Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Monday, October 10, 2011
Giants' inconsistency won't go away

By Dan Graziano

So, what are we to make of these New York Giants? Are they the team that showed so much heart and toughness and poise in the fourth-quarter comebacks in Philadelphia and Arizona? Or are they the team that turned the ball over five times and fell asleep on Sunday's game-deciding touchdown pass by the Seahawks' backup quarterback? What's the reality here?

Well, how about all of it?

Eli Manning
Through five games this season, Giants QB Eli Manning has 11 passing TDs and five interceptions.
This is what this year's Giants are -- for better or for worse. They're an inconsistent team and will remain so, because the construction of their roster mandates it. They're either too thin or too injured or too green at too many key spots to just hum along week t0 week like the Packers and the Patriots and the league's elite teams do. It doesn't mean they're bad, but it will keep them from being consistent. And being inconsistent will keep them from being great.

Sunday's game was an amalgamation of worst-case scenarios. When you're thin at wide receiver, you end up relying on someone like Victor Cruz, who has the raw athletic talent to make brilliant touchdown catches in the NFL but isn't yet a complete enough NFL receiver to avoid costly drops. When you're thin at tight end, you have to deal with the growing pains of a Jake Ballard, who's emerged as a capable end-zone target but also misses blocks that lead to safeties. When you're down a starting cornerback and a starting middle linebacker, you end up having communication issues at the back end of the defense, and out of nowhere Doug Baldwin is running uncovered for the game-winning score.

The offensive line has issues, as we knew it would. There's talent there, and it's capable of a great game. But games like Sunday's remind us that Will Beatty's still a young player, and that David Diehl, for all his past contributions, is now a flawed one. With center David Baas out and mainstay right guard Chris Snee suffering a concussion, uncertainty was the order of the day on the line, and the Giants can't afford that.

Eli Manning? You know what he is. He's tough and good enough to lead the fourth-quarter comebacks in Weeks 3 and 4, but he's not immune to mistakes, and the team he has around him simply isn't good enough to absorb them when they happen. They will win when they play error-free. They will struggle to win when they don't.

I'd rather have the Giants' problems than the Eagles' problems right now, and not just because of the difference in the records. The Giants have shown they have the requisite pride and toughness to overcome their issues, even if it's for just a week or two, and win games when things aren't going well. Their coaching staff makes it clear that it doesn't tolerate mistakes, and has shown the ability to correct and fix them from one week to the next. The Eagles have not shown pride or toughness, and have instead shown the ability to lose games when things are going well. The Eagles' coaching staff doesn't appear to have any idea how to correct mistakes from one week to the next.

That said, these Giants retain some fundamental flaws. They have not, to this point, shown an ability to run the ball or to stop the other team from doing so. Those aspects of the roster appeared to be strengths on paper before the season started, but they haven't shown up as such. If you can't run the ball or stop the run, you're inviting inconsistency. The Giants need to figure out a way to grind out yards and stop second-tier backs like Marshawn Lynch from doing it with such ease against them.

These Giants are not a bad team by any stretch, but they're not a great one. They should remain in contention all year in what's shaping up as a messy division race that lacks a dominant team, and they have as good a chance as anyone has to win it. But if you're not going to be surprised when their veteran's toughness delivers wins like the ones in Philly and Arizona, you shouldn't be surprised when their flaws rise up and cost them a game against the Seahawks. Those flaws are real, and they're there, and they're going to be there all year. The Giants' season will rise and fall on how many times they're able to conceal and overcome them. So far, it's three out of five, which is not bad at all.