Preseason Week 2 Offensive Analysis: Red Zone Struggles Doom Giants in Loss

Jim Mancari, Contributor

The Giants lost to the Indianapolis Colts 20-12 in their second preseason game, but had it not been for a lack of production in the red zone, the outcome could have been different.

The Giants’ offense started three possessions in the first half at or inside the Colts’ 12-yard line. Yet, the team managed to just settle for two field goals and have a turnover on downs.

There were a few positives offensively, but overall, a lot of work still needs to be done. It didn’t help that David Baas and Victor Cruz both went down with injuries on the opening drive – though both X-rays (Baas’ left knee and Cruz’s left foot) came back negative.

Here’s a look at the performance of the different areas of the offense.

Eli Manning

Eli Manning couldn’t seem to find any consistent rhythm in this one. He saw plenty of pressure from the Colts’ defensive front and looked to be shaking off some rust.

He tried to force the ball into Hakeem Nicks on the interception. He also missed a few receivers badly, which is very uncharacteristic of him.

For the game, Manning was 8-of-17 for 91 yards with the one interception. He was sacked once for a loss of 13 yards.

It was nice to see Manning connect with Nicks for a 20-yard gain on the team’s second drive. Manning scrambled out of the pocket and hit Nicks, who had worked back to the sidelines after seeing the original play fall apart.

Manning played five drives, and for the most part, the team advanced the ball but then stalled in the red zone. This was the theme of last year’s Giants squad, so let’s hope that’s not the case again this season.

On the sideline, Manning said that the team put together a few good drives but just couldn’t finish. He said he was pleased with a few of the no-huddle plays the team ran but said there are plenty of adjustments that need to be made.

The Running Game

The Giants ran the ball pretty effectively all game. It wound up being an exact split in carries for David Wilson and Andre Brown with eight each. Brown gained 36 yards, while Wilson rushed for 34.

Wilson ripped off a 20-yard gain right on the opening drive. He also caught two passes out of the backfield, which can really give the Giants’ offense another gear if those plays work.

Brown was effective on third-down blitz pickup, which will be his role during the season since he is a more-experienced blocker than Wilson at this point. He also had a few key conversions, though he was stuffed short on the attempted fourth-down play.

If these two each accept their role, this can be an impressive running tandem. And if Michael Cox can provide a speed burst like he did in this one, then the Giants will really be in business.

Cox only gained four yards on two carries, but he caught two screen passes for 48 yards – breaking tackles in the process. Ryan Torain had a few decent carries, but Cox gave the offense a much-needed jolt. Granted, Cox’s main touches came against the Colts’ reserves, but maybe he could help out in the return game with that sort of speed burst.

The Passing Game

With Cruz exiting the game early, we still have not seen the Giants’ top three receivers all in there at the same time consistently. Nicks sat out last week and made his debut in this one, catching two passes for 40 yards.

As long as Nicks stays healthy, Manning will have his go-to target. Cruz suffered a bruised heel, and while he should be fine, it’s just a scary thought to have both these weapons limited based on injury.

Rueben Randle had two catches, and Louis Murphy Jr. added three. Ramses Barden caught four balls for 28 yards.

Rookie receiver Kevin Hardy did not have a great game. He dropped a pass on the opening drive that would have given the Giants a first down, if not a touchdown. Manning was visibly upset with that play.

Hardy was targeted four times but wound up with no catches. Not exactly the type of performance necessary for a guy fighting for a roster spot.

The tight end situation continues to be perplexing for this team. Brandon Myers and Adrien Robinson were each targeted just once, with neither recording a catch. Sure, the Giants have big-time wide receivers, but Kevin Gilbride will have to find a way to incorporate the tight end into the offense.

The Offensive Line

In some instances, Manning had plenty of time to throw in the pocket. But in others, Manning or David Carr had no time to react as the Colts’ front four burst into the backfield.

The Giants’ offensive line allowed six sacks, and nobody had a worse night up front than David Diehl.

On a few occasions, Diehl let his man blow right by him to get to Manning. Diehl started at right tackle and was out of position several times.

The Giants went with Diehl, Chris Snee, Baas, Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty to start. First-round draft pick Justin Pugh made is preseason debut with the second unit.

Jim Cordle replaced Baas at center early on, and Brandon Mosley saw time at right guard in place of Snee.

Second Unit Performance

For the second straight week, the Giants received a serviceable performance from Carr. He finished 7-of-11 for 57 yards passing. He was sacked three times though, which limited what he was able to do.

Again, Barden and Cox took positive strides in this one and can be very valuable depth options for the Giants should the need arise.

Ryan Nassib relieved Carr and had some trouble throwing the ball downfield. He did execute both screen passes to Cox very well.

The Giants will be carrying Nassib on the roster undoubtedly, so it will come down to Carr against Curtis Painter – who will see the bulk of the backup action next week – for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

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