Giants coach Pat Shurmur

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Keidel: Shurmur's Offensive Guru Skills Far From Evident So Far

Giants' O Has Produced Just 2 TDs In 2 Weeks

Jason Keidel
September 17, 2018 - 11:31 am

With the early success of Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams and the promise of Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, it seemed the NFL sliced open a fresh vein of rich coaching blood. All arrows pointed toward offense and anyone who can teach it. 

Keeping with the copycat ethos of the NFL, the Giants hired Pat Shurmur, who tweaked journeyman quarterback Case Keenum into a playoff passer. Shurmur, Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings came within one game of the Super Bowl last year, shoving Shurmur to the front of the head coaching line. 

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The Giants would have rehired Ray Handley just to rid themselves of the stench left by Ben McAdoo and the embarrassment of last season. But Shurmur seemed a choice based on wisdom, not desperation. Like McVay and Shanahan, Shurmur comes from a football family. He knows how to create good distance between the X's and O's, and his career path looks predictably and productively linear. 

Yet the Giants -- strapped with an arsenal of talent on offense and a head coach hired to finetune it into a scoring machine -- have stumbled into the end zone twice in two games. The second touchdown scored Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys was largely cosmetic. Already down 17 points with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning tossed a TD pass to Evan Engram, chopping the Cowboys' lead in half, yet miles away from the win. A field goal and failed onside kick made the final score 20-13, but no one watching or calling the game thought Dallas was ever in danger of losing. 

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In their first game, a 20-15 loss to Jacksonville, the Giants never led and never seemed like they would win. Likewise, the Cowboys jumped on the G-Men with a long touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Tavon Austin to open the game, and essentially coasted to the victory. The final dagger came from running back Ezekiel Elliott, who scored on a short run to make it 20-3. 

When the Giants took the ball with just under three minutes left in the first half, they had gained 54 total yards. While the Cowboys have some talent on defense, they hardly resemble the 1985 Bears, and they were dominated by the Panthers in Week 1. 

A head coach's first charge is to fix the quarterback. And Manning has looked old and even more immobile, if possible, than his standard, statuesque pocket presence. Manning (33-of-44, 279 yards, one TD, no interceptions) looked better Sunday than he did last week. But he has one scoring pass in eight quarters. Prized rookie running back Saquon Barkley (11 carries, 28 yards) averaged 2.5 yards a rush against Dallas, and if not for that 68-yard scamper against the Jaguars, he would be averaging less than 3 yards per carry for the season. 

Odell Beckham Jr., finally healed and financially whole, had nine catches but just 54 yards. The electric, eccentric wideout hasn't scored a TD in 2018 despite making the NFL his personal playground over his first three-plus years in the league. He's catching short passes with little room to run, and Manning has consistently missed him during long routes through open field. 

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Maybe more acute and troubling than the dearth of dominance from the skill players is the awful play of Big Blue's offensive line. Again, the Cowboys have some gifted pass rushers, but Dallas' D is not in Jacksonville's orbit. Yet the Cowboys sacked Manning six times, battered him many more and dropped him for 51 yards in losses. 

Now the Giants, who haven't score 30-plus points in a game since Week 17 of the 2015 season, of  are without the traditional leader of the offensive line, losing center Jon Halapio with a gruesome injury that required an air cast, a cart and solemn shoulder taps from teammates. So a rebuilt, robust line that was supposed to open holes and pad the pocket is already falling apart in September. 

There are still 14 games left in this sprawling NFL season. But since Shurmur is surely good with numbers, he probably knows that since 2007 only 10.9 percent of the 91 teams that stagger out to an 0-2 record make the playoffs. Luckily for the Giants' head coach, no team in the NFC East has jumped out to a 2-0 start. But if Big Blue doesn't score a big win next weekend -- no sure thing on the road against the equally desperate 0-2 Texans -- the odds of making the postseason are microscopic.

And you won't have to be an offensive guru to see how offensive the Giants are playing. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.