By SAMANTHA DESMOND
This weekend, Giants fans across the country hung up their dancing shoes. Victor Cruz’s season ended with a devastating knee injury, and there will be no salsa until the 2015 season – best-case scenario.
The Giants did not simply lose a key offensive weapon in an embarrassing shut–out loss in Philadelphia on Sunday night. Their three-game win streak, a stretch that showed so much promise, came to a crashing halt. The offense was in shambles. The defense barely had a pulse. The collective issues that plagued the club during the preseason resurfaced. A meltdown of this magnitude could not come at a worse time for Big Blue – they face a grueling five games ahead, and a remaining schedule that they would be extraordinarily fortunate to emerge 8-8 from.
The loss in Philadelphia was debilitating. An offensive unit that was already without its number one running back failed to produce anything other than a slew of cringe worthy plays. In the absence of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams failed to produce any substantial numbers, accumulating 59 yards on 17 touches. That “rebuilt” offensive line could not have been more porous. Eli Manning didn’t have a hope or prayer once the ball was snapped, falling victim to six sacks (with another two on Ryan Nassib) that cost the Giants more than 40 yards. The disjointed unit produced only 254 yards of offense against a Philadelphia defensive unit that many experts declared as overrated.
The Giants defense, which allowed 27 points and a whopping 448 yards of offense (despite two interceptions thrown by Nick Foles), looked lost. The pass rush was nonexistent. Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense was dominant. Even LeSean McCoy, who had not been in a factor during the first six weeks, reached nearly 150 yards on the ground, highlighting the weaknesses in the Giants defense against the rush.
It seemed that it couldn’t get any worse. But as Giants fans know all too well, bad escalates to your worst nightmare in the blink of an eye. And that’s all it took. Blink, and you might have missed the moment Victor Cruz went down in the third quarter, suffering a season-ending tear to his patellar tendon. Although Cruz successfully underwent surgery to repair the tear earlier this week, doctors have been quick to point out that a number of factors affect Cruz’s recovery. While a full recovery is expected, Cruz has a lengthy road ahead. And the Giants now face a lengthy remainder to the season without another offensive weapon.
In the wake of Cruz’s injury, the Giants announced late Tuesday that they had signed former Cowboys and Lions receiver Kevin Ogletree. Although Ogletree was likely brought on to backup Beckham Jr., Randle and Parker in the receiving game, his lackluster past leaves much to be desired should he see playing time down the line. While Beckham continues to show promise after recovering from a pesky hamstring, and Randle continues to show consistency and reliability for a flustered Eli Manning, Parker has hardly been a pillar of trust for the Giants offense. If Ogletree does play, he will be expected to step up and create opportunities in a stretch of difficult matchups.
Over the next five games, the Giants face the Cowboys, who are rolling and looking better each week, twice. If that wasn’t enough, factor in games against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks and a far from shaky San Francisco squad. If the Giants play anything like they did in Philadelphia, realistically, they don’t have a prayer at winning any of those matchups. With a week 8 bye offering some rest between Dallas and Indianapolis, Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin will have the opportunity to right the ship if things go south in Dallas, which almost anyone expects at this point.
How will the Giants stay afloat over the next few weeks? For starters, the offensive line needs to get serious. Jerry Reese could find better blocking in a Pee Wee league. Without a solid offensive line, Eli Manning cannot execute the West Coast offense that McAdoo is selling. Rashad Jennings, should he return after the week 8 bye, will help open up the passing game as a duel threat back, but neither he nor Andre Williams can produce adequate yardage if defenders are finding the backfield. Larry Donnell, who exploded against the Redskins and was touted as the answer to the Giants prayers, has been silent over the last few games, but the injury to Cruz should see increased targets coming his way. To put it simply, the Giants offense needs to execute quickly and eradicate errors, because the defense, at this point, cannot be trusted to keep a game close.
Sunday afternoon’s battle in Dallas will set the tone for the next few games. Although the Cowboys are notorious for faltering, usually at the hands of Tony Romo (literally), the Giants lack momentum and confidence going into the weekend. If I were Eli, I would double up on the pads and purchase Aleve in bulk.
Big Blue will be lucky to make it out of Dallas alive.