For the second week in a row, the New York Giants will take a trip to Texas. Last Sunday night, the Giants scuffled through a rough first half on their way to a 20-13 loss to the rival Dallas Cowboys. This week, they return to Texas for a matchup with the Texans, the first time in eight years the Giants have been in Houston.
Eli Manning has never lost to Houston as a starting quarterback, registering wins in 2006, 2010 and 2014. In 2014, the 2-0 Texans faced an 0-2 Giants squad with Manning throwing four interceptions with just three touchdowns in the two losses. But, against the Texans that day, Manning found his footing, completing 75 percent of his passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-17 Giants win.
The 2018 Giants seem to be following a similar script with a much more talented roster. Running back Saquon Barkley is clearly one of the best young running backs in the league already. Odell Beckham Jr. is a top three receiver in the NFL as well. Tight end Evan Engram isn't really a tight end as much as he is one of the best young pass catchers in this league, regardless of position. So, why are the Giants 0-2? Let's get to know the 2018 Giants
Rushing yards per game - 74.5 ypg (28th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 215.0 ypg (24th)
Total offense per game - 289.5 ypg (28th)
Turnovers lost - 3
Giants starting offense last Sunday night at Dallas:
QB - Eli Manning
RB - SAQUON BARKLEY (rookie)
WR - Odell Beckham Jr.
WR - Sterling Shepard
TE - Evan Engram
TE - Rhett Ellison
LT - NATE SOLDER
LG - WILL HERNANDEZ (rookie)
C - Jon Halapio
RG - PATRICK OMAMEH
RT - Ereck Flowers
Other key offensive pieces:
RB - Wayne Gallman
RB - JONATHAN STEWART
WR - Cody Latimer
**All caps indicates a 2018 offseason addition
Keys to the Giants offense:
Saquon Barkley is the true epitome of a three-down running back. He's strong. He's powerful. He's faster than anyone on the field. Any field, actually. The Giants fell in love with him in the draft process and made him the number two selection in the 2018 draft. He's already made highlight plays in his short career in the NFL. His 68-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars was sublime. He had 14 catches in last week's game against the Cowboys. He's a weapon all over the field.
That said, in his remaining 28 carries, he's averaging 2.4 yards per carry. The Jaguars (outside of that one touchdown run) and the Cowboys did a great job bottling him up with multiple defenders. That's the key in stopping Barkley: it's a TEAM effort. He'll embarrass a tackler one-on-one with speed and/or power, which means that the Texans need every hat possible to the football when 26 totes the rock. Furthermore, when opposing defenses are sound with run fits, Barkley is prone to give ground and bounce runs looking for a lane to the outside. That could provide some tackles for a loss, which creates long situations, which creates passing situations, which creates pressure opportunities for the Texans pass rushers against a less-than-average offensive line. How do the Texans get opportunities to rush the quarterback? Shut down Barkley.
Giants pass catcher Evan Engram might be third on the Giants in receptions through two games, but he's capable of turning in an eight or nine reception, two touchdown performance in a quick minute. He's explosive in the passing game and creates a ton of issues for linebackers and secondary members.
The question with Engram is how do you cover him? He's too quick for most linebackers and bigger, often times faster, than most safeties. He can get vertical down the seam, work the middle of the field and even flex out and play true wide receiver, on occasion. Furthermore, amongst the Giants perimeter player group, he's overshadowed by both Beckham Jr. and Barkley. Yet, he's not an afterthought for the Giants offense and it'll exploit the Texans defense if Engram isn't accounted for in full this week.
He's not Rob Gronkowski but can impact the game in a similar manner. As such, Gronk had a stellar day in limited reps against the Texans. The good news, in some respects, is that Gronk came up with his biggest catches of the day using his strength and size on Texans linebackers and safeties. Engram doesn't have that advantage, but he's much more explosive with receiver-like speed and agility that present issues down the field.
Rushing yards allowed per game - 137.5 ypg (29th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 164.0 ypg (2nd)
Total offense allowed per game - 301.5 ypg (6th)
Turnovers generated - 1
Giants starting defense last Sunday night at Dallas:
DE - Kerry Wynn
DT - Dalvin Tomlinson
DT - Damon 'Snacks' Harrison
SAM - KAREEM MARTIN
ILB - ALEC OGLETREE
ILB - B.J. Goodson
CB - Janoris Jenkins
CB - Eli Apple
NCB - B.W. WEBB
S - Landon Collins
S - CURTIS RILEY
Other key defensive pieces:
DE - B.J. HILL (Rookie)
OLB - CONNOR BARWIN
ILB - Ray-Ray Armstrong
**All caps indicates a 2018 offseason addition
Keys to the Giants defense:
Through two weeks, the Texans lead the league in rushing, averaging 157.5 yards per game. Through two weeks, the Giants are one of the four worst teams in the NFL stopping the run, yielding 137.5 yards per game. Yet, it's not a fait accompli that the Texans will successfully pound the rock on Sunday because of one very large man - Damon 'Snacks' Harrison.
When the Texans faced Harrison as a New York Jet in 2015, he was dominant up front as any opponent I can remember. He finished the day with 12 tackles and was a monster in the middle that caused a ton of issues for the Texans offensive line. He's the one player that worries me the most about this Giants defense because of his ability to win at the line of scrimmage. Solo blocks? Forget it, he can eat those alive. Double teams aren't 100 percent effective. He's quick and agile for a large human being. The Texans have their hands full with Harrison up front but must find an answer to keep running the ball effectively.
Oh, and his partner Dalvin Tomlinson is a lighter clone of Harrison. So, the Texans interior of the line will be tested in a major way this weekend.
This 21 You Don't Want to See
In Blackjack, 21 is the holy grail. Everyone wants to see 21 on the green felt in front of them, but in a matchup with the New York Giants No. 21 is the last guy opposing offenses want to see. The Giants No. 21, Landon Collins, is one of the best safeties in the league because he impacts the run game and the pass game equally well.
He floats near the line of scrimmage to play the run effectively and is tied for third on the team in 2018 with 11 tackles. Most importantly, though, he's a true ball hawk playing in coverage. He's had multiple interception games in his career and is a ball magnet, ala Tyrann Mathieu. Those two just have a knack for finding the ball (must be a Louisiana thing) so the Texans must know where he is at all times and NEVER allow him to get involved in the passing game, throwing late in his vicinity.