The Offensive Line Is Holding New York Giants Back From Full Potential
Sep 25, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the talent at the skill positions for Eli Manning to work with, the New York Giants need the offensive line to improve if the offense is to maximize its potential.

Before the 2016 season began, Eli Manning notably proclaimed that the offense could score over 28 points a game. At the time, it seemed like a true possibility.

The Giants were entering the season with an offense loaded with both returning and new talent, in an offensive system that Eli Manning has all but mastered. And as the season approached, last year’s sixth highest scoring offense (26.3 PPG) was primed to dominate—thanks to the addition of a dynamic rookie wideout in Sterling Shepard and the return of a healthy Victor Cruz and Larry Donnell.

However, through three games, the offense has not put up the point totals that it had expected (21 PPG). The culprit? It is not the play calling. It is not the lack of a ground game. It is not poor quarterback play.

The culprit is the ineffectiveness of the offensive line.

In the Giants first loss of the season in a sloppy performance at home against the division rival Redskins, it is easy to overlook the offensive line struggles and assign blame elsewhere.

Yes, Shane Vereen lost a crucial fumble. Yes, an undisciplined penalty from a fringe special teams player in Andrew Adams negated a blocked punt that would have given the Giants the football in deep Redskins territory late in the fourth quarter. Yes, Eli Manning threw two costly interceptions — one of which sealed the victory for Washington. But, if you dig deeper, it is the offensive line that held the team back.

Holding penalties repeatedly stalled seemingly promising drives. Eli Manning had pass rushers in his face all game, with edge rushers Preston Smith and Trent Murphy having their way with the Giants’ offensive tackles. Manning was visibly flustered in the pocket all game. Thus, he was forcing throws to receivers that were not open, rushing through his progressions, and most notably, settling for his check downs.

The Giants’ best unit on the entire roster is its wide receiver core. With Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and a healthy Victor Cruz, Eli Manning should be able to find a favorable matchup on every play against every single opposing defense they face.

However, when Manning is not comfortable in the pocket, which was evident on Sunday, he has the tendency to shy away from throwing to his playmakers in favor of his tight end and running back checkdowns whom he can get the ball to quicker. And when this occurs, it takes away the most dynamic element on the offense—the deep ball.

Eli Manning did not throw one true deep ball against the Redskins already depleted secondary that lost cornerbacks Breshaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall during the game. Despite having one of the most dynamic deep threats in the NFL in Odell Beckham Jr., not to mention Cruz and Shepard who are threats of their own, the offense was mostly limited to five-yard check downs and quick timing patterns.

Will Tye and Larry Donnell recorded the same amount of receptions (3) as Victor Cruz — who consistently matched up against backup corners and safeties in coverage. And on Eli Manning’s game-clinching interception, he threw an ill-advised pass to running back Shane Vereen out of the backfield instead of better options downfield — because Manning did not feel comfortable enough in the pocket to go through his projections and find one of his playmakers.

Pictured are four plays where Eli Manning missed open receivers—two of which are due to a collapsing pocket.

Through three games, the Giants are sith in the NFL with nearly 400 yards per game of total offense, yet the offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders.

Penalties committed by members of the offensive line (specifically Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse) have stalled drives. Eli Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket due to consistent pressure around the edge.

Everything the Giants should be able to do on offense but cannot thus far is due to poor play from the weakest unit on the team, the offensive line. If the offense is to reach its full potential, and reach the 28 PPG or plateau or beyond which many feel it is capable of achieving, the entire unit needs to step up.

And it needs to improve quickly — as a fantastic front seven awaits them on Monday night in Minnesota.