By Shawn Lealos
No one really expected the Dallas Cowboys to open the 2014 NFL season with a 5-1 record, and fewer people expected them to beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. On the other hand, the New York Giants have played a season where they have looked great in three games and incompetent in three. With the Dallas Cowboys’ first divisional game of 2014 coming up with the Giants, here is a look at the Cowboys’ opponents for their week seven game.
Which Giants Team Will Show Up?
This season’s New York Giants are very schizophrenic. The first two games of the season saw the Giants unable to compete, losing by a combined score of 60-28. In those two games, Eli Manning threw for an average of 220 yards per game with four interceptions compared to three touchdowns. Then, something clicked over the next three weeks and the Giants heated up and beat up the Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons by a combined score of 105-51. It was a completely different looking team and it appeared that New York’s season was turning around.
New Offensive Scheme
The biggest reason that the Giants struggled so hard early on was because of a new offensive system implemented by Ben McAdoo, a West Coast system that he brought with him from Green Bay. A lot of people blamed Eli Manning, who threw more interceptions in those first two losses than touchdowns, but Manning was beaten up in those games. Even when the Giants started winning, Manning was still always looking over his shoulder for the next big hit.
The other problem is that the West Coast offense requires a special type of skill player to operate that passing system effectively, and outside of Victor Cruz, the Giants don’t have those players. That marks a lot of problems coming for the Giants against Dallas, and everyone else throughout what will be a very long season.
That only pure weapon in the Giants’ offense – Victor Cruz – is finished for the 2014 NFL season. On a play against the Philadelphia Eagles in week five, where Cruz leaped up for a pass in the end zone, he felt something give in his knee. Cruz, on that play, tore his right patellar tendon and will undergo surgery to fix it. He won’t be back until the 2015 NFL season.
Cruz led the Giants with 23 receptions for 337 yards and one touchdown on the young NFL season. Rueben Randle has more receptions this season than Cruz, but almost 100 fewer yards on those receptions. Cruz was the big play receiver for the Giants, and without him, they are severely limited to what they can do on offense. Odell Beckham Jr., the big name rookie that New York hoped could become a star, has only six receptions through six games.
The one area of the Giants’ offense that is still playing well is the running back position. It seems hard to believe that the guys that the Giants developed over the past few seasons at running back have all now fallen behind the one big 2014 free agent signing for New York. Rashad Jennings came over after serving as a backup in Oakland for years and became a star. Jennings has 396 rushing yards and two touchdowns so far on the season, as well as 11 receptions for 109 yards. It is clear that Manning will rely on Jennings more with Cruz out for the season.
For years, the New York Giants defense carried the team to great heights. This season, New York is ranked 24th against the pass, 18th against the run and 26th overall. They are giving up 23 points and 378 yards a game. Heading in to face the NFL’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray and a very hot Tony Romo, this could be a long game for the New York Giants.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.