By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants (5-5) currently reside at the top of the NFC east division, but before we break out the hats and t-shirts remember that the club currently sports a .500 record with a propensity to blow games late in the fourth quarter. New York’s six game trek to the playoff is certainly not assured, but it does not represent a wish and a prayer either.
The G-men have faced a fair amount of criticism for their inability to close out games, but also remember that the football gods seemingly have targeted the Giants more than anyone else for punishment this season. In four close losses to the Cowboys, Falcons, Saints and Patriots, one simple bounce of the ball could have turned defeat into victory.
At this point, it makes no sense to review what happened in the first ten games, but instead focus attention on areas of improvement for the last six games, in what should be a Giants’ playoff run.
Better Safety Play
This area looks like the biggest Achilles heel on the Giants today, as starters Brandon Meriweather and Landon Collins have been shaky at best over the past several weeks. New York scooped up Cooper Taylor from the practice squad last week to shore up the position, and they also have versatile Craig Dahl, who has been getting a fair amount (40 percent and 67 percent) of snaps the past two games.
The Collins/Meriweather duo leads the league at the safety position with 24 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, which given their lack of coverage skills, cannot continue to happen. In addition, Giants’ safety coach Dave Merritt had some interesting remarks about Collins’ play last week. “Right now, he’s moving along slowly. The game is fast mentally for him still, hopefully he can continue to progress, and move toward the player that we all know that we have in him.”
Merritt’s comment are not exactly a ringing endorsement, and perhaps the answer lies in less snaps for Collins and Meriweather on a regular basis, especially give Merritt’s comments about Dahl. “The fact that [Dahl] can go in and play the dime WIL linebacker for us, and go cover a tight end, and also go back and play a half-field, or play a middle of the field. Dahl is everywhere. I mean, you cannot pinpoint him down at one position, so he’s very valuable and being able to communicate, he sees formations, he recognizes splits, he understands the game and his study habits are tremendous.”
Commitment To The Running Game
Once upon a time, the Giants had running backs like O.J. Anderson, Joe Morris, Rodney Hampton, Tiki Barber, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs to rely upon in the offense. Realizing that the game has changed, and that one thousand yard rushers are not a dime a dozen these days, we still must remember that the running game usually paves the way to victory.
The Giants rank 26th in the league with an average of 95 rushing yards per game, and Rashad Jennings leads the team with 403 rushing yards, neither stat is anything to write home about. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has tried to get all four of his running backs involved in the offense without success this season, so time to throw that philosophy out the window.
Ironically, the most rushing attempts by a back this season is 14, which was done by Andre Williams in week three against the Washington Redskins. Williams had only 29 rushing yards that game for a paltry 2.1 yards per carry, but does that tell the entire story? New York held the lead for the entire game against Washington that day, not unlike many games this season, but maybe Williams was not the right choice for those carries.
Conceding the fact that Shane Vereen is the third down back, McAdoo should dial up more plays for Jennings and Orleans Darkwa on first and second down. Having one running back carry the ball at least fifteen times in a game is not too much to ask, with a goal of 20 carries when the team holds the lead. Many times, the dividends of a solid rushing attack are realized in the fourth quarter as the opposing defense gets fatigued. With the depth at running back, increased rushing attempts for one back are certainly worth a shot.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.