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What were the Giants problems in week 1?

Most experts figure the 2017 season will be a successful one for the New York Giants. It may be, but their efforts were far from successful in their 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. There are a lot of reasons why the Giants are coming home from Texas without a victory. However, there are three that matter the most.

No OBJ

In Week 2 of the preseason, all planet wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered what appeared at first glance to be a catastrophic knee injury. Although examinations revealed a far less significant injury, Beckham was forced to watch the season-opening division clash at AT&T Stadium in street clothes. This had a tremendously negative effect on the passing game.

The lack of Beckham’s presence meant the Cowboys could shift more attention in the directions of both second-year wideout Sterling Shepard and big-ticket free agent Brandon Marshall. The result was an evening that saw Marshall rendered to a mere afterthought. He caught only one pass the entire game. While Shepard did manage seven catches out of the eight balls thrown in his direction, he turned those catches into only 42 yards of offense.

The lack of the potential exclusiveness of Beckham meant the Cowboys could press the Giants, limiting the possibilities for any extra yards after catches. Although Eli Manning did complete 29 of his 38 attempts, he managed only a pedestrian 220 yards on those completions. The station-to-station passing game did little to move the Giants up and down the field.

Eli On the Run

The 2014 and 2015 seasons were forgettable for the G-Men. They won only 12 games between those two seasons. But, statistically, Eli Manning had two of his very best seasons. He threw for over 4,000 yards in each campaign while maintaining a solid 2-to-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. Although he threw an astonishing 27 INTs in 2013, Manning threw 28 combined in 2014 and 2015.

The Giants all-time leader in most quarterback categories took a step back a year ago. The West Coast-style offense that seemed to suit his skills so well the previous two years under Ben McAdoo did little to control his errant throws and turnovers despite his team’s success. The pressure put on by the Dallas front four helped the first game of 2017 look a lot like 2016. With one turnover and only one field goal to show for his efforts on Sunday, Eli had very few positives to take into next week’s Monday Night matchup with the Detroit Lions

Running On Empty

Another cause for the Giants inconsistent offense a year ago was an inability to run the football. Despite averaging just 88 yards per game (29th in the NFL) in 2016, the Giants did little to upgrade their personnel at either running back or offensive line and it showed on Sunday.

The Giants ran for only 35 yards on 12 carries, and six of those yards were on a reverse to Shepard. In fairness, they didn’t really have anywhere to run. The same offensive line that struggled to open up holes a year ago seemed unable to stem the tide of physical Dallas front seven. The lack of even the appearance of a running game certainly did not help the passing game, as Manning often found himself dropping back to pass and finding Cowboy defenders surrounding him on all sides.

It’s only one game and Dallas is a tough assignment for any team. It’s certainly a tough assignment for a team missing its best offensive player. But, if you’d closed your eyes Sunday night and imagined any offensive sequence from the 2016 campaign, you would scarcely have been able to see a difference from the two and that is alarming. It’s back to the drawing board in East Rutherford, and they had better get creative fast. That and they had better hope OBJ’s knee feels a whole lot better on Monday night. If it doesn’t, this season might take a real ugly turn before it really begins.

Michael O'Brien

Author Michael O'Brien

A lifelong sports fan always looking to talk, debate, and write about sports. Michael began writing for Sports Al Dente in 2017, and is currently a contributor covering the New York Giants.

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