Behind Enemy Lines: Giants

Rams publisher Nate Latsch goes behind enemy lines to ask Giants beat writer David Aitken five burning questions ahead of the Week 15 battle.

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

1. Where did this season go wrong for the Giants?

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

We’ll start with the things the Giants can’t control: their schedule has been tough, and the team has dealt with an incredible host of injuries. Geoff Schwartz, the big offensive line signing, has had his year derailed by injuries, playing just two games. Victor Cruz has been out since Week 6. Rashad Jennings missed a big chunk of the team’s infamous losing streak. Perhaps the biggest losses are in the secondary, as the Giants have on IR three of the team’s top four corners. The lone survivor, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, struggled with injuries a good deal during the Giants’ losing streak as well. Even the name on everyone’s lips right now, Odell Beckham, essentially didn’t even practice for the team until Week 5. Every Giants fan cannot wait to see Beckham and Cruz play together next year, but this season Week 5 was the only full game they played together.

Now, for things the team can control: the two staples of this team’s Super Bowl runs, a strong ground game and an intense pass rush, are nowhere to be found. They made a number of additions on the offensive line, but the offensive line has just not been good enough. Replacement level signings like J.D. Walton and John Jerry need upgrades, and 2nd round pick Weston Richburg has strides to make at left guard. This is an interior that simply doesn’t win at the line of scrimmage. The pass rush on the balance of the season hasn’t been there either, only just starting to pick up with young players like Damontre Moore and Devon Kennard getting some playing time. The front seven has not held up well, on the edges in particular, against the run either.

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

2. It looks like Eli Manning has bounced back well coming off a rough 2013 season. What has been the key for him this season?

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

It’s a real credit to Manning himself. One of the big questions going into this season for Manning was how he would adapt to being in a whole new system for the first time in his professional career with former Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo bringing in the West Coast Offense. The early returns no doubt have been positive. Outside of a 5 interception fiasco against the 49ers, Manning has done a good job keeping forced balls to a minimum, especially impressive as with a lack of running game Manning has really had to carry the offense. There is real hope that next year with Beckham from the start and Cruz healthy, along with some other potential upgrades, that the 2015 season could be the finest of Manning’s career.

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

3. Is rookie Andre Williams the answer at running back for the future or will the Giants need to address that position with a higher pick in next year’s draft?

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

Some people may have thought Williams could be a possible offensive rookie of the year candidate after a strong preseason, but the real grind of the NFL regular season has been a lot less kind. It is hard to evaluate what the Giants running backs can do because this is an offensive line that simply isn’t opening up space, but Williams has work to do to earn a feature back role. He was drafted as a one-dimensional runner(he didn’t catch a single ball in college), and looks very unnatural as a pass catcher and blocker. In addition, his running style is one of little patience, and he has run himself into poor gains when a more patient runner could pick up bigger yardage. Rashad Jennings gives the Giants the balance they’re looking for and when healthy is a solid back for the team, but Jennings runs behind that same offensive line. Jennings, for a back approaching 30, does not have a lot of wear and tear and could be the team’s starter for the foreseeable future with Williams being the first back off the bench. The Giants may want to find a more naturally explosive runner to complete the two bigger backs though, a situation we could see rookie Orleans Darkwa in on Sunday.

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

4. The Giants rank 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, at 135.1 yards per game. Is that a byproduct of their nine losses and opponents trying to run out the clock or has run defense been an issue most of the season?

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

The Giants are not only giving up the big volume numbers, but they’re tied with two other teams for the highest yards-per-carry given up as well, 4.9. The Giants have two strong run defenders on their defensive line, Jason Pierre-Paul and 2nd year defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, but the team has struggled to contain outside runs and in particular the read-option has been a major problem any time the team has faced it, nothing noting that more than the 350 yards of rushing offense put up on the Giants during their trip to Seattle. Recent changes in personnel, including rookie linebacker Devon Kennard getting into the starting lineup and the season ending injury to the disappointing Mathias Kiwanuka, has seen an improvement in run defense. However, the Giants have not really faced strong running teams since the Cowboys a few weeks ago and the Rams will be their biggest test since this recent upturn in front seven play.

Nate Latsch | GridironGateway.com

5. Is this the end of the road for Tom Coughlin with the Giants?

David Aitken | TheGiantsBeat.com

Even at the height of the team’s losing streak, the idea that Coughlin was coaching his last season with the team was nothing more than speculation. A recent New York Post report called it a “99.9% chance” Coughlin returns to coach the team in 2015, and I think that is how it will play out. As the oldest coach in the league, I suspect the Giants have been planning for post-Coughlin at least heading into this past offseason, perhaps even going back further than that. The Giants organization is not one to make a big splash or a wholesale change, so I suspect Coughlin will be back and Coughlin’s eventual departure, which may even be after next year, will be on his terms.


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