Sun, 29 Nov 2020

Michael Eisen

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants' leading rusher after two games is...Daniel Jones with 43 yards. It is the first time since the 1970 merger a quarterback is the team's top ground gainer two weeks into the season.

While logic and the health of both the team and the player demand that Jones will soon be superseded by a running back, the statistic underscores the difficulty the Giants have had running the ball and the challenge they face improving their output without their best running back. Saquon Barkley, No. 2 on the current list with 34 yards but capable of a monster game at any time when healthy, is out for the season with a torn right ACL suffered Sunday in Chicago.

Now the Giants will go forward with Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman, Eli Penny and whoever they might sign.

Their challenge is daunting. The Giants have rushed for an NFL-low 104 yards. They do not have a run longer than 18 yards.

Though the NFL has become more of a passing-oriented league, running the ball effectively is still important. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in the last five seasons, 34 of the 50 teams (68 percent) that finished in the Top 10 in rushing made the playoffs. During that period, 23 of the 50 teams (46 percent) that finished in Top 10 in passing made the playoffs.

Of course, every statistical trend has an exception. And the 2011 Giants finished last in the NFL in rushing yardage with an average of 89.2 yards a game - and won the Super Bowl.

But it doesn't stretch the limits of credulity to conclude the Giants want to be more productive running the ball, beginning Sunday at home against San Francisco.

*Jones' 43 rushing yards are the most by a Giants quarterback through two games since 1991, when Jeff Hostetler had 65 yards.

*Because of his injury, Barkley ends his third season with 497 career carries. If he had three more attempts, his 4.71-yard average would tie Tiki Barber for the Giants' career record. Until next season, Barkley will be unofficially tied.

*On Sunday, the Giants sacked Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky four times, a total they reached just twice in 2019 - a year ago today at Tampa Bay and on Oct. 27 at Detroit.

*It's a little early to get excited about rankings, but the Giants' defense is off to a good start under coordinator Patrick Graham. The unit ranks fourth in the league, allowing 326.5 yards a game, and is second in pass defense, giving up 188.5 yards-per-game. The Giants have allowed 43 points, placing them 11th in the league.

*Giants kicker Graham Gano did not play in the NFL in 2019, so when he was wide left on a 57-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half Sunday, it was his first miss since Nov. 11, 2018 - his 52-yard attempt for Carolina flew wide right against Seattle.

Gano has made 20 of 36 career attempts (55.6%) from 50-plus yards, including his career-long 63-yarder against the Giants two years ago.

*Linebacker Blake Martinez is one of 11 NFL players with at least 21 tackles through the first two weeks. Martinez has two solo stops. In his last three seasons with Green Bay, Martinez finished with 156, 147 and 155 tackles.

*Cornerback James Bradberry leads the NFL with six passes defensed, one more than Chicago rookie Jaylon Johnson.

*The Giants have plenty of company; they're one of 11 teams to start the season 0-2, the highest number since the 2008 season had 11 winless teams after two weeks.

*This isn't Giants-related, but it's worth noting. On Sunday in Dallas, the Atlanta Falcons scored 39 points, did not commit a turnover - and lost. According to Elias, since 1933, teams with those dual circumstances were 441-0. Until Sunday.

*The Giants today exchanged players on their practice squad, adding linebacker Jermaine Grace and releasing offensive lineman Tyler Haycraft.

Grace, 6-1 and 223 pounds, has played in 24 games for Atlanta (twice), Seattle and Indianapolis. He entered the NFL out of the University of Miami as a rookie free agent with the Falcons in 2017. Grace was most recently with the Cleveland Browns, who released him on July 30.

Haycraft was signed by the Giants as a rookie free agent from Louisville on April 28. He was waived on Sept. 5 and signed the following day to the practice squad.

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