New York Giants: Who’s to Blame for the Poor Play?

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants once again find themselves underperforming at the halfway mark of the season. They boast a 2-6 record, only ahead of the lowly Washington Redskins in the division. They have a minus 60 point differential, the sixth-worst in the NFL. They’ve turned the ball over 19 times through eight games, the most of any team in the NFL. Their defense has been atrocious, the offense hasn’t been able to break through yet, and even special teams has been a reason for concern. Coming off of a 5-11 season, no one was expecting the Giants to be a contender in 2019. But through eight games, it looks as though no strides have been made towards improvement. So, who is to blame for another lost season?

Who is to blame for the Giants’ poor play?

The play-calling of Head Coach Pat Shurmur

At first glance, you would think the Giants would have one of the best offenses in the NFL. They have a top-five tight end in Evan Engram, a strong receiving core in Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton, as well as the best running back in the world, Saquon Barkley. Plus, they have a young, mobile QB in Daniel Jones.

Yet the Giants are posting just 19.8 points per game, the eleventh-lowest in the NFL. There are times when the Giants show flashes of how great their offense could be though. Take last Sunday’s game against Detroit for example. The Giants tallied four touchdowns and 370 total yards of offense, all of that occurring without WR Sterling Shepard. Why are they not playing that well every game? The play-calling of Pat Shurmur.

The biggest issue with the play-calling has been the inability to get the most out of every player. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are two of the most dynamic players in the NFL, but Shurmur has been unable to show their maximum potential to this point of the season. How could he unleash their potential? Line up Barkley in the slot for example. Imagine a linebacker trying to cover the freak of nature that is Barkley. Give Engram more plays in space. He is the most athletic tight end in the game after all, so why not call plays that allow him to show off his athleticism? If Shurmur designed his plays to the strengths of each player, the offense would take off.

The struggling young defense

The Giants defense has struggled mightily through the first half of the season. They are in the bottom ten for both yards allowed per game (386.8) and points allowed per game (27.3). Part of the reason these struggles are occurring is due to more than half the defense having either only one or two years of NFL experience. They are still making the adjustment from college to the NFL.

To make matters worse for the young players, Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher’s defensive scheme is one of the most difficult to learn in the NFL. The players that have excelled on defense this year, and there are not many, were familiar with Bettcher’s system prior to this season. Markus Golden, who had 12.5 sacks under Bettcher in 2016, is one of those few that have excelled. It is very possible that the young players will make a major leap like Golden did, but there have been very few reasons to think that to this point of the season.

The inconsistent special teams play

Football is a game that is won by winning in all three phases of the game. Poor special teams play can greatly impact the outcome of a game. The Giants have had moments of greatness on special teams this season, but they also have shown moments of concern.

The best part of the Giants special teams this year has been the punt coverage team. They have been excellent at pinning opponents deep for multiple years now, thanks to the fantastic play of punter Riley Dixon. Just two weeks ago they blocked a punt against Arizona and scored a touchdown off of it. They’re averaging more than 10.0 yards per return on punts, one of just five teams to accomplish the feat.

On the other hand, one of their biggest struggles has been in the kick return game. When Corey Coleman, who averaged 26.0 yards per return last season, went down in training camp with a torn ACL, the job was opened. The Giants are yet to find a suitable replacement for Coleman through eight games. Rookie Corey Ballentine has shown flashes, but he has missed the last two weeks with a concussion. Darius Slayton has filled in for Ballentine the past two weeks, and he as well has done nothing that shows he is the answer. Starting a drive with great field position leads to points, something that has been scarce for Big Blue this year.

The Giants find themselves in the basement of the NFC East for the third straight season and are struggling in every phase of the game. There is not one person that can be pointed at and blamed for the failure of the team. Every coach, player, and organization member needs to step it up before the Giants can become competitive again.