Giants' Red-Zone Offense A Cause For Concern
If you're a New York football fan who went into Saturday night's annual preseason meeting between the two tenants of MetLife Stadium looking for some bright spots to focus on for the upcoming season, you weren't likely to find very many. In fact, for both the Giants and Jets, the highlights were few and far between on Saturday night. In between them were long stretches of sloppy football marred by penalties, turnovers, injuries and highly questionable coaching decisions.
For the Giants, the game got off to an almost perfect start. Following the defense forcing the Jets’ offense to go three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, David Wilson took a hand-off from Eli Manning on the first offensive play from scrimmage, ripped through a hole on the left side of the line, and went virtually untouched on an 84-yard touchdown run helped out by a nice block from Hakeem Nicks.
Wilson has had an impressive preseason thus far, and that touchdown run was exactly the kind of play that has Giants fans excited for the possibilities that Wilson brings to the offense and the big-play potential that they haven't seen from the running back position since Tiki Barber retired. At 7-0 with a little over a minute of game time elapsed, things were looking good for Big Blue.
However, that's about all we would see from the first-team offense for the rest of the half. In fact, that's about the only offense we'd see for the rest of the game. With that 84-yard run removed, the Giants only gained 238 yards from scrimmage, and Manning was mostly ineffective, going 8-for-20 for 83 yards in his longest outing of the preseason thus far.
The biggest lingering problem for the Giants that persisted on Saturday night was the team's inability to finish drives and score touchdowns. It's a discouraging sign and a problem that must be addressed as the regular season draws near. The first-team offense has managed to score only two touchdowns in the first three preseason games and both have come via the big play: a 57-yard pass to Victor Cruz against Pittsburgh and Wilson's long run on Saturday. In between, there have been 11 Josh Brown field goals and four points scored by the defense on two safeties.
This is certainly not the kind of production the Giants offense was hoping for heading into this season, and the red zone struggles of last year seem to have carried over. Yet again on Saturday, the Giants had a drive stall deep inside the opponent's territory when a 79-yard drive to close out the first half ended on the Jets' 2-yard line as the Giants failed to get into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs.
This ineffectiveness in the red zone is troublesome, and the offense can't operate efficiently on the hopes that someone like Wilson or Cruz will break a big play on every possession.
What's even more troublesome than the team's red zone problems are the injuries that continue to pile up. Stevie Brown left the game in the first half after picking off a Geno Smith pass, and an MRI on Sunday revealed what fans had feared the moment he hit the turf: a torn ACL. With Brown likely sidelined for the rest of the season, the Giants already shaky secondary took another devastating blow. Now, free agent acquisition Ryan Mundy is going to have to step in at safety alongside Antrel Rolle and fill the hole left by Brown's absence.
With the defense more than a little banged-up going into the opener against Dallas, the team is hoping that they can get back some of their injured players by the time Week 1 rolls around with Jason Pierre-Paul, Antrel Rolle, Damontre Moore all currently recovering from injuries.
Aside from the injuries, however, the defense proved on Saturday night that it's still capable of forcing a lot of turnovers. The Jets turned the ball over five times on Saturday, including three Geno Smith interceptions, and improved play from Prince Amukamara has been one of the few bright spots for the Giants defense during this preseason.