By Ernie Palladino
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As the Giants reconvene from their five-day, bye-week vacation, Tom Coughlin can only hope that the hiatus truly served to clear their heads from the disastrous last two games.
The 27-0 blowout, or should we more accurately term it a no-show, against Philadelphia and the more competitive 31-21 setback in Dallas last week, put a real crimp in the outlook. What seemed like a sure season of playoff contention two weeks ago now verges on another also-ran finish. And the fact that Jason Pierre-Paul proclaimed that the Giants have enough talent to not only turn this thing around, but to run the remaining nine-game table, doesn't make the reality any less harsh.
Unless the Giants can find at least two wins in the next four games against Indianapolis, Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas, their collective gooses will be fricasseed for a third straight season.
In keeping with bye-week methodology, Coughlin and his staff spent the idle time being anything but. With any luck, the coaches have come up with the details of this five-point remedy to the current downturn.
1. Get More Of Odell
Given rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s contributions since he returned from a hamstring injury three games ago, it wouldn't be surprising if TMZ has already gotten its hands on a video of Coughlin and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo furiously tearing Victor Cruz pages out of the playbook and replacing them with newly-drawn schemes that feature the first-round prize. Beckham already has three touchdowns and has shown an ability to get open.
What Coughlin and McAdoo have to realize now is that Beckham is not a second receiving option. Now that the training wheels are off, he should become Eli Manning's prime target. He doesn't have one now. Rueben Randle has matured, no doubt, but he's still not consistent enough to step into Cruz' shoes as the No. 1 receiver.
Beckham blew a route that could have produced a long, important gain last week against Dallas, but if he and Manning get on the same page, he'll become an elite receiver. That's something the Giants need now, not four games from now.
2. Turn Up The Heat
Here's something else the Giants need, and have needed for a while. Pressure.
How often have Giants fans heard that? Three years now. Last year, they had a built-in excuse as JPP battled back from disk surgery and then sat the last five games with a bad shoulder. But he's back, healthy, and productive again against the run and the pass. But he can't do it alone. Damontre Moore and Robert Ayers, with two sacks each, have to step it up, as does Mathias Kiwanuka. Especially Kiwanuka. He has generated pressure on just 15 of his 197 pass rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and that puts him near the bottom of the league's starting defensive ends. Moore, strictly a situational player at this point, should get more than the 20 snaps he has averaged.
This is going to become ever more important against their next quarterbacking foe, Andrew Luck, who is looking more and more like a more mobile incarnation of a young Peyton Manning. That's scary. Add Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and a rematch with Tony Romo to the mix, and one can see where Perry Fewell had his work cut out for him this week.
3. Straighten Out The Secondary
The frontal attack plays into this, as an increase in pressure should make it easier for Prince Amukamara and a beat-up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to do their jobs against the T.Y. Hiltons and Dez Bryants of the world.
Truth be told, Amukamara did a good job on Bryant last week. He made an interception as Bryant tripped, broke up two passes, and led the team with seven tackles. But cornerbacks can't cover forever, and Bryant wound up with nine catches for 151 yards as Romo's legs extended plays. What the Giants need is help for Rodgers-Cromartie and a linebacker who can cover a tight end. Those don't grow on trees, however, so they will have to make do with the Zack Bowmans and Jayron Hosleys and Chandler Fenners. They could also use Jon Beason's leadership at middle linebacker, but his troublesome toe might well shut him down for the season.
4. Get The Running Game Going
Andre Williams will probably be the guy for another week or two while Rashad Jennings continues to heal. Williams is a wonderful pounder and has all the makings of a great short-yardage back. But Jennings has an ability to break a long run. Until they get him back, the running game won't be as consistent as it needs to be to keep the defenses off Manning. The 2.8-yard average the rookie put up on 18 carries last week just won't cut it.
5. Fix The Offensive Line
That will work heavily into the running game as well as pass protection. The rebuilt line, which looked so good before this two-game slide, appears to have disintegrated. If it looked like this at the season's outset, one might blame it on the restructuring with new faces like J.D. Walton, John Jerry and Weston Richburg. But the 11 sacks they've allowed over two weeks comes too late for such charitable assessment. Free-agent guard Geoff Schwartz is set to practice for the first time this year, so if he can get back in time to replace the faulty Jerry against Seattle, the front could turn around.
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