It's as if Eli Manning is playing with two sets of receivers: Odell Beckham Jr. and everyone else.
When Manning targets his star second-year receiver, good things usually happen. When he targets anyone else? Not so much.
Look no further than the numbers for quantifiable proof: Manning had targeted Beckham on 20 pass attempts in the Giants' first two games, and Beckham responded with 12 catches for 190 yards and a touchdown, good for a 108 passer rating. Manning had targeted his other wide receivers 20 times, but they combined for just 10 catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns. And a passer rating of just 60.
Victor Cruz's absence from the lineup because of a calf injury has been a major factor in the drop-off of any receiver not named Beckham. So were Preston Parker's five dropped passes in two games, the underlying reason for his release after two games. And Rueben Randle, normally a reliable target for Manning, had gotten off to a sluggish start with four catches for 28 yards.
Welcome to another early season offensive swoon that has been at the heart of the team's 0-2 start heading into Thursday night's game against Washington.
Cruz is due back for the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bills, but coach Tom Coughlin had grown so impatient with the early season problems that he took the unusual step of releasing Parker. This after the team had already done away with veteran James Jones on the final cut.
"The message is you have to perform, you're here for a reason," Coughlin said. " . . . If the reason you are here is not being fulfilled, then the question becomes, what are we here for? So the message is loud and clear: You have a job, you have to do the job."
The Giants seemed genuinely caught off guard by Coughlin's decision, but maybe that's for the best. After all, players need to know right from the start that they are accountable for their actions. And their shortcomings. Had Coughlin kept Parker on the roster, it would be the equivalent of throwing good money after bad. One or two drops, OK. But five in two games? Sorry. He had to go.
Coughlin has been a very patient man with his players in recent years, especially after he made a conscious effort after the 2006 season to be more understanding and more approachable. The coach known more for his dictatorial style really has turned into a softy -- at least compared to his old style, which rubbed many of his players the wrong way because Coughlin was almost impossible to please.
The decision to release him clearly woke the players up. They needed it.
"As receivers, you go through your struggles, but it's how you respond to it," Randle said. "It's just an unfortunate situation. The receivers were kind of sad about it, but we have to move on. It's just part of it."
The Giants used Dwayne Harris in Parker's spot Thursday night, although he'll be moved out of the regular rotation once Cruz returns to the lineup. Randle, meanwhile, was hoping he would shake off his early season lethargy and become more involved in the passing game.
"It's more about me being out there playing fast, and that's what I'm going to do," Randle said after practice earlier in the week. "I put pressure on myself, regardless of the situation. I want to make plays. That's why I feel like I'm here."
Manning specifically mentioned the need to get Randle more involved, and the quarterback was anxious to see more balanced results, regardless of where his passes were targeted. As the Giants found out in the first two losses, Beckham couldn't do it by himself.
Randle made his presence felt early, securing a 7-yard pass to the Washington 1 after the Giants had terrific field position thanks to an interception.
Start of better things to come from the wide receivers? The Giants certainly hope so.