G-Men of­fense faces piv­otal mo­ment in NFC East bat­tle with the Cow­boys

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Greg John­son gjohn­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @greg­p_j on Twit­ter

While the sea­son is still young, Sun­day night will be a mo­ment of truth for the Giants.

An­other poor per­for­mance from the of­fen­sive line, and fans could be in for some déjà vu in spite of all the pos­i­tive changes from the new regime. But an ex­plo­sive scor­ing out­put would likely steer New York to a 1-1 record and in­stantly si­lence con­cerns.

There was no rea­son for the Giants to panic af­ter last Sun­day’s 20-15 loss to Jack­sonville, which boasts perhaps the NFL’s most premier de­fense. Yet, plenty of po­tent line­men await on an un­for­giv­ing sched­ule, con­tin­u­ing with Cow­boys de­fen­sive end DeMar­cus Lawrence.

“The guy as­signed to block him has to block him,” head coach Pat Shur­mur said this week. “He’s cer­tainly been very dis­rup­tive. The thing about him is, he’s long, he’s got a twitch and he can get go­ing quickly. He’s re­lent­less, he plays hard through­out the game, so you’ve got a full day with him. You’ve got to block him 65 or 70 times, or he’ll dis­rupt the game.”

In other words, Ereck Flow­ers must hold his own for the Giants’ of­fense to be suc­cess­ful in a key NFC East bat­tle. The ma­ligned for­mer first-round pick fared abysmally in his de­but at right tackle against the Jags, com­mit­ting two penal­ties and yield­ing a sack.

It’s likely the Giants will dole more pro­tec­tion to the right side, whether it be chip­ping from tight ends and run­ning backs, or de­ploy­ing tight ends as block­ers on the line. There are fea­si­ble ad­just­ments. Rhett El­li­son and Scott Si­mon­son, who of­fer more as block­ers than re­ceivers, played only 29 and three of­fen­sive snaps, re­spec­tively, out of 71 in the sea­son opener.

Still, there is a fine line. The Giants want to mix up pro­tec­tions and stay un­pre­dictable. They ul­ti­mately need wins in 1-on-1s with their of­fen­sive line­men, be­cause too many block­ers com­pen­sates the re­ceiv­ing game with fewer routes.

Lawrence, Dal­las’ top pass­rush­ing threat, is com­ing off a ca­reer sea­son where he com­piled 14.5 sacks and was named a Sec­ond Team All-Pro.

“It’s whether or not you want a five-man pro­tec­tion or six­man pro­tec­tion or seven-man pro­tec­tion,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Shula said. “Guys got to know what they’re do­ing, know where their help is, got to get the ball out on time and then when we have backs or tight ends help­ing out, chip­ping on the way out or in­volved with pro­tec­tion, we got to do a good job with that, too.”

De­spite pro­tec­tion is­sues with their re­built of­fen­sive line, the Giants failed to cash in on chances to score more touch­downs against the Jags.

Early in the third quar­ter, Eli Man­ning and Odell Beck­ham Jr. couldn’t con­nect in the end zone on a 33-yard post route. Beck­ham had a fa­vor­able matchup with a safety in quar­ters cov­er­age, but Beck­ham was bumped just as Man­ning re­leased the ball — enough to dis­rupt the tim­ing. The Giants blocked well enough to main­tain a clean pocket.

With 11 sec­onds left in the first half, pres­sure caved in on Man­ning as he was forced to throw off-bal­ance to Beck­ham on a slant from the 13-yard line. But in­stead of pass­ing to­ward the side­line, Man­ning aimed to­ward the end line and lobbed the ball well over Beck­ham’s head.

The Giants’ lone touch­down was a 69-yard run by Saquon Barkley in the fourth quar­ter. The prized No. 2 over­all pick out of Penn State is one com­po­nent of New York’s re­vamped weaponry, which has to pay div­i­dends soon if the Giants are to avoid a dreaded 0-2 hole.

Other­wise, the pres­sure will be­gin to mount with the threat of the sea­son spi­ral­ing out of con­trol the way it did last year.

“I think it’s just ev­ery­body un­der­stand­ing their as­sign­ments just a lit­tle bit crisper, just ex­e­cu­tion,” said Man­ning, who com­pleted 23-of-37 at­tempts for 224 yards with an in­ter­cep­tion. “Just make sure ev­ery­body knows ex­actly what’s go­ing on. You just never know when that one mis­take or lit­tle route here or as­sign­ment here can make a dif­fer­ence in a game. Just do­ing ev­ery lit­tle thing right. That’s on ev­ery­body, start­ing with me and the things I can do bet­ter.”

JOHN BLAINE/ FOR THE TREN­TO­NIAN

Giants run­ning back Saquon Barkley (26) gets away from Jaguars’ Tashaun Gip­son (39) on his way to a fourth-quar­ter touch­down dur­ing the Giants’ sea­son opener last Sun­day at MetLife Sta­dium.

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