Through the first quarter of the season, the New York Giants find themselves tied for first in the NFC East with the Washington Redskins. They are on a three game winning streak, highlighted by two straight back-to-back come from behind wins. It is never wise to draw any concrete conclusions based on a small sample size, though despite their 3-1 start, there are some disturbing trends within the offensive numbers. The Giants struggling running game has captured the attention of the local media, and rightfully so considering they are 29th in the NFL with a 3.3 yds/attempt. However, the focus needs to shift to other troubling aspects of the offense.
Entering the 2011 season, the Giants re-arranged the left side of the offensive line, moving Diehl back to his natural guard spot and William Beatty to left tackle. So far, Beatty has played well, though he has been getting help is pass protection from the running backs, he has held up on his own when asked to protect one-on-one. The main culprit along the offensive line has been David Diehl. The Giants inability to consistently run the ball could be a reflection on the overall offensive line, their poor pass protection and lack of success on third downs could be a direct reflection of Diehl’s poor play. ProFootballFocus, which reviews each NFL game, have been writing about Diehl’s regression as an offensive lineman over the past couples of years, and after another poor outing in Arizona, they wrote below:
“David Diehl was always out of his depth at left tackle, but since he was originally a guard by trade, we all just gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was playing out of position. A move back to left guard this season has left us questioning that logic, and suggesting that there’s a very real possibility he just was never a particularly good player. His -4.7 PFF grade for this game is largely a reflection of the six pressures he gave up to add to the pressure and four sacks he had already been charged with on the year. He now sits firmly in the red in our rankings and you’ve got to wonder if the Giants need to continue their O-line overhaul.”
In previous years, the Giants offensive line had been one of the best at keeping Eli upright in the pocket. Through four games this year he’s been hitting the turf more frequently than in years past. Last season, Eli got sacked on only 2.88% of pass attempts, the second best rate in the league behind his brother. This year, he is getting sacked on 8.09% of pass attempts, 24th worst sack rate in the NFL. The Giants have also seen a drop in their 3rd down percentage, ranking in the bottom third of the league in converting 3rd downs this year. It would be unfair to blame David Diehl and his fellow linemates on the Giants inability to extend drives; there are a multitude of factors that contribute to a team’s success on crucial downs. However, considering a majority of 3rd downs are converted through the air, a good offensive line is needed in order to let the routes develop within the passing game.
Due to the poor play of the offensive line, the Giants rank 21st in yards a game. The Giants have been able to stay afloat by scoring 25.5 points per game, good for 9th in the NFL. The reason they have been able to score so much with such few yards is due to their red zone efficiency. The Giants are currently scoring 80% of the time they enter their opponent’s twenty yard line, an unattainable clip that is certain to regress to the norm as the season progresses.
The Giants are 3-1, and with a home game against Seattle their win total is nearly certain to move to four, but that should not give Giants fans any sense of security. If the Giants continue to falter on third downs and take sacks, their Sundays will quickly turn disappointing. As the season progresses, keep these offensive statistics in mind, for it will be a good barometer in predicting the future success of the New York Giants.