Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has been in the league long enough to know that when an opponent smells blood in the water, it's going to come after it.
So when Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule declared an intention to have his team run 30-35 times a game against a Giants run defense that happens to be ranked 29th in the league and is allowing 137.2 yards per game, Graham took Rhule's words seriously.
"Hell no, it’s not misdirection. A head coach does that, he’s letting you know. He’s letting everybody in that building know, 'Giddy up; let’s go--we’re running the ball.' I can’t blame him," Graham said Thursday.
Despite being without superstar running back Christian McCaffrey, who is currently on injured reserve, Rhule probably figures that the Giants run defense's struggles make it too obvious not to attack in their quest to stop a three-game slide Sunday.
And why not? The Giants, per Pro Football Focus, continue to average eight missed tackles per game. Plus, by running the ball, the Panthers can protect both their quarterback and shaky offensive line.
Graham agreed. "They’re going to come in here with the intent to run the football. He put the challenge down for those guys, and I’m sure it was a motivating thing for his team. I mean, I like for a head coach to say something like that. That was pretty good. He’s like, ‘hey, we’re going to run the ball.’ It kind of displays the toughness that you can see from their team.
"I think the running backs run hard. I think the wide receivers, they run hard after catch, they block. He’s trying to instill a toughness into the team, so he’s letting everybody know what we need to do, and I respect him for that."
Now that Graham has had a heads up, whether he can devise a system that will minimize what the Panthers do against the Giants run defense remains to be seen.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite subjects—which will come as a surprise to those who know me—was chemistry.
I was forever curious about how and why various elements worked together, how combining two elements made a more powerful element than the parts by themselves, and what the newly combined elements could be used for.
Why am I bringing this up, you ask? Because at the end of the season, the Giants are going to have a lot of questions regarding their future, one of which is what to do with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whose offense continues to look like a patchwork.
In many ways, it has been due to the injuries that have prevented the unit from establishing continuity and jelling into a cohesive unit. If you’re a coach trying to put your best guys out there, how are you supposed to develop any data to determine trends of what’s working and what isn’t?
It’s tough, no question. That said, this doesn’t excuse Garrett or give him an automatic pass for next year if the offense continues to struggle.
Garrett has struggled to figure out how to deploy the tight ends better. And I'm sorry--I know Kadarius Toney missed time in the summer due to injuries, but if he was deemed ready enough to be put out there n the field, why they didn't get the kid more involved in the offense a lot sooner is inexcusable in my book.
There have been some glimpses of what this scheme could be if it's firing on all cylinders. Andrew Thomas has emerged as a solid foundation in this offense, playing within this scheme. Quarterback Daniel Jones has looked good in this scheme at times, as have Shepard and Toney. And if nothing else, an argument could be made to keep the same system in place to allow for Jones's continued development.
If the Giants season continues to slide down the drain, changes are all but certain to come to the coaching staff--how could they not? Whether Garrett is among them, well, right now, that looks to be a tough call filled with just as many pros, and there are cons.
Long-time readers know how I used to be highly critical of former general manager Jerry Reese for the numerous poor drafts he had toward the end of his tenure and his propensity of looking to build the roster from the outside inward.
When Dave Gettleman was hired, I wanted to believe that he would make good on his vow to fix the play in the pit on both sides of the ball. But in retrospect, the job done there has been no better than what Reese turned in toward the end of his tenure.
There was the decision to draft Saquon Barkley over an offensive lineman, a decision which at the time would have been lauded had Barkley turned into the missing piece for one last playoff run in the Eli Manning era.
Then there has been the loading up on receivers in free agency and the draft to help quarterback Daniel Jones rather than a continued focus of pumping resources into the offensive line or the defensive line.
Then there was the head-scratching decision to spend a two-year, $12 million contract on tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has played in just under 60 percent of the offensive snaps and who, despite his prior red zone prowess, is 0-2 in red-zone targets.
Did Daniel Jones need playmakers around him? Absolutely. But as I’ve said countless times, it doesn’t matter who you have in the backfield if the offensive line doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain, with or without injuries.
I get it that no one can plan for injuries or sudden retirements. But as far as the two guys who retired, they were stop-gap solutions anyway who at best were probably only going to be here one year.
The lack of young up-and-coming depth in the pipeline is, as was the case under Reese in his final years at the helm, one of the most concerning shortcomings of the current Giants' current regime.
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear injuries as an excuse for the Giants' failures this season.
Baltimore has a bunch of injuries yet are 5-1 heading into this weekend’s games. The Cleveland Browns played without both their running backs, their starting quarterback, offensive tackle Jack Conklin, and they only had Odell Beckham for half a game, yet they still pulled out a 17-14 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Was it pretty? No, but a win’s a win, and something tells me the Giants right now would happily take a bunch of ugly-looking wins over some of these clunker losses they’ve had.
I wrote the other day about the Giants’ high-risk, high-reward plan to mortgage their future to build a playoff-caliber roster that could potentially sustain them not just through this year but next year as well.
What I still don’t get is what made the Giants, who tried this same approach in 2014 and again in 2016, think the third time would be the charm?
Some will say that this latest attempt to buy a winning team was to help them decide if quarterback Daniel Jones is indeed the future of this franchise. But in thinking about it, if you’re not sure if you have the right guy after selecting him sixth overall in the draft, does that make sense?
In retrospect, I would have preferred the Giants took the approach the Cleveland Browns did with loading up on draft assets because, as numerous general managers have said over time, the way you build a winning franchise is through the draft.
That’s how George Young, the first true general manager of the Giants, did it over a three-year span. That’s how Ernie Accorsi, who put the foundation in place for the 2007 championship team, did it as well.
The Giants? This is three times in the last decade that they’ve tried to cut corners to make up for whiffs in the draft.
And what has this latest attempt gotten them? Right, the same thing it got them after the 2014 and 2016 seasons: a messed up salary cap that is going to force them after his year to move on from some guys who might otherwise have had a role as a veteran mentor or as a decent depth player.
Moreover, it all but assures that the Giants, barring a miracle, are going to be stuck in a vicious cycle they’ve created with nothing to show for it.
Alex Clancy, co-host of the LockedOn Cardinals podcast, made an interesting point about the Arizona Cardinals and why that team seems to be red hot of late (besides, of course, sound football decisions).
So I looked at the Giants roster to see what they had.
I think on offense, an argument can be made that they have a veteran mentor at tight end (Kyle Rudolph), receiver (Sterling Shepard), and offensive line (Nate Solder). You can also say that Mike Glennon is a mentor for Daniel Jones, though this is up for debate.
I’m not sure you can say there is a veteran mentor at the running back spot, where Devontae Booker has two years more experience than Saquon Barkley as the longest-tenured running back.
On the defense, the edge rushers don’t have an older, more accomplished mentor to speak of. The defensive line has Leonard Williams and Danny Shelton as older voices, and in the defensive secondary, there is Logan Ryan.
Just something to look at when the next wave in the rebuild comes along.
Earlier this week, head coach Joe Judge spoke about planning to closely watch how the players were practicing and preparing for the next game. He even went so far as to state that those whose preparation didn’t pass his eyeball test would be docked playing time, saying, “How you practice is going to have a large impact on how much you do play."
But let’s be realistic here, shall we? The Giants' depth at numerous positions isn’t close to the quality of the starters (a problem in itself), plus the Giants desperately need a win--and the injury situation isn't exactly helping things either.
Realistically speaking, who is on the roster that might be better than some of his starters to give his team the best chance to win? And if those guys were better, Wouldn't they be starting/playing more?