There were plenty of bad numbers from the visiting Giants’ 30-12 loss to the 49ers on Thursday night. But a zero stood out on a rough night for the offense.
Zero catches for receiver Jalin Hyatt and, more glaring, zero targets. An offense lacking explosiveness with Saquon Barkley sidelined with a high ankle sprain couldn’t find a way to incorporate the speedy rookie.
It’s even more puzzling after Hyatt’s role in last week’s comeback win over the Cardinals. His 58-yard catch — the first reception of his career — earned praise as a spark in rallying the Giants from a 20-0 deficit to a 31-28 victory.
So why the lack of attention?
“I don’t think we had many snaps on offense in general. I think we had 45 or 46,” coach Brian Daboll said Friday. “So there’s a plan for Jalin and for all the guys based on the personnel that we choose to use on a given play. That could be more, that could be about the same. We’ll keep on giving him reps and hopefully we have more than 45 plays in a game.”
The Giants, in fact, ran 46 plays and managed only 150 yards. Only five of those plays went for 10 yards or more. In contrast, 49ers All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel had five such plays himself, including a 27-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
As Samuel and running back Christian McCaffrey ran free all night, the Giants (1-2) looked slow by comparison. It could’ve opened the door to find Hyatt, especially once they cut San Francisco’s lead to 17-12 in the third quarter.
Instead, Hyatt, who won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver last year when he played for Tennessee, played 16 snaps and was not targeted. He had two catches last week, including a 31-yard reception, and was held without a catch (one target) in the opener.
“We put him in place to try and target him, and we’ll continue to do that,” Daboll said. “He’ll continue to work. We rolled all our guys in there last night.”
Hyatt’s zero targets weren’t the only problem. For the third consecutive game, the Giants didn’t score a touchdown in the first half. Tight end Darren Waller had only three catches as Daniel Jones threw high on two of Waller’s seven targets.
Jones was sacked only twice, but the 49ers (3-0) kept the Giants in check for most of the night, holding them to 121 passing yards and 29 rushing.
At this point, trying any option could boost an offense that needs a jolt. The Giants will host the Seahawks on Oct. 2 on Monday Night Football, and Barkley’s status remains in doubt.
Even if Barkley returns, it would be a plus if the Giants can incorporate Hyatt more.
“I think we are always trying to make plays and get the ball to those guys, so have to look at where there could have been opportunities to do that and do a better job with that,” Jones said. “He’s a dynamic player and we didn’t have enough plays, period.”
Earlier this month, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka praised Hyatt’s improvement from training camp, citing his growing confidence and understanding of his role. As a result, his playmaking started showing up more in practice.
The question now is, when will it show up more in games? The Giants have 10 days to retool and regroup.
For Daboll, the offense is one of several issues he sees. Targeting Hyatt, however, could be a feasible solution.
“I’d just say we need more from everybody,” Daboll said. “Coaching, playing, everybody.”