EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants have a $95 million wide receiver, a running back they took second overall in the NFL draft and a franchise quarterback they believe can still play for "years." They also have a tight end they took in the first round a year ago and another receiver they took in the second round in 2016.
Those are a lot of talented weapons they've invested in heavily.
And once again, it looks like any potential they have is going to be crushed behind a crumbling offensive line.
It's only one game, and it just happened to be against one of the best defensive fronts in football, but Giants GM Dave Gettleman couldn't have liked what he saw from his beloved "Hog Mollies" in Sunday's 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They didn't protect the quarterback well enough for him to run the offense. They didn't open up enough holes for the running backs to work.
If they every do, this offense has the potential to be really special.
But that "if" is the beginning of a sadly familiar refrain.
Just ask Odell Beckham Jr., who was asked about the two times Eli Manning overthrew him in the end zone when he was open. Those were plays he and Manning could've made - should've made.
If only ...
"It's close," Beckham said. "We had those. If he can sit back in there just a little bit longer, just set his feet and get rid of it. It's a collective thing, I can run faster, the O-line can block better. It's just something we all have to get on the same page with."
That's nice, but Beckham runs fast enough. The fact is Manning's throws are constantly being rushed. Maybe it wasn't as disastrous as it was last year or the year before. But Gettleman made revamping the offensive line was of his top offseason priorities. He gave left tackle Nate Solder a four-year, $62 million contract. He used a second-round pick on left guard Will Hernandez. He gave Patrick Omameh $15 million over three years to play right guard.
It has to work. Or nothing else will.
That was clear on the opening series. It began with a tripping penalty on Ereck Flowers, the former left tackle who is now the right tackle (although if the Giants had any other option at all, it would be hard to imagine him still having that job for long). On the second play, rookie Saquon Barkley got hammered at the line of scrimmage. On the third, a holding penalty on -- you guessed it -- Flowers negated a 35-yard pass. And on the fourth, Barkley got hammered for a four-yard loss that left him about an inch away from a safety.
Maaan... no comment https://t.co/668H3HaX9T- Jonathan Casillas (@jcasillas52) September 9, 2018
"That was such a weird series," Solder said. "We would make a play, then have a penalty, make a play, then have a penalty. That was kind of a microcosm of how the rest of the game went."
It wasn't all bad. Barkley ended up with 106 yards, the most prolific debut for a Giants running back ever. But most of that was due to a 68-yard touchdown run on which three Jaguars laid their hands on him before he hit the line of scrimmage. In fact, unofficially, Barkley was hit behind the line on more than half of his runs.
Manning was only hit six times according to the stats, but he was constantly pressured and rushed. Like when Flowers got beat on a blitz, which forced Manning to step up in the pocket to a place where Omameh was getting pushed backward, too. Manning tried to dump the ball off for Barkley, but Omameh couldn't keep Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell's hands down. He blocked the pass and it turned into a pick-6.
And on it went. Penalties. Missed blocks. Too much pressure allowed. The Giants received 128 combined yards from Barkley. Beckham, in his first game in 11 months, had 11 catches for 111 yards. It could've been more, too, if Manning wasn't rushed so often into misfiring.
So is it time to be concerned?
"We battled a really good defense," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "You're looking at a Top 10 defense and we battled them and I thought (the offensive line) fought throughout the game. We can probably all point to individual bad plays by everyone, me included, so I feel like they battled.
"This might be the most talented defense and front four we go against all season," Manning added. "Those guys coming out the first game, I thought things settled down in the second half and they did a good job."
If it was "good," it was only because they were graded on a curve that started near the very bottom last season. They were better than they were then, but they need to be much better in order to have any hope this season.
Otherwise, all their dynamic offensive weapons will just turn out to be one, big, overly expensive waste.