The Giants may be 7-3 and are possibly headed for a postseason berth, but they are far from a complete team -- sitting at 31st in the NFL in rushing after 11 weeks. Only the Minnesota Vikings are worse, but they have an excuse. They have been without star RB Adrian Peterson all year and are missing several starters on the offensive line. The Giants' excuse? Well, they don't have one.
Yes, the Giants ran for over 100 yards on Sunday for the second straight game, but they could not run the ball in the second half when they needed to. After coming out in the second half and scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, they punted on their next five, which included three three-and-outs. Their other two drives lasted just five plays each. With the weather changing in the Northeast, they have to do better than this.
Rashad Jennings rushed 21 times for 85 yards (4.0 YPC) and Paul Perkins only had four attempts for 16 yards. Take out Jennings' 21 yarder and Perkins' 11-yarder and those numbers dip to 64 yards on 23 carries, or 2.8 YPC.
If they are going to continue to hold narrow leads, they can't keep leaning on the defense. They have to hold onto the football longer and that means being more successful in the running game.
Granted, LG Justin Pugh (knee) has been out the past few games and the Giants aren't sure when he'll be ready to return, but they weren't running the ball that well when he was in there. The problems run deeper than one player, no matter how well they may have been playing.
Offensive line coach Mike Solari took over for longtime Tom Coughlin aide Pat Flaherty this past offseason. Solari is a veteran coach with a history of success on both the college and pro level. Flaherty is famous for making the most of the talent he has. So far, Solari has yet to do the same. The players seem to think highly of him, but perhaps they are not taking to him the way they took to Flaherty.
As Coughlin used to tell us, running the football is an 11-man operation. Everyone must do their part. It is just not the offensive line that is responsible for blocking the opponent.
The issue stems back to training camp, when they lost both fullbacks (Will Johnson, Nikita Whitlock) and chose not to replace them. They also have tight ends who do not add much to the blocking scheme. Will Tye is predominantly used as a receiving option and rookie Jerell Adams doesn't get many reps. Their wide receivers are all small in stature and not built for blocking in the running game.
That is all in addition to simply not winning the individual battles in the trenches. Many times the backs are stopped for losses or short gains as there are few holes for them to get through. The linemen are either not holding their blocks long enough or the runners have been hesitant or too slow hitting the hole. Both scenarios have been prevalent all year.
When the Giants drafted center Weston Richburg in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, one of his strengths was that he could pull out of the hole quickly to block on sweeps and screens. We haven't seen that very often.
The running game has been vanilla at best -- no imagination and way too predictable. The coaches have said they are trying to change things, but we still haven't seen any evidence of those changes.