COMMENTARY | The New York Giants are 0-3 this season. If you go back to last season they are 3-8 in their last 11 regular-season games. Yet, the Giants continue to talk like they believe they have the talent to play better, to be a Super Bowl contender.
Is that true? Or, are the Giants simply fooling themselves? Are they under-performing, or have some of the decisions made by highly-regarded general manager Jerry Reese left the Giants aging in some spots and under-manned in others?
There are three main areas that have let the Giants down this season -- the offensive line, the running backs and the defensive front seven. Let's look at some of the key personnel decisions and see how they are panning out.
The Giants drafted Justin Pugh in the first round (19th overall) and Pugh is starting -- and struggling -- at right tackle. He will likely get better, but it will take time. Reese gave left tackle Will Beatty a five-year, $37.5-million contract during the offseason and Beatty has not yet lived up to it. He surrendered three sacks in Sunday's 38-0 beatdown by the Carolina Panthers.
The biggest issue, though, is in the center of the line. Right guard Chris Snee is aging and dealing with a hip injury for the second straight year. David Baas, signed back in 2011 to play center, has never been more than adequate at best. Left guard Kevin Boothe is a journeyman re-signed in the offseason who is not playing nearly as well this year as he did last season.
Veteran David Diehl has not yet played due to a thumb injury. All the Giants have behind them are mostly untested James Brewer, Brandon Mosley and Jim Cordle.
The key decision here was parting ways with Ahmad Bradshaw during the offseason and turning over the keys to the running game to 2012 first-round pick David Wilson. As of now, that has not worked out.
Moving on from Bradshaw and his often-injured feet was not in itself a poor decision. It made perfect sense to stop investing huge money in a player who's availability was always uncertain. Wilson, though, has yet to prove trustworthy. His two fumbles against the Dallas Cowboys cost the Giants dearly in Week 1. His blocking is suspect, and he hasn't proven he can run between the tackles.
The fractured leg suffered by Andre Brown has complicated the situation for the Giants.
Meanwhile, Bradshaw is averaging 4.5 yards per carry for the Indianapolis Colts (41 carries, 186 yards) and remains one of the best blockers in the league from the running back spot.
Defensive Front Seven
The Giants and defensive end Osi Umenyiora, often involved in a contentious relationship, parted ways. The Giants dumped defensive tackles Chris Canty, Marvin Austin and Rocky Bernard. They got rid of starting linebackers Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn.
After three games, the Giants have three sacks. Umenyiora, now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, has two sacks and a pass interception he returned 68 yards for a touchdown.
The Giants really had little choice but to part ways with Umenyiora as the player and organization had seemed to tire of each other. They counted on Jason Pierre-Paul to return to All-Pro form this season, but offseason back surgery has slowed him. They drafted rookie Damontre Moore, but a preseason injury has thus far turned Moore into a non-factor.
This move may turn out fine, but right now it doesn't look good.
The rebuilt defensive interior, with Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson added at defensive tackle, have not yet made an impact. Second-round pick Johnathan Hankins has yet to be active for a game. The linebacking corps remains non-descript, and suffered a blow when middle linebacker Dan Connor was placed on IR.
What About the Draft?
Reese is fond of saying that he expects the players he drafts in the first three rounds to play and, by extension, be impact players. Let's take a quick look at the first three rounds of Reese's last three drafts
2011: Round 1 -- CB Prince Amukamara; Round 2 -- DT Marvin Austin; Round 3 -- WR Jerrel Jernigan
No issue with Amukamara, a starting cornerback and good player. The Giants released the unproductive Austin at the end of training camp. Jernigan has never found a role.
2012: Round 1 -- RB David Wilson; Round 2 -- WR Rueben Randle; Round 3 -- CB Jayron Hosley
Wilson is the starter at running back, for better or worse. Randle looks like he could become a terrific playmaker. Hosley, however, can't get on the field. After struggling as a rookie, he is buried on the depth chart watching veterans Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas play.
2013: Round 1 -- OT Justin Pugh; Round 2 -- DT Johnathan Hankins; Round 3 -- DE Damontre Moore
It is absolutely unfair to judge this draft already, yet it is fair to say that as of now the draft has not paid dividends. Pugh is starting at right tackle and struggling in pass protection. Hankins has yet to be activated for any games. Moore suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason and has yet to earn a spot in regular defensive line rotation.
When the season began Reese put everyone on notice that missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years was not acceptable. It is possible that, in the end, all of the decisions he made in building the 2013 Giants will work out well for the Giants. Reese has a track record that means he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
If they don't work out, though, Reese is going to have to look in the mirror and accept a good chunk of the blame. Right now it looks like he might have left the Giants without enough talent to get the job done.
Ed Valentine covers the Giants for Big Blue View, part of the SB Nation network.
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