5th regular-season meeting. Giants lead, 3-1. The Giants have won the last three regular season games in a row and are 1-1 in games played in Houston.
BY THE NUMBERS:
8 – Number of times quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked through two games this season. Manning is on pace to be sacked 64 times this season, a number which would eclipse the career-high 39 sacks he absorbed in 2013.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: C John Greco.
With starting center Jon Halapio done for the season after suffering a broken ankle in Sunday night’s loss, Greco, the 33-year veteran will literally take center stage on the Giants offensive line. Greco, who finished up the game for Halapio, comes in to a precarious situation on an offensive line that has struggled with assignment football and which has also struggled to jell as a unit.
While he is a well-respected veteran, it will be interesting to see how the men next to him, rookie Will Hernandez and Patrick Omameh, the left and right guards respectively, respond. Hernandez is a rookie who at times has looked like he has had trouble keeping up with the speed of the game whereas Omameh, a veteran, is trying to establish a comfort level with playing on the right side after spending most of his career on the left side.
The Texans are currently leading the NFL in rushing, averaging 157.5 yards per game, an effort led by Lamar Miller who as 166 yards on 34 carries. The Giants run defense, after an off year in 2017, have picked up where they left off last year against the run, allowing an average of 137.5 yards per game to opponents through two games. And of the 375 rushing yards allowed by the Giants on the ground, 87 or 23%, have been generated by the opposing quarterback.
Whether it’s a bootleg, waggle or rollout, the Giants run defense needs to do a better job with its contain. Far too often in these first two games defenders are getting caught up in the wash, which is leaving the edges wide open for opposing runners to exploit.
Combine that with a rise in missed tackles—the Giants missed 16 tackles over two weeks according to Pro Football Focus, and you have the number one thing the Giants must do to slow down the Texans rush, regardless of who is carrying the ball.
“Certainly they’re a good rushing team,” said head coach Pat Shurmur. “Any time you have a quarterback that can attack the perimeter like they have, that puts a little bit more pressure on the rest of the run game, and they’ve got a very good runner. They actually have a couple good runners, and those guys do a good job of running it. There’s no doubt that’s going to be a challenge for us to stop their run.”
As for the pass, the Giants must find a way to threaten the edges against the Texans, who have two relatively young (and struggling) offensive tackles manning the edges but who have combined for 23 pressures over two weeks—more than the 16 total pressures the Giants tackles (Nate Solder and Ereck Flowers) have allowed thus far.
Offensively, the Texans have had their struggles defending the run as well, allowing 111 yards per game to opponents (21st) in the NFL. The Giants, who are currently averaging 74.5 rushing yards per game, 28th in the NFL, need for their offensive line to play more consistent in terms of sliding protection and finishing blocks and opening up things at the second level were, per Football Outsiders, the Giants rank 31st in average second-level yards gained per rush (0.89)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Giants OTs Ereck Flowers and Nate Solder vs. Texans edge rushers J.J. Watt and Duke Ejiofor.
Flowers held up last week against Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, doing so mostly without any added help. Still, Flowers is currently the runaway leader in total pressures allowed by a Giants offensive lineman with 11. Solder has been a little sharper, allowing just five total pressures, but has also logged two holding penalties in as many games. The Giants offensive tackles will get another big test this week in which he will probably see both Watt and the rookie Ejiofor, the latter having an impressive debut last week in place of the inured Jadeveon Clowney. In four pass rush snaps, Ejiofor recorded 1 sack and one hurry, prompting Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to quip tht he’d have to get the rookie sixth-rounder some additional snaps in the coming weeks, especially if Clowney and Whitney Mercilus continue their struggles. Watt, meanwhile, is still very much a force with which to be reckoned; in two games, he’s recorded five total pressures, including a sacks, two hits and two hurries.
Giants Edge Rushers vs. Texans OTs Martinas Rankin and Julie’n Davenport.
Thanks to injuries on their offensive line, the Texans have had to turn to a pair of relatively untested tackles in Rankin and Davenport, both of whom have struggled to keep the edges clean. Per Pro Football Focus, Rankins and Davenport have combined to allow 23 total pressures, including three sacks, in two games played. The Giants meanwhile are hoping Olivier Vernon returns to the lineup, even if just for a handful of snaps. If Vernon can give them some snaps and get some production out of their other edge rushers, most notably veterans Connor Barwin and Kerry Wynn, and rookie Lorenzo Carter, who leads the Giants’ edge defenders in pass rushing productivity with a 7.4 rating, it could make for a long afternoon for the Texans offense.