EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 14: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants looks to throw a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter in the game at MetLife Stadium on September 14, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Joe Judge insists the New York Giants have improved over the course of the first seven weeks. Is that statistically accurate?

Ryan Honey

When their team has taken the field (whether it’s been on a Sunday afternoon, Monday night, or Thursday night), many New York Giants fans ask the lingering question: What’s changed?

A rookie head coach, a young developing quarterback, as well as new defensive assets were supposed to transform the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and MetLife Stadium into the host buildings of a winning culture.

That hasn’t been the case though. The offense is putrid on the scoring front; the defense can’t show up in the big moments; the playcalling is ineffective; Daniel Jones‘ turnover issues are still alive and well.

Nonetheless, from Week 1 to the present day, Joe Judge insists his team has improved.

“There’s a lot of progress I see on a daily basis and on a weekly basis,” he said earlier this week, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN. “I know we’re a better team today than we were 10 days ago. I know we’re a better team today than we were in Week 1. I know we’re a better team today than we were in training camp. So is every other team, so we have to keep making progress and developing long term. When you look at the players we’re building within, I see a lot of progress and I see us moving in the right direction.”

Is there legitimate “progress” being made? Are they “moving in the right direction?”

With a two-post series (this one obviously being for the offense), let’s answer the above questions by taking a look at a number of different statistical categories and evaluating if the Giants have improved or deteriorated, comparing the first four games to the most recent three matchups.

Scoring

Weeks 1-4: 11.75 points per game

Weeks 5-7: 25 points per game

Season Average: 17.4 points per game

The Giants have improved slightly on the scoring front, but it still isn’t coming on a consistent basis. The 37-34 loss to the Cowboys in Week 5 skews the three-game average, considering they respectively scored just 20 and 21 points in Weeks 6 and 7.

And don’t forget, this doesn’t necessarily mean the offense has drastically improved in this category. Big Blue notched a defensive touchdown against both Dallas and Washington.

First Downs

Weeks 1-4: 18.5 first downs per game

Weeks 5-7: 17.7 first downs per game

Season Average: 18.1 first downs per game

Over the course of the last three weeks, the Giants aren’t performing as well in terms of extending drives and thus keeping the time of possession on their side. And to be honest, the season average isn’t great either.

They’re regressing in this statistic, which has to do with the mistakes made by Daniel Jones, the poor offensive line play, along with the uncreative and ineffective play-calling of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

Rushing (Yards per Carry)

Weeks 1-4: 3.92 yards per carry

Weeks 5-7: 5.08 yards per carry

Season Average: 4.5 yards per carry

The Giants rushing attack has actually improved over the course of the year and proved to be productive in the Week 5, 6, and 7 matchups.

Big Blue hasn’t been as hesitant to ditch the run game either. Over the course of the first four games, the Giants ran the ball an average of 19.5 times but did so an average of 25 times from Weeks 5-7.

The Giants don’t employ much talent when it comes to the running back position with Saquon Barkley out for the year, but they’ve received great production out of Jones, who leads the team with 296 yards on the ground.

Passing (Completion Percentage)

Weeks 1-4: 61.1%

Weeks 5-7: 63.4%

Season Average: 61.9%

Jones has improved when it comes to his efficiency through the air, as the last three games top the initial four matchups along with the season average. His season mark isn’t up to par, but it’s not entirely his fault.

The struggling offensive line, Garrett’s inability to correctly utilize his own personnel, and the offensive talent level (or lack thereof) have contributed to his slow development.

Despite throwing a pair of picks, Jones has slightly improved his accuracy over the last two games, completing 12-of-19 passes against Washington and 20-of-30 passes against Philly.

Passing (Yards)

Weeks 1-4: 222.3 yards per game

Weeks 5-7: 173.7 yards per game

Season Average: 201.4 yards per game

While his accuracy has progressed, Jones’ ability to gain significant yardage hasn’t.

The first four weeks were highlighted by his 279-yard and 241-yard performances against the Steelers and Bears, respectively. The most recent trio of games was lowlighted by his 112-yard game against Washington.

The struggles for this category can be related to the struggles in the previous category, in a sense that the same factors are at fault. It’s the ultimate team sport, and this offense must come together in order for its quarterback to find consistent success.

Sacks Allowed 

Weeks 1-4: 3.5 sacks (20.8 yards) per game

Weeks 5-7: 2.0 sacks (12.3 yards) per game

Season Average: 2.9 sacks (17.1 yards) per game

The Giants offensive line is still a work in progress, that’s for sure. But you can’t deny that it’s improving.

Chemistry is everything within an offensive line unit and the interior is building that as we speak. Nick Gates is coming into his own and hasn’t allowed a single sack this entire season. Right guard Kevin Zeitler is arguably the best of the five starting linemen and hasn’t allowed a sack either.

Nonetheless, the two tackles are heavily struggling, especially rookie Andrew Thomas. The young left tackle has allowed a whopping six sacks, tied for the most among those measured on Pro Football Focus.

But overall, the Giants pass blocking still isn’t up to par whatsoever. Their 43.3 PFF grade in those regards is the worst in the league, and their two starting tackles — Thomas and Cam Fleming — are the league’s only tackles with at least 200 snaps to possess pass-blocking grades under 50.0.

Turnovers

Weeks 1-4: 2.0 per game

Weeks 5-7: 1.67 per game

Season Average: 1.9 per game

The Giants are improving in terms of their turnover issue, but that season average still needs to be closer to zero, not two. And we all know the real culprit to this problem: Mr. Jones himself.

The second-year quarterback’s turnover woes have not improved from last season, a year in which he threw 12 picks and lost 11 fumbles. Thus far in 2020, he’s succumbed to seven picks and four lost fumbles in seven games, averaging 1.6 turnovers per contest. His 11 turnovers are good for 85% of the team’s total.

So while the overall average is improving, it’s still very much weak.

Time of Possession

Weeks 1-4: 26:50

Weeks 5-7: 28:45

Season Average: 27:40

While there’s an improvement here, it’s not significant enough. Part of the weak season average has to do with the offense’s inability to extend drives and part of it involves the defense’s inability to get off the field.

The season average needs to be above 30 minutes. This achievement will be met by running the ball effectively and efficiently, which will thus open up the play-action for the offense and lead to longer drives. The Giants have yet to do that though or portray any consistent offensive creativity.

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