How NY Giants OC Jason Garrett should fix sagging offense | NFL Insider Ralph Vacchiano

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Daniel Jones drops back vs. Broncos
Daniel Jones drops back vs. Broncos

The excuse last season for Jason Garrett was that his offense didn’t have any of its weapons after injuries ripped apart his unit. Even his quarterback wasn’t healthy. And really, the Giants were doomed the moment Saquon Barkley was carted away.

Those excuses won’t work anymore.

It doesn’t matter how much time key players missed this summer, or that tight end Evan Engram is still out. Most of the Giants’ offensive pieces are in place now. Daniel Jones, Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, even Kadarius Toney -- they’re all there. And they’re all healthy – or at least healthy enough. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, too.

If the Giants are going to have any chance of being competitive this season, if Garrett hopes to keep his job, they simply must do better than they did on Sunday when they scored 13 points – and that included a meaningless touchdown on the last play of the game. And their offensive revival has to happen now, in Washington on Thursday.

There’s no reason why it can’t happen quickly. Here’s what the Giants offensive coordinator has to do:

Treat Kenny Golladay like the No. 1 receiver

Golladay caught a 17-yard pass about two minutes into the second quarter and then wasn’t even targeted again until there was less than nine minutes left in the game. So for about 34 minutes of game time – and 12 pass attempts by Jones – their best receiver was missing in action.

That’s a waste of a guy who just signed a four-year, $72 million contact. And don’t blame his hamstring, either. He was on the field for 85 percent of the offensive snaps (52 of 61). Jones was doing a lot of dumping off to running backs and tight ends and leaning on Shepard and Slayton instead.

New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) and quarterback Daniel Jones (8) talk during OTA practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Friday, June 4, 2021, in East Rutherford.
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) and quarterback Daniel Jones (8) talk during OTA practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Friday, June 4, 2021, in East Rutherford.

But in the fourth quarter, Golladay showed the Giants what they were missing. He caught three passes for 47 yards and drew a pass interference penalty. Sure, the Broncos defense was laying back a bit to protect a lead at that point. But still, the 6-4, 214-pound Golladay showed his strengths. He’s big and strong and can make tough catches and really draw the attention of the defense.

He needs to be involved. Sometimes it has to be forced. It’s not a bad thing to just throw him a ball in tight coverage and let their best receiver see if he can make a play.

Work TE Kyle Rudolph in early

He’s not the receiver he once was, and he’s not as dangerous even as Engram, but he’s big (6-6, 265) and was added because of his good hands. But he was used sparingly as a receiver, despite being on the field for 77 percent of the plays (47 of 61). Three of his five targets came in the final 6 ½ minutes of the game.

Rudolph can be a great asset, though, especially if the Giants’ offensive line isn’t holding up. Tight ends can be ideal “hot” receivers. Rudolph, to be sure, is a better bet for a dump-off pass than, say, fullback Eli Penny. Coming off a foot injury, Rudolph probably isn’t a threat to stretch the field or turn a short pass into a big gain, but he can help pick up small-to-medium chunks of yardage, which might get this offense moving.

Actually commit to the run

They didn’t have the ball a lot and the run wasn’t working great, but neither of those is a good excuse in a game where they weren’t really out of it until the fourth quarter. They ran on just six of 20 first-half plays (not counting Jones scrambles) and on only nine of their first 30 plays.

They basically said to the Broncos: We’re one-dimensional. We know Barkley isn’t himself yet. So go ahead, send your best at Jones.

Sometimes you have to run just to show you’re willing to run.

Sep 12, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) hands off to running back Saquon Barkley (26) during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium.
Sep 12, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) hands off to running back Saquon Barkley (26) during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium.

This may be a passing league, but this much hasn’t changed: Teams have to at least establish the threat of the run to make the other team believe it’s a possibility. And OK, Barkley isn’t Barkley yet, but they gave Devontae Booker a two-year, $5.5 million deal presumably to touch the ball more than five times in a game. Also, how many times have we heard that Barkley is Barry Sanders-like, in that he can be stuffed 10 times and then break a 70-yarder on the 11th?

Even at 60 percent, or wherever he is, that threat can still exist – but not if the Giants just abandon the run entirely so early in the game.

Take more deep shots

They’ve already set the stage for Thursday night, talking about how Washington is so good at taking away big plays. Maybe it’s a rope-a-dope, but they made it sound like they’re expecting another conservative approach, out of necessity if not by choice.

But they have a couple of good deep threats in Golladay and Slayton, both of whom are capable of making tough catches and stretching the field. Yes, some of this will have to do with how well the offensive line holds up, but if Jones gets the decent protection that he did in the opener, there should be more mid-range passes – think 15-25 yards – and a few bombs sprinkled in, too.

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) makes a catch in the first half of a game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, December 20, 2020, in East Rutherford.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) makes a catch in the first half of a game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, December 20, 2020, in East Rutherford.

Give the playmakers a chance to make plays. And it will have the added bonus of stretching the defense and making them wary of putting too many defenders in the box, even if some of those deep shots initially fail.

Find a role for rookie WR Kadarius Toney

Garrett promised to be “specific and purposeful” with how he used the Giants’ first-round pick. OK. They handed him the ball for an end-around that fooled no one and lost six yards on the first drive. Then Jones threw him a swing pass that went for four yards on the second drive. And then …

That was it. Those were two of his five snaps. They couldn’t even find a use for him in the fourth quarter when they were essentially running an extended two-minute drill. Yes, he missed a lot of time this summer with his hamstring and COVID and whatever else. But he’s been back at practice for a couple of weeks. The Giants have raved about his explosive ability, his speed, his shifty moves, praised him for leaning the playbook.

This isn’t some unknown sixth-round pick. He’s a first-rounder. He’s supposed to be good. If they believe he is – and they sure seem to -- they have to find creative ways to use him and, at the very least, have him on the field for more than five plays.