The Giants' offense this season has appeared to struggle on the majority of drives. They are ranked ninth overall in offense and are averaging 5.6 yards per play, which is 15th best in the league. So why does their offense look so out of sync most of the time?
The Giants have gone three-and-out on 19 of their 93 drives this season (just over 20 percent), which is 17th in the league at the moment. There are actually 15 teams who have more three-and-outs than they do, including the Cardinals, Steelers, Broncos, and Patriots.
This week, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan tried to explain why his unit has been experiencing so many negative plays.
"Always a combination of a lot of factors," he said. "There are some that you can point to where, a guy just flat out wasn't as good as the guy across the line of scrimmage. And then there'll be those other opportunities where it could be a matter of, they had a pretty good call and we have to really be on point for it to be successful."
"As we look at that, you try to assess the reasoning behind it and then just know, well, if you had those negatives, then when there are opportunities to make the plays, and this goes back to some of those long passes; whether it's a flag is thrown, what we call a free-play, we got the five yards but we'd love to have the big play."
The problem with the offense is their lack of ability to sustain drives. The running game has been less than consistent, in both theory and practice. They are dead last in the NFL in yards per game (68.2), and near the bottom in yards per attempt (3.2) and attempts per game (21.4).
They are too slow getting off the line and they lack a back that can shed an initial tackler. The opponent also seems to be able to smoke out their run plays too easily and too often.
When you watch the rookie Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas or DeMarco Murray, you see runners who have great offensive line play and get extra yards after initial contact. In the Giants' case, they are getting poor offensive line play and no yards after intial contact. These have become known as "negative plays."
The Giants have been scratching their heads trying to jumpstart their running game. Or so they say. Each week, we see them pass the ball nearly seven out of every ten plays after losing faith in the run game. Too many negative plays in the run game have forced the Giants to become a pass-first team.
You would think think the passing game would open up the running game. It has not. The Giants are using the short passing game to substitute for the lack of running game. They are also not taking as many shots downfield because QB Eli Manning has not trusted his pass protection. As a result, defenses have been stacking the box on them, making it even harder to run.
There's been more than a few negatives along the way. Crediting opponents is not a reason for your own failures. The Giants have a new offensive line coach in Mike Solari, who replaced long time OL coach Pat Flaherty. The line is not performing as well under Solari, although he is a veteran coach with a history of success in the league.
They also have been playing without the benefit of a fullback and a veteran tight end who can block. Their wide receivers are basically small and are not adding much blocking-wise, either.
If you watch Elliott and Murray, you'll see that they line up eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. Where are the Giants' running backs lining up? five, six yards back? Lining up deeper is actually an advantage. The running back sees the line better plus will hit it at an accelerated rate of speed. On pass plays, they can also see where the pressure is coming from so they can assist in the blocking scheme.
Nothing can substitute for poor offensive line play, but not putting your personnel in position to succeed isn't helping, either. The offense needs to spread out both vertically and horizontally. That will spread out opposing defenses and keep them guessing. It's no coincidence why they've been guessing right most of the time.