Through two games, the Giants have attempted 33 rushing plays, or 16.5 attempts per game. Only Pittsburgh (32 total carries) and Atlanta (30) have run less.
History suggests the Giants’ rushing rate will increase at some point. In the six full seasons that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has called the Giants’ plays, the club has never attempted less than 409 rushes a season, or about 25 carries per game.
Increasing their running game can only help the Giants’ offense. A productive ground game can wear down defenses and open up opportunities in the passing game. The Giants need to keep working on their rushing attack.
However, the Giants could be forgiven if their running game once again takes a backseat to the passing game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte because the Giants’ passing offense looks significantly stronger than the Panthers’ pass defense.
The Panthers are coping with injuries throughout their defensive backfield. Five secondary players were listed on the injury report on Wednesday, with starting cornerback Josh Thomas and first-string strong safety Quintin Mikell among four secondary players sitting out practice. A third Panthers secondary starter, free safety Charles Godfrey, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with an Achilles injury.
Even if some of Carolina’s defensive backs heal in time for Sunday, the Panthers’ pass defense still looks to be the weakest the Giants have faced this season. It certainly isn’t as skilled as the Broncos’ pass defense, which did a creditable job against Eli Manning and Co. in Week Two.
Manning was sharp in the 2012 meeting with Carolina, completing 27-of-35 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown in a 36-7 Giants romp. The Giants were without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, but reserve Ramses Barden had a big game, catching nine passes for 138 yards.
How the Panthers elect to deal with Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle is something to monitor. If they play too soft against the Giants’ receivers, Manning will take the short throws all day. However, tighter coverage invites the risk of the Giants’ testing the Panthers downfield.
In last season’s matchup with Carolina, the Giants attempted 24 passes and 15 rushes in the first half, building a 20-0 halftime lead. Manning threw for 192 yards and a touchdown in those first 30 minutes.
A similar emphasis on the pass on Sunday would be logical. Build a lead throwing the ball — and then go to work on that struggling ground game. At 0-2, and facing an opponent with real secondary concerns, the Giants need to play to their strengths.