Considering the storm of controversy that’s been following the New York Giants during the last few weeks thanks to Odell Beckham Jr’s ongoing implosion, the off-field drama involving kicker Josh Brown, and the team’s underwhelming start to a new chapter in franchise history, last Sunday’s 17-10 win over the L.A. Rams in London couldn’t have come at a better time.
At a deceptively decent 4-3, the Giants are still in the battle for NFC East supremacy and trailing the division-leading Dallas Cowboys [5-1] by only one win entering their bye week. But other than that winning record and last week’s successful trip across the pond, the Giants don’t have much to be smiling about.
In his first season as Tom Coughin’s replacement, head coach Ben McAdoo’s play-calling has already drawn widespread criticism due to his sudden inability to get Big Blue’s potentially-potent offense off the ground. Entering Week 8, New York ranks a dismal 20th in total offense and 25th in points per game [19.0], and last week’s win over the Rams did little to quiet this team’s critics.
At the heart of the problem is the Giants’ unreliable run-game. Veteran Rashad Jennings has only needed four games to prove that he’s no longer a starting-caliber running back, totaling just 142 yards and a touchdown on 53 attempts. But since losing the dual-threat abilities of Shane Vereen to a season-ending injury, it’s also become clear that neither third-year running back Orleans Darkwa, nor rookie Paul Perkins, are currently capable of stepping into the starting gig.
Despite surpassing the century mark in total rushing yards in two of their first three games, the Giants have failed to gain more than 100 yards on the ground in each of their last four contests–and nobody on the roster has racked-up triple digits on his own all season. Not surprisingly, with the aging arm of Eli Manning under center, the Giants’ nonexistent run-game has also led to other offensive issues.
As one of the league’s least mobile quarterbacks and a veteran who prefers the security of the pocket, Manning needs an established run-game just to operate in McAdoo’s increasingly-predictable offense. In 2015, Manning convinced the masses that he had plenty left in the tank by finishing with career-highs in both touchdown passes  and passer rating [93.6], while tossing a tolerable 14 interceptions. But now, the NFL’s third-worst rushing attack has played a big part in making Manning the face of Big Blue’s surprisingly stagnate offense.
”I’ve got to complete the ball, throw the ball more accurately,” said Manning via ESPN following his team’s latest victory. ”The offensive line has to do their part, the running backs. Everybody’s got to do their part and raise their level of play if we want to be as good as we think we are.”
Although Manning undoubtedly deserves some of the blame for piloting one of the NFL’s lowest scoring offenses, Beckham Jr.’s inconsistency and seemingly-constant need for attention has damaged this offense almost as much as anything else.
Statistically, the 40 receptions, 630 yards, and three touchdowns that Beckham Jr. has totaled through the first seven weeks of this season is nearly identical to the 42 receptions, 524 yards, and four touchdowns he posted through the first seven games of 2015.
But beginning in Week 8, Beckham turned a potentially mediocre 2015 into a sophomore season to remember with an unbelievable performance that included six straight 100-plus yard efforts and nine touchdowns over his last eight games of the season. So far, he’s actually topped the century mark twice in 2016—which he also did through the first seven games of 2015, and Beckham Jr’s 222-yard outing in the Giants’ Week 6-win over the Baltimore Ravens was the reassurance that Big Blue’s fan-base needed after being forced to watch seven weeks of their star receiver’s sideline soap opera.
The return of Victor Cruz and arrival of rookie Sterling Shepard was supposed to make life a little easier for Beckham Jr.. Unfortunately, he seems to be more interested in adding new acts to his extended touchdown celebrations and acting out his every emotion in his latest edition of sideline theater than anything else, and when coupled with the hip injury that nearly kept him off the field in London, a second consecutive mid-season turnaround appears less likely than ever.
Yet, despite Manning’s miscues, McAdoo’s inability to succeed with an offense he’s ran for each of the past two years, Beckham Jr’s ongoing inconsistency, and a Pop Warner run-game, the Giants are the only team to defeat Dallas, they’ll return from this week’s bye in the midst of a two-game winning streak, and until further notice, they still have a chance to end their four-year playoff drought.