Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bob Sturm scouts the opponent: Struggling Giants have lost their winning ways

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray carries against the Giants (Louis DeLuca / Staff Photographer)
The Giants’ last victory was Oct. 5 against Atlanta. Since then, they have lost five consecutive contests during which they have been outscored 152-72, or an average final score of 30-14. It should be noted that the level of competition has been stiff, with all five opponents during that stretch currently boasting winning records.
The five straight losses have shown that the Giants are not up to the task in the trenches. They’ve been outrushed 955-398, have repeatedly lost the turnover battle and averaged 26:30 in time of possession.
In other words, they are not winning games the way successful Giants teams have done, and therefore are on the brink of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. This fact goes largely unnoticed because they have also won two Super Bowls in eight seasons.
Feast or famine has been the theme under Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, with no sign of the drought ending soon. Let’s look at some key components for the Giants’ present and future prospects.
WR Odell Beckham
The 2014 first-round pick from LSU started slow with hamstring issues and will play in his seventh game of the season Sunday. But, as he clearly showed when the Giants played at AT&T Stadium last month, Beckham is having no problem adjusting to the NFL.
He has a blend of blazing speed and fearless physicality that makes him a real threat in all situations. He has phenomenal ball skills, routinely makes the circus catch and in his last three games has 21 catches for 357 yards.
Beckham has huge hands that generally attack the ball, and he can mix in frightening return skills. In a season mostly without Victor Cruz, Beckham has grown quickly into the top option for Manning, as he has found big plays down the right sideline and underneath each week.
DT Johnathan Hankins
He has been a real find in his second year from Ohio State. He has taken over in the trenches for the Giants after Linval Joseph signed with Minnesota in free agency .
Hankins has been in on all base defense snaps, usually as the 1-technique (outside shoulder of the center). He has proved to be exceptional in his first year of heavy work, plugging the run effectively because of his massive frame that is listed conservatively at 6-2, 320.
But where he has really turned heads this season is when the Giants can isolate him on a guard from the 3-technique (outside shoulder of a guard) on early-down passes to provide a tremendous inside pass rush. Anytime a player who resembles a speed bump run-stuffer can rack up routine quarterback sacks and pressures on first and second down, you have something to get excited about.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
It has been a difficult season for Rodgers-Cromartie after he signed a five-year, $35 million ($14 million guaranteed) deal in the offseason.
The speedy cover man, who had an excellent 2013 season in Denver following his disappointing stint in Philadelphia, has not been healthy in 2014. With hamstring and back ailments, he has missed large chunks of in-game action each week in which he’s had to sit out plays because he cannot physically perform.
When healthy, he would be an ideal matchup for Dez Bryant, but in Week 7, he played only 15 snaps in Arlington, allowing Bryant to feast on an overmatched Prince Amukamara (who is now on injured reserve with a torn biceps).

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