One of the more intriguing offensive scheme changes this offseason is taking place in New York, where Ben McAdoo is revamping the Giants’ passing game.
Through two preseason games the results have been… well, mixed.
In theory there’s much to like about what McAdoo wants to do. His shorter drops should help protect Eli Manning, who was sacked a career-high 39 times last season in addition to being harried into 27 interceptions—another career high. And McAdoo’s stated goal of a 70% completion percentage for Manning would represent market improvement over his career mark of 58.5%.
The good news is, in limited preseason action Manning has completed two-thirds of his passes. However, Manning has been sacked twice on 11 dropbacks this preseason as the Giants work out kinks along their offensive line. Also, his 6.1 average yards per attempt represents his lowest mark in that area since his rookie season of 2004.
It’s an incredibly small sample size, and keep in mind that the Giants’ projected starting receiver rotation of Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and rookie Odell Beckham Jr. have combined for just one catch this preseason.
But that too is part of the problem. Beckham has been sidelined with hamstring issues, costing him valuable reps with Manning and in a new offense. When McAdoo was hired by the Giants Cruz lobbied for the Randall Cobb role in his Packers-based offense, but we have yet to see that come to fruition as well. And McAdoo’s scheme also calls for a pass-catching tight end, a void the Giants have yet to fill.
On the bright side, the power running game element you knew Tom Coughlin would cling to looks to be in good shape. Rashad Jennings has already busted off a 73-yard run en route to 108 preseason yards on a dozen carries, while rookie Andre Williams is averaging almost six yards per carry (14-83).
Plus, Coughlin now no longer has to worry about working David Wilson into the mix—and subsequently yanking him off the field one play/one fumble later.
With the ground game doing its thing—and, making fantasy owners happy, having been winnowed down to just a two-man committee at this point, the Giants need to focus on getting their air attack in order. Ultimately this offense will hinge on how Eli adjusts after 10 seasons of deeper drops and longer throws. The Giants have the luxury of an extra preseason game to work out the kinks, so it’s far too early to hit the panic button. But it’s extremely tough to trust Cruz as a top-10 wideout, Randle as a developing fantasy WR2 with upside, or Beckham as a first-year impact guy without having actually seen any supporting evidence.
Cruz told CBS New York this week that the full offense isn’t in yet, that it’s “a long process getting our legs up under us.” In the same report, guard Geoff Schwartz, signed as a free agent from the Chiefs this offseason, noted that Kansas City put in a new offense last season and it didn’t all come together until the 10th week of the season.
Fantasy owners won’t want to wait that long. And because you know the regulars won’t be playing in the exhibition finale, the Giants have two games to make those investing their fantasy futures in Cruz, Randle and the rest of the Giants feel good about doing so.