"Behind Enemy (Side)Lines is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, the New York Post's Paul Schwartz, who has been covering the team since 1994, gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent.
The New York Giants are off to a 0-2 start this year. Why? What's been ailing them through the first few weeks of the season?
"Well, if you saw the Giants at the start of last year's season, you would know why. Remarkably, a lot of the same problems they had last year when they lost their first six games are the same problems they're having this year. Turnovers, very, very inconsistent offense, inability to run the ball. I think they were 29th in the league last year in running and I think they are 29th again this year after two games. Defense giving up big plays. The defense was really solidified, they thought, in the offseason in the defensive backfield but they've given up a lot of big plays. Giants are the only team in the league, I believe, that has not caused a turnover and they've turned the ball over six times in two games. So, all these things add up to an 0-2 record."
Has the addition of a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo made a difference? How has the team adjusted to his new system?
"Yes, it's made a difference but it hasn't made an improvement right now. A brand new system, it's a West Coast offense. The Giants and Eli Manning have run the same system basically for decades. Eli was comfortable in it. Last year, he led the league with 27 interceptions. The offense really regressed last year. Don't forget, this is a team that won two Super Bowls in a four or five-year span with a very, very high-powered offense. A lot of the players are gone and now the system is gone so the buzzwords are all "a work in progress" and it was. A lot of times it was a work with not much progress.
"They were 5-0 in the preseason but the starting offense was very bad. Showed very, very small areas of improvement, sometime not at all and carried that over into the regular season. The offensive line is different but not really better right now. The running game hasn't really gotten started. Admittedly, these guys are not yet perfectly attuned to what they want to do on offense, so a little confusion added into the mix certainly doesn't help."
Is Eli Manning a good fit for the West Coast offense?
"Most quarterbacks can adapt to it. You think of a West Coast offense as a quarterback who wants to get the ball out of his hands quick, maybe a little bit of a rolling pocket. Eli on the move is not what anybody envisions what his strengths are. Getting the ball out of his hands quickly, yeah. He's done that in the past before but he's more of a "Drop it, look, look, look, find the matchup, and then throw the ball." Some people think it's a little bit of a square peg in a round hole kind of thing, but some experts I talk to, Phil Simms, Rich Gannon - Rich Gannon really had his career rejuvenated by the West Coast offense - thinks he can run it. McAdoo and Tom Coughlin both think he can."
"You know, last week he looked good against the Cardinals. He had four or five dropped passes. One of the interceptions was a Hail Mary at the end of the game, not going to count that. Statistically, it counts but it wasn't really a bad throw. His other interception was on a pass he almost tried to take back when Victor Cruz slipped. Victor Cruz has had a rough start to this season so that's been a problem for Eli also. He's clearly not as comfortable as he was in the system he ran for 10 years, but it looks like he's getting there. I don't think he's the problem right now. It's a lot of things around him that are the problem."
You mention wide receivers, how much have injuries and drops plagued the receiving corp?
"The receivers are not off to a good start. This was supposed to be a system where they got the ball into their hands quickly. Eli gets it out of his hands and gets it into the receivers more quickly and they have a chance to make a move, make guys miss. Yards after catch have really been poor this year. The leading receiver is a guy named Larry Donnell, a tight end who came into the year with just one or two career catches and was considered a weak link. The whole tight end position was considered a weak link. He's played very well, surprisingly well, but Victor Cruz, as I mentioned, has four drops in two games. Reuben Randle had a beautiful, one-handed touchdown catch against the Cardinals but he's off to not a great start. Their third receiver, Jerrel Jernigan, hasn't done much and now he's got a mid-foot sprain so he'll be out a while. So the receivers have struggled just like the whole offense has struggled."
What looks promising about the Giants that one may not see in the final score of these losses?
"Well it shouldn't be too long of an answer. They look better on offense against the Cardinals. They sustained drives, they moved the ball. Eli looked sharp; they just kept on turning the ball over.
"The defensive pass rush was good last week, four sacks and at times they look capable against the run. They did not look that great against (RB Andre) Ellington and the Cardinals. Really, not much has gone consistently well against in any way, shape, or form and the underlying theme is that the Giants were blown away in the opener against Detroit and played well enough to lose this last game because they really, really just made incredible errors to shoot themselves in the foot."
What's going to be the biggest challenge for the Giants as they head into Sunday's game with the Texans?
"If the Giants go 0-3, the statistical percentage of making the playoffs are infinitesimal so the Giants are really looking at this as a game that they have to win at home, second-straight home game. The keys are that they will have to control Foster and the running game, make Fitzpatrick a one-dimensional, have-to-throw-it quarterback. It looks like's he's been very efficient this season. He hasn't been a star, but obviously he's a smart guy. We all know where he went to school.
"I think the Giants just have to attend their business. Look, the Giants have to win the turnover battle. It's a cliché but it's ridiculous. They just really cannot hold onto the ball and cannot take it away and you just can't win that way."