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Rams-Giants: An early preview of LA’s winless Week 4 opponent

It will be a much different situation than what Sean McVay faced on the road last week

New York Giants v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The LA Rams host the New York Giants in Week 4, a team that could give Sean McVay a lot of problems. That is, if the Rams lose at home to the Giants, that would stir up issues for the organization, even if it is ever so brief as two days of answering the “What happened?” question.

Since going 11-5 under first time head coach Ben McAdoo in 2016, the Giants have been stuck as the worst team in the NFL. Their 39 losses is four more than the Bengals, Browns and Jets have had since the start of 2017. McAdoo was fired after only 28 games as the head coach and he only resurfaced as of this season as the Jaguars quarterbacks coach. The draft decisions in that time have been Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones and Andrew Thomas as top-10 picks to rebuild.

Barkley, controversial for no other reason than being a running back, was selected ahead of Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson and Josh Allen, among others. Even playing for one of the league’s worst teams, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage as a rookie and fumbled zero times. The team was unable to be as supportive of Barkley in his second season and his numbers dipped slightly as he also missed three games with an ankle injury, my biggest gripe with an investment at running back.

Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 of this season and won’t return until 2021, when he’ll have found out if New York picked up his fifth year option despite his injuries.

Jones, who some speculate was the 2019 target when the Giants opted to pick Barkley over Sam Darnold, Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson, has received some praise during his 16 game career up to this point. He also fumbled 18 times and threw 12 interceptions in 13 games as a rookie. Through three games in 2020, Jones ranks 29th in yards per attempt, 28th in completion percentage, 30th in touchdown passes, 28th in QBR and only three players have thrown more interceptions. According to Sports Info Solutions, Jones’ “on target throws” percentage of 61.9-percent ranks only better than Dwayne Haskins, Mitchell Trubisky and Jeff Driskel.

Trubisky was benched for Nick Foles and Driskel is only filling in for Drew Lock.

Finally there’s Thomas, who SIS says has the most blown blocks of any offensive lineman so far this season. New York had signed Nate Solder to a lucrative contract in 2018, but the veteran tackle opted out to care for his family in an understandable decision.

Those are the three high draft picks that the Giants have spent on prospects as the NFL’s worst team in that time and it appears they could be in the Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, etc. conversation in the 2021 draft based on the first three games of 2020. New York is 0-3 after scoring 16 against the Steelers, 13 against the Bears and 9 against a 49ers team that had many of its star players on injury lists for the game.

The Giants rank 31st in scoring and yards, 27th in net yards per pass attempt and they are the worst rushing team in the league only two years after drafting Barkley. Jones leads the team with 92 yards on 12 attempts and he’s the only player gaining more than two yards per carry. Barkley had 19 carries for 34 yards before injury, Dion Lewis has 21 on 12, Wayne Gallman has seven yards and recent signee Devonta Freeman debuted with five carries for 10 yards in Week 3.

The only player on the Giants offense who I would say appears to be a future star — noting that Barkley must now recover from a torn ACL — would be receiver Darius Slayton. The fact that Slayton — whose early career numbers and physical attributes are remarkably similar to DeAndre Hopkins — has posted 60 catches for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns over his first 17 games with a team as bad as the Giants is enough for me to wonder what he’ll do when he’s playing for a better offense in the future.

It would be hard to find a worse offense.

New York found Slayton in the fifth round out of Auburn but GM Dave Gettleman, who really does still have that job, has seen few other draft successes recently. This issue was exacerbated in the offseason when 2019 first rounder Deandre Baker was released after he was charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm.

Baker was meant to be a long-term solution at cornerback and the defense continues to need reinforcements. Even if they are 17th in points allowed and 12th in yards allowed, opposing teams haven’t needed to expend much energy to beat the Giants. They ranked 30th in pass defense DVOA through two weeks and are 32nd in third down percentage. The positives would be linebacker Blake Martinez, defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, the other first round pick in 2019, plus Jabrill Peppers, Dalvin Tomlinson and free agent corner James Bradberry, who leads the NFL with nine passes defensed so far.

But first time head coach Joe Judge, a special teams assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2009-2011 and then a special teams coach for Bill Belichick from 2012 to 2019, has much work to do to turn around the Giants and it is unlikely that many more positives will be coming this season given the current roster. Without Barkley, starting a rookie left tackle, a struggling second year quarterback, few weapons outside of Slayton and arguably a bottom-five pass defense, New York looks destined to end 2020 as the losingest team of the last four years.

That does not mean that they’ll definitely lose to the Rams on Sunday, it just means that if they win, the Rams will have more concerns to address than they did after losing to the 3-0 Bills.