Opposition Research: Breaking Down The Giants

The only team who's first quarter of the season was as big a disappointment as the Chargers is probably the Giants. After going 11-5 and making the playoffs last season, expectations were lofty for the Giants and last year's elite defense, yet they find themselves winless like the Chargers.

The two 0-4 teams will meet at the Meadowlands, both looking to turn their seasons around. The Philip Rivers/Eli Manning matchup is always an intriguing storyline because of the drama surrounding the 2004 draft, and the two quarterbacks will be connected forever. Before the season started, this had the looks of a marquee matchup and a must-watch game. Instead it features a couple of desperate teams looking to keep their seasons alive and avoid falling to 0-5. Here's what the Chargers can expect on both sides of the ball:


The story of the Giants anemic offense this year has been their offensive line, which has failed to block anything. The Giants O-line struggles have led to Eli Manning being flushed out of the pocket constantly and the inability to have any semblance of a ground game. The Giants as a team are averaging a pathetic 3.2 yards per carry, good for 30th in the NFL.

In addition to being terrible, the O-line has also been pretty banged up. Only Ereck Flowers, arguably the worst member of the unit, has played all 4 games at the same position. They will be without starting center Weston Richburg who has been ruled out with a concussion he suffered during week 4. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have been making life miserable for opposing tackles all season long, and they should feast again against Flowers and Bobby Hart. Look for the Giants to attempt to get the ball out of Mannings hands quickly to avoid what's sure to be constant pressure, using a lot of slants and checkdowns.

The Giants backfield so far has been a timeshare between Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa with Shane Vereen mixing in on passing downs. That will change this week, as Perkins will miss the game with a rib injury. The Giants are expected to use fourth round rookie Wayne Gallman as their feature back after he flashed last week in his first action of the season. The Chargers have allowed the second most rushing yards in the league so Gus Bradley's unit has a chance to right the ship in an easy matchup.

The Giants passing attack has also regressed this year, averaging an 8th worst 6.7 yards per attempt. Offseason acquisition Brandon Marshall has yet to develop any chemistry with Manning and has struggled with drops, whereas Odell Beckham Jr. has struggled with injuries. Beckham has been great while on the field but still doesn't appear to be 100%, which will make things a bit easier for Casey Hayward in coverage. The new and most intriguing option in their receiving corps is rookie tight end Evan Engram. Engram has flashed major playmaking ability and already earned Manning's trust, drawing 11 targets last week against the Bucs. The Chargers have done a pretty good job holding opposing tight ends in check besides last week's solid game from Zach Ertz, so how the linebackers do against Engram will be another thing to keep an eye on early.

Overall Manning has been even worse than his numbers suggest, much worse than Rivers, and it's fair to wonder if he's got anything left in the tank. The Giants have already begun planning for the future, drafting Cal quarterback Davis Webb in the third round of this year's draft. Manning's stats have been padded a bit by two straight games against very vulnerable and injured secondaries and they're still very bad. It's an offense that's nearing rock bottom, and the Chargers should be able to shut them down if they play up to their talent level, something which is never a given with this Chargers team.


Last year's Giants defense was elite, allowing just 17.8 points per game, and it was the main reason for their 11 win season. Their secondary allowed opposing offenses to complete just 58.6% of their passes (3rd best) for 6.8 YPA (7th best). The run defense was stellar too, allowing the second fewest yards per carry of any team.

The secondary is anchored by star defensive back Janoris Jenkins and star safety Landon Collins, with the front seven led by Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. There are several health question marks surrounding the defense this week that likely won't be answered until shortly before kickoff. Both Vernon and Pierre-Paul missed practice this week, though Pierre-Paul has seemed to indicate he plans to play. Vernon seems more likely to miss the game after leaving week 4 early. Either one of them being absent or at least limited and hobbled would be a huge boost for a Chargers O-line that has struggled to protect Rivers at times. If they both do play, keep an eye on how they look as they will both certainly be at less than 100%. Another defensive end, Avery Moss, is also questionable with a shoulder injury.

This year, the Giants defense hasn't been nearly as dominant. Their struggles in the trenches haven't just been on their offensive line as their defensive front has been pushed around to give up the 6th most rushing yards of any team. Their once feared secondary is now middle of the pack in terms of total passing yards allowed, giving up a 102.1 passer rating to opposing signal callers.

The defense is led by veteran defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants coordinator back in 2007-08 before returning in 2015 after stints as the Rams head coach and Ravens defensive assistant. Spagnuolo learned under legendary defensive mastermind Jim Johnson and uses many of his principles, running a 4-3 defense that blitzes heavily. It works best when his defense has corners like Jenkins who can play tight one on one man coverage off the line while the defensive line gets pressure.

Given the prowess of Jenkins and Collins deep, expect the Chargers to try and pick the Giants apart methodically with quick throws over the middle. As such, Keenan Allen should be in for a big day. The Giants linebackers have been banged up and not very effective so far, so it could be another big day for Melvin Gordon catching passes out of the backfield and for Hunter Henry, if he doesn't wind up on a milk carton like he has twice this season.


The bottom line is, it's another good matchup on paper for the Chargers. The Giants' weaknesses matchup nicely to what the Chargers want to do, and they should be able to find success on both sides of the ball. The Charges are also the healthier team, as many of the Giants key pieces will either be missing or at well less than 100%. All that being said, almost every week seems to be a good spot on paper for the Chargers. Last week's game against the Eagles seemed to be somewhat of a perfect storm, but they obviously couldn't get it done.


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