Bad year looming for Giants unless defense improves quickly

September 9, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants are in trouble again, and it has nothing to do with either of the quarterbacks or the offense. The defense was horrible in an opening loss to Dallas.

Coordinator James Bettcher's unit will have to improve dramatically and quickly after a 35-17 road loss to the defending NFC East champion Cowboys.

If not, this is shaping up to be a third straight season out of the playoffs, and a seventh in eight years.

For sure, these are only quick thoughts after the first game of the schedule. However, things have to improve for co-owner John Mara not to make changes after this season.

The Giants offered little resistance to Dak Prescott and company, thanks in large part to missed tackles, blown coverages, lack of coverage, no pass rush and inexperience. New York started six players on defense 25 years old or less, and nine 28 or younger.

"My confidence has not been shaken," linebacker and defensive captain Alex Ogletree said Monday. "We have a great defense. It's just a matter of us doing it, and doing it on Sunday."

Coach Pat Shurmur said the key heading into Sunday's home opener against the Bills (1-0) will be showing players where they can be better.

"Everything there is correctable," Shurmur said. "We need to just get back to work. I think there were some good things in the game, but those are obviously overshadowed by the things that contributed to the loss."

The offense didn't help enough despite gaining moving the ball effectively.

"It's not about the defense, it's both sides doing their job," quarterback Eli Manning said Monday after a good debut to his record 16th season with the Giants. "Sometimes you have those high-scoring games, we have to do our part to match. We had the opportunities. That's the unfortunate part."


The offense showed a lot, gaining 470 yards. Manning threw for 306 yards, no interceptions and a touchdown. NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley gained 120 yards on 11 carries to kick off his second season. Tight end Evan Engram had career highs of 11 catches for 116 yards, and scored a touchdown. The negative was 2 for 11 on third-down attempts and couldn't keep up against a high-powered Dallas offense.


After drafting DeAndre Baker late in the first round, the Giants touted the Georgia cornerback as a great coverage guy who would give the team two shutdown players at the position, along with veteran Janoris Jenkins. Baker looked lost in his first game, giving up an early big play to Michael Gallup on a sideline go route, and a 21-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper in the third quarter. On both plays he trailed the receiver.


The revamped offensive line, which added Kevin Zeitler at guard and Mike Remmers at tackle on the right side, was good. Manning was sacked once after being dumped 47 times last season. The running game gained 151 yards on 17 carries, an 8.9 yard average.


Let's continue picking on the rookies. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence II was the 17th pick overall in the draft and many felt he would give the defense a run stopper and a pass rush. Dallas was limited to 89 yards rushing on 30 carries, but the 21 year old from Clemson was invisible most of the game. He had one assisted tackle — that's it. Not a good start.


Zeitler hurt a shoulder but Shurmur does not think he will miss much time, if any. Receiver Sterling Shepard, who had six catches for 42 yards, sustained a concussion. Linebacker Kareem Martin sprained a knee and his status is uncertain.


158.3 — Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and was not sacked in posting a perfect 158.3 passing rating against the Giants. It was the second straight game he threw four TDs against New York, and his yardage was the highest total by an opponent since the Saints' Drew Brees threw for 505 yards on Nov. 1, 2015.


The Giants need to turn this around quickly. Bad starts have been the norm the past two seasons. They started 0-5 in 2017 en route to a 3-13 mark, and 1-7 last year under Shurmur in going 5-11. If they are going to do anything this season, they need a dose of quick confidence injected by a win over the Bills.