Last night’s Sunday Night Football game between the Giants and the Cowboys sparked the inevitable debate about the Giants decision to take Saquon Barkley over a quarterback such as Sam Darnold at the second pick of the NFL Draft. Watching the entire game last night reaffirmed my original assessment of the New York Giants. The problem is much bigger than Eli Manning, who in my opinion may just be a minor problem for this 2018 Giants team.
Yes, there’s no doubt that Eli Manning has missed some throws throughout the past two weeks. I also don’t believe that he’s the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t be a capable game managing quarterback with all the weapons he has around him. Eighty percent of Eli’s problems right now have to do with the horrendous offensive line play. If you have an offensive line that is not capable of protecting the quarterback, then your team is not going to win games, and it’s as simple as that. The Cowboys sacked Eli Manning six times yesterday, including a strip-sack where linebacker Damien Wilson went completely unblocked the entire way.
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2018
What is Eli Manning supposed to do here? Any quarterback has trouble dealing with that play, not just Eli Manning. Manning is not the only quarterback in the league isn’t mobile and needs good protection up front. If Phillip Rivers had the offensive line of the Giants, he’d be getting killed too. You see this at the college level as well with Florida State. The Seminoles have a pretty good quarterback in DeAndre Francois and are getting destroyed, not being able to put up more than seven points against Syracuse completely due to not having an offensive line.
As a result of this, Eli Manning spent the majority of last night catching a snap and immediately throwing a two-yard dump off to Saquon Barkley, who had a Giants record 14 receptions for only 80 yards. In addition, he only carried the ball 11 times for 28 yards. Those Saquon Barkley stats alone are just another sign of how bad this offensive line unit is. These were a really good 108 all purpose yards by Saquon Barkley also, as he broke at least seven tackles, several of which were behind the line of scrimmage.
Eli Manning doesn’t even have time to let wide receiver routes develop downfield. He legitimately has less than a second to get the ball out of his hand before being knocked down by the defender. Imagine if a rookie quarterback like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen were faced with this type of pressure in their first career game, and they didn’t have Saquon Barkley to dump the ball off to when in trouble? This game could have been a 40-point blowout with a rookie quarterback and no Saquon Barkley for the New York Giants.
The offensive line is something that Giants GM Dave Gettlemen tried to revamp in the offseason, as he signed LT Nate Soldier from the Patriots, drafted RG Will Hernandez, moved Erick Flowers to right tackle, and signed C Jon Halapio and LG Patrick Omameh. This brand-new unit has been the worst in the National Football League, and just lost Halapio for the season to a broken leg and ankle.
So now the Giants are in a similar situation to what they were in a year ago, but with Saquon Barkley and a few less players. They’re 0-2 with the worst offensive line in football. So now where do Dave Gettleman and the Giants go from here after this season? If you look at Twitter, 95% of people say they’re going to take a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I’m not sold on that. The 2019 quarterback class is extremely weak. There’s Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and that’s about it. If all of these quarterbacks were in the 2018 draft, I’m not sure they’d be first round picks. The Giants already held off one time for a quarterback, and I think Dave Gettleman would do it again in favor of getting a franchise offensive tackle such as Jonah Williams of Alabama or Dalton Risner of Kansas State.
If this were the case, the Giants would sign Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor in free agency to compete with Eli Manning for the 2019 starting quarterback job. Both of these guys are mobile quarterbacks, and might be a better fit behind a growing offensive line. They could also both run the option with running back Saquon Barkley as he did at Penn State with quarterback Trace McSorley.
There’s still other problems the Giants have on the defensive side of the ball such as a pass rush and secondary which makes me think that with Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, they’d probably go 7-9 or 8-8 at max, setting themselves up for another top-15 pick in 2020. The 2020 NFL Draft will finally be the draft that the Giants get their quarterback of the future. This is a class that features Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, two guys that I think are going to be NFL stars one day and probably the first two picks in that draft. The Giants should trade up and draft one of them at all costs. At this point, you have improved your offensive line, while waiting patiently for the right franchise quarterback, and still having two of the best offensive talents in the NFL in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Dave Gettleman’s plan. I think it makes sense to draft offensive line and wait another year for a quarterback if 2019 is indeed a weak class. Just imagine a team that features Tua Tagovailoa, Saquon Barkley, and Odell Beckham Jr. They’d be a scary team for years to come. Just saying.