Despite new playcaller in Freddie Kitchens, Giants' players still need to execute

·4 min read
Freddie Kitchens in Giants bucket hat pregame
Freddie Kitchens in Giants bucket hat pregame

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jason Garrett may be gone, but his playbook is still here and so are all the Giants’ offensive problems.

So if the Giants were expecting a new play caller to provide a miracle cure, their expectations might be a little bit high.

They will probably get at least a short-term boost when Freddie Kitchens takes over the offensive play-calling on Sunday, as multiple sources have said he will, but all of the Giants’ long-term issues still remain. They still have the same porous offensive line that can disrupt plays before they start. They are still missing some key weapons, with receivers Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard likely to miss this game.

And the jury is still out on quarterback Daniel Jones, who has shown fewer-than-expected flashes this season that he is the franchise quarterback the Giants expect him to be.

In other words, Kitchens may score a few points with a more aggressive approach to the offense, but he’s still holding the same weak hand of cards.

“There are a number of things that could change,” Giants coach Joe Judge said this week. “Changing a play caller is one aspect of it and maybe the approach we take as an offense is another aspect of it. In a short week, you’re not going to go ahead and completely blow up an offense and redo things, but you are going to look to use things a little bit differently.”

That, honestly, is about all anyone should expect – a different look or approach to things. And there’s a chance that could be enough, since it has worked before. The Giants have changed play callers in-season four previous times in the past 30 years and the results were encouraging. In the last games before they effectively benched their play caller they went 0-4, averaged 14 points and 298.8 yards.

In the four first games with a new play caller in charge, they went 4-0 and averaged 30.5 points and 376.3 yards.

So a fresh set of eyes looking at the playbook and some subtle changes could make a difference. And there certainly are some obvious things that Kitchens could do to give the offense a boost. For example, Judge and his players clearly weren’t thrilled that No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay was only targeted twice in the Giants’ 30-10 loss to the Bucs on Monday night. And there were other issues that caught the attention of people in the organization, such as Saquon Barkley only running six times and Collin Johnson being the lone receiver on the field for a crucial 4th-and-1 play.

Even with Toney and Shepard not in the lineup, the offense could get a kick start simply from letting their best playmakers have a chance to actually make plays.

Nov 22, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh (93) pressures New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ndamukong Suh (93) pressures New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

“You want to create scenarios for your best players to go ahead and make impact plays,” Judge said. “However you see that – forcing the ball, controlling the flow of the game or however you want to phrase it -- I’ve always seen the game through a lens of people, more so than just scheme.”

That’s how most teams approach their offense – finding ways to get the ball into the hands of their best players, no matter the situation or what the defense is doing. And that’s something the Giants have been terrible about for most of this season. There have been too many times during games where it seems like their best players – particularly their best receivers – have simply disappeared.

Kitchens can change that focus. He can also change the offensive process – something he appears to have done by instructing his quarterbacks to wear play sheets on their wrists this week. And he can even pick out a bunch of new plays that the Giants haven’t used all year long.

But he can’t change the scheme. He can’t fix the offensive line. He can’t force Jones to make better decisions. He can make changes that can help – more movement of the pocket, better blocking schemes, smarter or simpler plays – and hope for that missing spark. But this is still the same group of players that have averaged about 18 points per game since the start of the Judge Era, and have only scored 30 points once. And they’re still anchored with the same Garrett playbook that has helped them sink to such depths.

For the big fix, what the Giants need is a new philosophy, a new playbook, and in many places some better players. There’s a good chance they will look better on Sunday and maybe even the next few weeks with Kitchens holding the play sheet. And that’s good.

But they are still likely a very long way from their offense being considered good enough.

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