The New York Giants are searching for answers after getting trounced by the Dallas Cowboys in their season opener last Sunday. They took the field with a team they felt was competitive only to find out otherwise after they could not contain Dallas’ offense after stopping them on their first drive.
“I think we’ve got to get the guys who are going to be in there to play better,” head coach Pat Shurmur told WFAN’s Mike Francesa on Monday. “There’s a decent chance there could be a couple changes, but we’re going through that right now. We’re finishing up the evaluation of that game and getting ready to play Buffalo.”
What those changes might be all depends on the injury news the Giants are expecting this week. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is currently in the concussion protocol and right guard Kevin Zeitler has a shoulder issue, but Shurmur was likely referring to the defense, where things went awry very quickly on Sunday.
The Giants were playing with seven new starters and several other new faces on defense, which underwent an overhaul this past offseason. The secondary appeared to be the primary focus of general manager Dave Gettleman’s rebuild. They couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start this season.
Janoris Jenkins was the only returning piece for defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Gettleman added safety Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and then signed 35-year-old former Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea in free agency. They are still working out the kinks.
Dallas exploited the left corner spot where the Giants were hoping the winner of the Sam Beal-Deandre Baker battle would man. Injuries ruined those plans as Beal ended up on IR with a hamstring and Baker missed time with a knee.
That led to the Giants turning to journeyman Antonio Hamilton, who is primarily here for his special teams play, and the results were disastrous. Dallas picked on Hamilton repeatedly and then went after Baker when he was inserted into the game. Neither tackled well on top of things.
The Giants moved back into the first round to take Baker with the 30th pick this past April counting on him being a turnkey starter. The knee has held him back and based on his performance in Dallas, he’s still pretty green.
As the Giants ready themselves for the Buffalo Bills, it’s highly unlikely they’ll trot Hamilton out there ate play the outside and may not be ready to expose Baker to a full regimen of snaps, either.
Alternatives are few as the Giants are only carrying five cornerbacks — Jenkins, Hamilton, Baker, second-year player Grant Haley and rookie Corey Ballentine. Julian Love, another rookie, is listed as a safety, but he and Haley are both inside or slot corners.
At linebacker, the Giants are stacked, but no one is sure if there is much quality among the quantity. Alec Ogletree is the captain and plays one inside backer spot. Tae Davis is next to him. Last Sunday, the Giants began the game with Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden on the outside.
Others saw action as well. Kareem Martin, a starter last year, left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Rookies Ryan Connelly and Oshane Ximines came in on certain packages, but there’s not much latitude for change there as well. The Giants just added Tuzar Skipper, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, to the mix.
Up front, B.J. Hill played his usual game, stuffing the run and being disruptive. Dalvin Tomlinson was relatively quiet as was rookie Dexter Lawrence. They were rotated out with Olsen Pierre and R.J. McIntosh.
The pass rush was nonexistent. The Giants had no sacks and just two QB hits on Dak Prescott. That has to change.
On his conference call with reporters on Monday, Shurmur offered no solutions but did have an explanation.
“I think there’s areas — we have some more young players in there playing that could just be a little more active or violent. We went against a good offensive line that blocked well, they blocked well as a unit yesterday. We had a couple of spots where we got pressure, and Dak actually made a couple of good throws with pressure, so we’ve just got to get more of it. The players that we have in there have just got to continue to keep working to maximize the rushes that they get,” he said.
And that is where the Giants are going to have to start. The pass rush will help the cover guys. They need it.