The Giants made a dramatic turnaround in 2016, finishing 11-5 in Ben McAdoo’s first season as head coach after logging in three consecutive losing seasons to end the Tom Coughlin era. The defense was fortified through free agency and the draft and was transformed into one of the league’s most formidable units. The offense, however, took a major step back as they saw their propensity for big plays diminish and the running game evaporate.
The popular culprit is, naturally, the faltering offensive line but McAdoo told reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday that there were plenty of other factors that contributed to the Giants’ poor offensive output.
Turnovers, missed opportunities, dropped passes and, yes, inconsistent play from their veteran QB, Eli Manning, were some of the reasons McAdoo cited as areas that need improvement.
“We all know that turning the ball over 27 times isn’t acceptable,” McAdoo said as per SNY.tv. “We’re fortunate to have the wins that we had turning the ball over the way we turned the ball over. So we can’t turn the ball over that way. We need to handle the ball better, so we need to catch it better than we caught it, and we need to handle it in the pocket better.”
The Giants did not score more than 30 points in a game in 2016, the first time that happened since 2001. In fact they did not score over 20 points in any of their last six games of the season, including their wild card loss to the Packers.
The offensive line got a bad rap, again, but some of it was deserved. They could not generate any rhythm in the running game and although they only allowed 22 sacks (3rd least in the NFL), Manning was under constant pressure and was forced to give up on many plays and/or throw shorter passes. McAdoo went as far to say that Manning has to rise above the adversity and play better.
“I think Eli needs to do a better job of playing with fast feet, and I think he needs to sit on that back foot in the pocket,” the coach said. “We’re seeing a lot of man coverage, so the receivers it’s going to take a little time for them to get open, so everything may not be rhythmical. So he’s got to play with fast feet, he’s got to sit on his back foot and be ready to hitch into a throw. Things aren’t always clean in this league, but you watch film of the end zones throughout the league and you’re seeing a lot of dirty pockets.”
The Giants are re-evaluating their offense in general this offseason. They remain reliant on the big play ability of WR Odell BeckhamJr., and are in dire need of upgrades at tackle, running back and tight end.
Last year’s left tackle, Ereck Flowers, will be moved off left tackle and may not even remain a tackle come the new season. Rumblings have him being shifted inside. Bobby Hart, the right tackle, also struggled so the Giants are in the market for new bookends on the offensive line.
The giants parted ways with veteran RB Rashad Jennings and WR Victor Cruz last month, so they are expected to seek new blood in both the draft and free agency to replace them. They are still hopeful that one of their young tight ends (Will Tye, Jerell Adams, Matt LaCosse) will emerge to become a bonafide option in both the running and passing games.
But it was the criticism of Manning from McAdoo that was the telling quote here. Is he greasing the skids for Eli’s eventual exit? We know Manning is not suited for this offense, which is more of a horizontal, or west coast style. Eli is a vertical passer. The experiment to rescue Eli from himself three years ago has worked to degree, but with last year’s backslide, the questions of whether he is their QB of the future.