New York Giants Preview: Week 3 at Houston Texans
The New York Giants were punched in the mouth, both figuratively and literally at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. On Sunday, they return to the state of Texas, where they face off against the Houston Texans. Better known as, “The Fight for the First Win.” Both teams have displayed various struggles through two games, and now, they will both play for the first tally in the win column.
Here are some things to keep an eye on during Sunday’s game.
No Vernon or Apple
The Olivier Vernon saga continues for yet another week. The outside linebacker is still recovering from a high ankle sprain, which he suffered at the end of training camp. Head coach Pat Shurmur expressed his confidence that Vernon would return last week, but that didn’t happen. Week 3 looked to be the time for Vernon to make his 2018 debut, but he has been ruled out. With the Giants just generating one sack on the season, they sorely need Vernon’s pass-rushing abilities. In Vernon’s absence, expect to see a split in snaps between Connor Barwin and Lorenzo Carter, just like we saw in the first two games.
As for Apple, he has been one of the Giants’ more reliable corners, completely shedding his nightmarish 2017 season. However, he will sit out this Sunday due to a groin injury suffered against the Cowboys. Apple has been one of the better corners in the league, and it will sting for New York, especially when facing star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Expect to see B.W. Webb get the starting nod in Apple’s absence.
All or Nothing for O-Line
Let’s not sugarcoat it, the offensive line played a major factor in the Giant’s loss last week.
The hogmollies upfront had difficulty picking up on blitzes and stunts, which left quarterback Eli Manning stuck between a rock and a hard place. Manning was sacked six times by the Cowboys’ pass-rush, and you couldn’t blame his lack of mobility for it. There was absolutely no time for Manning to escape.
On paper, the o-line issues appeared to be solved after signing Nate Solder and drafting Will Hernandez. Yet, it looks like the same troubles at the line of scrimmage as years prior. The position took a huge hit in Dallas, as center Jon Halapio was lost for the season with a broken ankle. Now, veteran John Greco will be the starting center for the foreseeable future, who did shine in preseason action this summer.
Now, this unit will have to face a pass rush including J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and D.J. Reader, which is no easy task. And that’s putting it lightly. Expect them to attack the right side of the line, where Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh play in order to get to Manning. Shurmur, who is known for his work with offensive linemen, has to figure out something to resolve this ongoing issue.
According to reports from Sports of the Day, the Giants have been preparing for this game in training with Chad Wheeler replacing Ereck Flowers in the offensive line. Flowers has struggled for form in recent weeks so many fans will welcome the change if Wheeler is given his chance to impress against Houston.
Granted, New York’s offensive line imploded after every hike of the ball, which explains so many checkdown plays called on offense. Regardless, in the NFL, teams have to take shots down the field in order to win games.
The Giants ran so many dink-and-dunk plays due to the nonstop pressure from Dallas, and in turn left scoring chances on the field. The most notable was Odell Beckham Jr. standing alone in the endzone, but Manning threw it away due to an incoming blitz. Sterling Shepard has barely been targeted just 12 times this season, which is shocking, considering he is the No. 2 receiver on the depth chart.
Running back Saquon Barkley was the beneficiary of Manning’s passes, as he hauled in 14 receptions for 80 yards. One thing is for certain, no NFL team wants their running back to be the leading receiver for the game.
New York faces a Houston pass defense that has yielded 225 yards per game (12th-least in the league), which is isn’t exactly shut down. Yet, Houston’s rush defense is ranked 25th in the league, as they surrendered 111 yards per game. If the o-line leaves gaps open for Barkley, he can cause Houston to alter their defensive game plan and set their focus on stopping the run.
If the Giants want to win the game, they will have to throw the ball down field, specifically to Beckham. No doubt Houston will use the same method as Deshaun Watson will target Hopkins and Will Fuller frequently.
Can Defense Stop Watson?
The Texans have a quarterback in Watson, who has the ability to make an impact with his arm, as well as his feet. Fans got a glimpse of that last season, who looked prime to win Rookie of the Year before suffering a torn ACL midseason.
After struggling against the New England Patriots in Week 1, Watson bounced back against the Tennessee Titans. The Clemson product completed 22-of-32 passes for 310 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. That was through the air, but on the ground, Watson rushed for 44 yards on five carries. Yet, he did have trouble holding onto the ball, as he fumbled twice against Tennessee, but recovered both.
As mentioned earlier, the Giants pass-rush has left much to be desired. Watson will now be the third mobile quarterback New York will face this early on in the season. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher will have to find some way (any way) to put some sort of pressure on Watson, as it has been shown through the first two weeks of the season that he can turn the ball over.
The Giants-Texans game will air at 1 p.m. EST on FOX.
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