0-3 Start Has Exposed Plenty Of Problems For Big Blue, But Blocking Upfront Remains The Biggest

By Steve Silverman
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The New York Giants have fallen flat on their faces to start the season.

Considering how well the team played last year in making the playoffs and handing the Dallas Cowboys two defeats during the regular season, this is more than disappointing. The Giants had responded to a much-needed coaching change in 2016, and they were clearly an up-and-coming team.

The 2017 season was supposed to be about more growth, contending for the division title and establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the NFC.

Ereck Flowers

Giants offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Instead of coming out of the chute ready to attack, the Giants have been miserable on both sides of the ball. They rank dead last in both rushing and stopping the run.

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The offense has been particularly inept, as the blocking has been awful and the passing game has fallen below expectations.

The players must bear the responsibility, but let’s start with the general manager and the head coach.

Throughout the majority of his career, GM Jerry Reese has been quite good about holding the line for ownership and not spending any more money than is required. The Giants didn’t usually involve themselves in adding key player through free agency until last season.

After the team fired longtime coach Tom Coughlin, Reese made some bold and wise moves by signing defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

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These were three gifts for new coach Ben McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and combined with the huge improvement made by safety Landon Collins, the Giants went from having one of the two worst defenses in the league –along with the putrid Saints – to having one of the best by the end of the 2016 season.

Giants fans might have hoped that Reese would continue to make moves in the most recent offseason, but the free-agent additions –including wideout Brandon Marshall and backup quarterback Geno Smith – amounted to a lot of nothing.

Then there’s McAdoo himself. After years of getting bossed around and minimized by Coughlin, the players would have welcomed just about anyone new. McAdoo had some offensive ideas and he was able to coax much better end-of-game performances from his team than the high-strung Coughlin, and that’s why the team won last year.

He was a breath of fresh air, but he also gave his players quite a bit of rope.

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While the Giants were winning games in 2016, they also learned they didn’t have to cow-tow to their coach’s wishes.

McAdoo does not have the same kind of old-school presence as Coughlin, and the players know instinctively how much they can get away with.

It didn’t manifest itself last year during the honeymoon, but you see a team this year that is not as hungry to do what it takes to whip the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Winning in the NFL is about taking a certain level of intensity into battle on every play, and it starts in the offseason, continues into training camp and must be put into play early in the regular season.

The Giants didn’t want it as much as the Cowboys did in Week 1, and they looked underwhelming in the Week 2 Monday night game against the Lions.

They have played one good period on offense through the first 12, and it was almost enough to allow them to beat the Eagles in Week 3. But as the game was slipping away from the Eagles after two Odell Beckham Jr. TD receptions and a spectacular catch and run by Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter, there was no give-up from coach Doug Pederson and the Eagles.

They continued to battle and their rookie kicker, Jake Elliott, banged home a miraculous 61-yard field goal at the gun that sent the Giants to 0-3.

An 0-3 start is not the end of the world, but if 0-3 turns into 1-6 as the Giants hit the bye week, it will be over.

The Giants need 60 minutes of good football, and it starts with a turnaround by the offensive line. A fuse must be lit under this group, and that’s the issue. Blocking is all about an attitude of being better than the guy across from you and then proving it on every play.

Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry and Bobby Hart must find a way to battle hard on every play. I guarantee you that it doesn’t start Sunday. It has to be an everyday thing that the coaches demand in practice.

Great players don’t need to have this drummed into their heads in late September. They know it from the first day of training camp.

If the offensive line doesn’t perform the way it needs to, quarterback Eli Manning is not going to be able to do his job. You’ve already seen what the Giants are doing in the running game, and a team that is averaging 48.7 rushing yards per game is in deep trouble.

Running backs Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa have to do more, but it will only work if the offensive line has decided it is going to win the battle on every play.

It’s not a sometime thing. It must be an all-the-time thing, or this disaster will come to fruition.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy