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Behind Enemy Lines: New York Giants

To learn more about the New York Giants and how they plan to attack the Steelers later today at Heinz Field, we asked The Giants Beat’s Scott Thompson five questions for a segment we like to call Behind Enemy Lines.

1. Eli Manning has looked bad at times the last few years. How's he playing this season? Are he and the offense playing up to their potential?

In the last couple of seasons, Manning’s age has certainly gotten to him at times. His arm strength isn’t what it used to be and he is slow to get the ball out on some plays. However, he is still on pace to throw over 4,000 yards and 30 TDs which the Giants will take any day. He has missed a few big opportunities like last week in the first quarter when Odell Beckham Jr. was wide open down the sideline and he overthrew him. But, Eli appears to be getting the job done in the red zone. The offense as a whole, though, is certainly not playing to its potential. It was a top 10 offense last year and now they are 22nd in the league due to a poor ground game. Manning has been doing the job, though, as the win streak keeps going up.

2.  I understand Sterling Shepard received an apology last week, and I assume that was an aberration, him not catching any passes, but how has his progression gone? Is he the No. 2 or 3? And is Beckham affording the other receivers more opportunities than ever?

Shepard’s role, for some reason, has been a controversial topic this season among Giants fans. Some think he needs to get the ball more while others think his production is right where it needs to be. I think Shepard’s production has been great to start off his NFL career. He is averaging about seven targets a game, has secured five touchdowns and has been Manning’s favorite target on third and fourth down so far. Beckham Jr. has been opening up spaces for these other receivers to get open, and I think Shepard has capitalized on it the most. This is why he was given an apology for not getting one target. Manning and the Giants recognize his skill and playmaking ability, and with many comparing him to OBJ, he is definitely the No. 2 receiver on this squad.

3. The offensive line has protected Manning so well this season. Have they replaced Justin Pugh that easily? Will he return?   

It was hard to lose Pugh, who was the best offensive lineman at the time of his injury. It has been three weeks since the Syracuse product saw the field, and after trying to rush back into practice this week to get ready for the Steelers he suffered a setback which makes him unlikely to play this week. As for his replacement, Brett Jones, he returned to practice after being out the last two weeks with a calf injury. Replacing Pugh hasn’t seemed to cause any problems, considering Manning has been staying relatively upright the past few weeks. The offensive line has done a tremendous job filling that gap.

4. Three weeks in a row rushing the ball over 100 yards. Is the Giants run game that good?   

Don’t be fooled by last game’s production on the run as one of those was a 22-yard jet sweep to Shepard. RBs Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins showed some light in the two weeks prior, as they were picking up positive yards, especially in the fourth quarter when the Giants were able to kill games. However, last week against a passive Browns defense, they couldn’t produce anything. Jennings had 55 yards on 15 carries while Perkins had even less production with 29 yards on nine carries. The run game has been abysmal, and if the Giants think they are going to be a competitive playoff team this season, they must figure out that part of the game soon.

5. Considering the matchups with the Steelers on defense, is there one that concerns you (or Giants fans)?   

After the performance the past few weeks, I think whenever Ben Roethlisberger drops back, fans will be holding their collective breath. The secondary, which had been stellar in prior contests, has been Swiss cheese of late giving up big plays. What makes it worse is the fact that they've played poorly against bad offenses. Terrelle Pryor had six catches for 131 yards last week while QB Josh McCown had 322 yards in the air. So, it isn’t even the scare of the best wide receiver in football, Antonio Brown, on the outside, but virtually every weapon Roethlisberger can use. The Giants defense, specifically their secondary, is going to have to step up their coverage because those big plays will go for touchdowns against a good Steelers offense.

(To read The Giants Beat counterpart story with five answers from SCI publisher Jim Wexell, click here.)

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