This offseason, the biggest question about the New York Giants was regarding their offensive line. We all knew the Giants’ defense would be solid. We knew that they had playmakers in Odell Beckham Jr. and company. What we didn’t know was if the offensive line could give quarterback Eli Manning enough time to get the ball into the hands of his most dangerous weapons.
Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, we got our answer. The Giants’ line leaked like a sieve, and Manning was under constant pressure. If Manning wasn’t getting rushed or sacked, he was getting the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible, seemingly hearing the footsteps of the Dallas pursuit. This team is too talented in too many areas to let this season be derailed by the poor play of tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart.
The Giants may get Beckham back from injury this week when they play the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football which will certainly help. Beckham is a generational talent that will make everyone around him better. When he is on the field, the defense has to commit two or three defenders to track him. That will open up opportunities for the Giants’ other receivers. Eli still won’t have much time in the pocket but Beckham can turn a three-yard slant into an 80-yard touchdown at any time. Getting “OBJ” back on the field will make things easier, but this offense will remain lost without a running game.
Against Dallas, the Giants abandoned the run game too early. The running game was not working effectively at all but they needed to stick with it more. The Cowboys’ pass rushers were pinning their ears back and looking to tee off on Manning. Running the ball more would have at least kept the defense honest. To have any chance of a successful season, the Giants need to find a way to produce a viable rushing attack.
There is no cure all for the Giant’s woes. No quick adjustment is going to turn Flowers and Hart into quality NFL tackles. The Giants are going to need to work with what they have to help Manning out. The best fix for the Giants is to pull Paul Perkins as their starting running back and give the reins over to Orleans Darkwa.
Last week, Perkins rushed seven times for 16 yards. Darkwa saw only three carries, but produced 14 yards on them. Yes, it is a very small sample size. However, in his few years in the NFL, Darkwa has looked good every time the Giants have put the ball in his hands. To understand why that is, allow me a strange analogy: The Giants are trying to be a classical orchestra, when they need to be a jazz band.
The Giants’ run blocking is going to be bad this season. It may improve from what we saw in Dallas last week but even improved, they won’t be very good. Perkins can be a productive runner when things go according to plan. He’s effective when he has good blocking. The Giants do not have good blocking. In contrast, Darkwa is the better “bad blocking” runner. If there isn’t a hole to run through, Perkins is going to fail to produce yardage. Darkwa can turn nothing into at least a few positive yards, something the Giants desperately need.
A well running offense is like a finely tuned machine. Everyone knows their job, does it effectively and things run smoothly and according to plan. It is not unlike a classical orchestra or a well trained marching band. Jazz, on the other hand, is all about improvisation. There is much less structure and the musicians produce melody through working with what they have. Perkins can be a good contributor in a balanced orchestra. Since the Giants lack that balance, Darkwa can navigate the chaos and find times to shine. (It’s also strangely fitting for the analogy that Darkwa’s first name is “Orleans,” as New Orleans is the center of the Jazz Universe).
This is a switch the Giants need to make. It’s not going to solve all of their problems. Although he would be more effective than Perkins, Darkwa is not suddenly going to turn into Walter Payton if he gets more touches. But he can give the Giants a runner that other teams need to respect before they rush into the backfield to hammer Manning yet again. The Giants won’t be able to fix all of their offensive issues this season but they can make improvements on what they have. They just need to listen to the music.