Odell Beckham's eventual return to the Giants lineup will solve a lot of their offensive problems.
But even he can't fix the whole thing.
That's the unfortunate truth, and the most worrisome part about the state of the Giants' offense right now. Without Beckham, the offense was an absolute disaster in the Giants' 19-3 loss in Dallas on Opening Night. But it's not like it was much better with Beckham last year. And the same problems that plagued them last year were evident last night, from the crumbling offensive line to Eli Manning's erratic play to Ben McAdoo's sometimes questionable play-calling.
And there's no sign that any of those issues are going to go away.
So the Giants can't use Beckham's absence as a crutch. The only good news from Sunday night was that they didn't.
"We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell," Ben McAdoo said. "That's no excuse."
No it's not, but it is a reason why they bottomed out with just three points and 224 yards - levels that would even make the Jets cringe. Taking the No. 1 receiver away from any offense would change their equation, but Beckham is legitimately a Top 5 receiver. His production (101 catches, 1,367 yards, 10 touchdowns last season) is incredible, but just his mere presence changes what defenses do.
That said, a Giants team with a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, plus Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and rookie tight end Evan Engram isn't exactly without weapons. Maybe they're not capable of putting up epic numbers with that Beckham-less cast, but shouldn't they be able to do something more than the absolute nothing they did Sunday night?
Of course. But there were non-Beckham issues they still have to address. And as always, it has to start with the offensive line. It was bad. Again. Right tackle Bobby Hart was particularly awful, and left tackle Ereck Flowers regressed in the second half, and Manning was - as usual - constantly under siege.
The line woes took its toll on the running backs too, as they were often hit before they got out of the backfield. The combo of Paul Perkins and Orleans Darwka combined for 10 carries for 30 yards.
Manning wasn't good either. Yes, it's true that the problems up front make his life difficult in the crumbling pocket. He was 29 of 38 for 220 yards and one interception despite being hit and hurried throughout most of the game. But, even when he had time, his passes were not on target. And sometimes he rushed before he really had to, jumping to what appeared to be his first read.
"I think the whole offense needs to be better and it starts with me," Manning said. "I've got to do a better job. I've got to be better prepared and make this team better. I'll start with me and go from there."
That's harsh, but fair. It's what's expected of an elite quarterback. He needs to make the players around him better and to make the offense work for his supporting cast. When the Giants' offense sunk to 25th in the league last season Manning was a failure in that department. He was a failure at elevating his teammates again on Sunday night.
And so, for that matter, was his coach. McAdoo's play-calling and some of his personnel decisions were odd. And not in the same way as last year, when he was oft-criticized for using the same personnel grouping (three receivers, one back, one tight end) more than 95 percent of the time. This time, he varied the groupings more, but ignored some important players.
The biggest one was Marshall, the 6-5 receiver they signed as a free agent and bragged about all offseason long. He caught one pass - on the last play of the game and was targeted only four times all night long. Early in the third quarter, the Giants had five plays inside the red zone and not one of them went to the tallest receiver on the team? Manning only even appeared to look his way there once.
And then there's Darkwa. With Perkins struggling, as he has all summer, Darkwa came in with 6:44 left in the second quarter and burst up the middle for a 12-yard run. Then, his next carry didn't come until there were 50 seconds left in the third quarter. He had only three carries in all.
Yes, all that can still change. But it didn't last season, so why should anyone believe it will now? Manning's inability to rise above the constant pressure, the disaster that is the offensive line, the issues McAdoo is having with his enormous play sheet - they were all there last season too. Put Beckham in the lineup and everything will look better, but it won't necessarily look great.
Which brings the Giants back to right where they were at the end of last season - with a legitimate Top 10 defense that is absolutely championship caliber, and an offense dragging it down. That's why, as wonderful as last season was for the Giants, it's worth remembering that nine of their 11 wins were by a touchdown or less. With just a little bit more offense, they could've been a true Super Bowl contender.
But their offense isn't championship caliber. And if last season is any indication, even Beckham can't change that.