both helped lead to New York only averaging 2.7 yards per carry against Washington.
It shouldn’t be long until Ereck Flowers returns from injury. He has been a liability so far in the pass game—three hits and five hurries allowed over 63 pass blocks—but has graded above average as a run-blocker. Several players on the line have had experience at multiple positions, so the Giants have the luxury of benching whichever player they think is the weakest link on the line.
At some point during the second half of the season, William Beatty will ideally return from injury. In 2014, he was an above-average player in both pass and run blocking, and will be the Giants best option at left tackle. When both Beatty and Flowers return, the Giants should have a much easier time running the ball, and experience improved pass protection, as well.
With Tony Romo and Dez Bryant injured, and the Eagles not finding their groove yet, the NFC East is wide open. The Giants have been scoring at least 20 points every game without some of their best offensive players. With them back, their chances of winning the NFC East can only improve.