The Giants were so sure that a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., a rebuilt offensive line and the addition of Saquon Barkley would be enough to wake them out of their years-long offensive nightmare.
Two games into the season, it looks like they may have been wrong. Really wrong.
Their offense was absolutely pathetic on Sunday night in a 20-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. They barely got anything going either on the ground or in the air. They hardly even threatened to score any points until the game was basically over. And if it weren't for Barkley (14 catches for 80 yards, 11 rushes for 28 yards), they would've spent the game looking like they were standing still.
Take your pick as to why. The offensive line was as bad as always, allowing Eli Manning to get sacked six times and barely opening any holes wide enough for running backs to sneak through. Manning spent the entire game checking down to receivers, which is a good indication that nobody was really open downfield. Of course, there were times when Manning looked like he had more time than he thought, and perhaps out of habit he rushed his throw anyway.
So they can't run. They either can't pass or don't have time for pass plays to develop. At least Pat Shurmur's offense seems more creative than Ben McAdoo's, with more formations and personnel groupings. But it's not working any better. In fact, on Sunday night, it looked like it might be worse.
And the numbers are startling and infuriating. The Giants have 579 total yards and 31 points on the season so far. And remember, 68 of those yards and one half of their touchdown total all came on one Barkley run in the opener. Barkley, by the way, has 236 total yards this season, so he's accounted for more than 40 percent of the Giants' offense.
The Giants have also been held to fewer than 20 points in 10 of their last 12 games, dating all the way back to Oct. 22, 2017. That's remarkable.
It's also bad. Really, really bad.
- This is a broken record now -- a really broken record -- but the offensive line is still an enormous problem, and now it looks like Shurmur doesn't trust it. The offense was heavily weighted toward quick passes, designed to get Manning out of trouble quickly, although he was still sacked those six times. Even when he seemed to have a little bit of time, Manning quickly checked down to his running backs or tight ends underneath. It's hard to say if those check-downs were premature, but when they come fast, it's usually because the quarterback assumes he won't have time to let a play develop. Given recent history, Manning is probably right to assume that.
- It's not likely to get any better. Center Jon Halapio, who was actually pretty good in the season opener, was carted off the field in the third quarter with an air cast on his right leg. Teammates came over to check on him before the cart left, and that's never a good sign.
- Strange decision by Shurmur on the Giants' opening drive. They were moving the ball nicely when a third-down pass to Barkley left them about a half-yard short of a first down right at midfield. Shurmur, who fancies himself a bit of a gambler, made a very conservative decision to punt. It seemed odd considering they spent the No. 2 overall pick on a running back. I get that he has no faith in his offensive line. Who would? But I thought he would've trusted his defense to hold if they didn't make it.
- With that as the backdrop, it was really strange that Shurmur decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches twice in the second quarter -- once with the Giants on their own 35 and once on their own 46. More incredibly, he ran a quarterback sneak both times. And even more incredibly, it worked both times. According to the NBC broadcast, Manning hadn't run a sneak since 2010. The second one was really impressive. It was totally stopped behind the line of scrimmage, but Manning made a great second effort to get it over the first-down line by a hair. (It's worth noting he went over Halapio both times.)
- There were times when Ereck Flowers, the Giants' much-maligned right tackle, didn't look awful against DeMarcus Lawrence. But when NBC isolated its camera on him, it was clear he was mostly overmatched and always off balance or in the process of being just shoved into the backfield. The Giants gave him plenty of help, which is good. And sometimes he did just barely enough to keep Lawrence off Manning. Perhaps that's a small victory that everyone should take.
- Even without Olivier Vernon, and after Kareem Martin hurt his ankle early in the game, the Giants generated a decent pass rush. Connor Barwin and rookie Lorenzo Carter took turns forcing Dak Prescott out of the pocket. Ray-Ray Armstrong seemed to get some pressure, too.
- Giants LB Alec Ogletree seemed to have a very strong game against the rush. He has tremendous closing speed and really attacked the line of scrimmage, meeting Ezekiel Elliott right in the hole several times.
- It's hard to understate just how putrid the Giants' first-half performance was offensively. They had just 79 yards, including 18 on the ground. And Barkley had more than half of that total, with 46, including 14 of the rushing yards. They had no points and didn't threaten to score any. It was just awful. In all, the Giants finished with 255 yards -- 108 of those came in the final 4:18 with the Cowboys sitting back on a 20-3 lead.
- Tight end Evan Engram is theoretically going to be a big weapon in the Giants' passing attack -- assuming they're ever able to generate one -- but his blocking continues to be very suspect. It's going to be hard to keep a weak-blocking tight end on the field if the offensive line continues to struggle like this.
- Given how often he's been hit over the last few years, the fact Manning still hasn't missed a game due to injury at age 37 is one of the most remarkable sports stories I've ever covered. He is Iron Man. In fact, he might literally be made of iron. That's a more plausible explanation than anything else.