The Giants are 4-3 and have won two straight games heading into their bye week, which would seem to put them in a very good position for a "second half" run.
So why is it that everyone feels so badly about them?
Oh, right. They're winning pretty ugly. And their vaunted offense gained a pretty pathetic 232 yards against the Rams on Sunday in London. And they still can't run the ball. And Odell Beckham wasn't very effective. And everyone is down on Ben McAdoo's play-calling. And …
Well, you get the idea. All the bad, and maybe some of the good, is covered here in my takeaways from … wait, let me check … yeah, it's true, it was a Giants win.
1. If my Twitter feed is any indication, everyone thinks Ben McAdoo either has suddenly become the world's worst play-caller, or that he always has been and the Giants were a Top 10 offense the previous two seasons despite his lack of ability in that area. Here's the thing, though: While I can't (and won't) defend all his calls, many of the ones that bring out the most ire are plays that would've worked if his players had done what they were supposed to do. The Giants' first drive was undone by a Larry Donnell fumble. The second by a Victor Cruz drop on second down. The third was undone by a quick screen to Odell Beckham that went for a loss of six yards but might have gone for a big gain if either Roger Lewis or Sterling Shephard hadn't been overrun while trying to block. Their rushing attempts have the same issues - missed blocks, mostly. Many of Eli Manning's passes - for those of you that want him to throw deep - are rushed because the pocket collapses too quickly. Yes, McAdoo abandons the run too quickly. Yes, some of his calls - like starting the two-minute drill before the half with a screen to Bobby Rainey instead of going forwards - are troublesome. But his play-calling would look a heck of a lot better if his players actually executed what was called.
2. Speaking of a lack of execution, the Giants have to be fed up with the roller coaster ride that is TE Larry Donnell. He fumbled on the second play on Sunday and that's nothing new. He had four fumbles two years ago. He puts both himself and the ball in danger with the way he carries it after catches, and the way he flips as defenders go low on him. With 15 catches in six games, he's not producing enough to make himself worth the trouble. The problem is, Will Tye isn't producing much more and neither of them are very skilled blockers. The only other tight end is rookie Jerell Adams, a sixth-round pick. The Giants are caught in this predicament because they've long had the belief that they could create tight ends out of thin air, something brought on by their success with unheralded guys like Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard. It's not working right now, though. Maybe this offseason would be a good time for them to go out and get a new tight end.
3. Landon Collins' two-interception game on Sunday, which included one he returned 44 yards for a touchdown (he seemed like he ran 80 yards to go those 44), was a spectacular breakout game, but it has been building for weeks. The second-year safety has been the best part of the Giants' secondary this season, which is amazing considering the next two safeties on the Giants' depth chart - Darian Thompson (foot) and Nat Berhe (concussion) - have barely played. Collins has held things together while playing with undrafted rookie Andrew Adams. He's been terrific in coverage and a force at making tackles near the line of scrimmage. A few more interceptions and highlights like that and he's going to find himself in the Pro Bowl conversation.
4. The most impressive part of the Giants' defensive performance was the signs of life from their previously dormant pass rush. They had three sacks and six quarterback hits and rushed Rams quarterback Case Keenum into a couple of interceptions, including the game-ending one to a wide open Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that Keenum had to hoist up because Jason Pierre-Paul was in his face. OK, it was Case Keenum, not Aaron Rodgers. But the big missing part of the Giants' $200 million defense has been sacks and pressures. Maybe this was a sign of things to come.
5. The next time McAdoo says he's trying to run a balanced offense, feel free to laugh. The Giants have run 427 plays this season. An amazing 65.5% of them (280) have been passes. In the last five games, that percentage rises to nearly 70% (207 of 298). Now, to be fair, the Giants running game stinks. The blocking isn't there and the running backs aren't exactly making anyone miss. But that doesn't mean McAdoo has to play every game like he's down 30 from the start. Maybe the answer is to try and find something that gives him reason to believe in his running game. It's hard with his top back, Rashad Jennings, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Maybe the slippery Bobby Rainey (3.6 yards per carry) should get involved a little more. Or maybe he needs to give a longer look to Paul Perkins, who is averaging 3.9 yards on his 10 carries, but has shown the ability to hit some holes hard and some breakaway speed on a couple of screens. Granted, if the blocking is the same, no running back is going anywhere with this offense. But at this point it's worth a try. And maybe McAdoo should stick with it a little more to keep defenses honest. This will theoretically help prevent them from turning the pressure up on Manning and sitting back on Beckham in a Cover 2 shell. Maybe they won't respect the Giants' running game regardless, but it's better than being obviously one-dimensional the rest of the way.