Kevin Gilbride pointed to two areas as the reason for the Giants’ 28th-ranked offense in 2013: the offensive line and the wide receivers.
The line was clearly an issue as its lack of depth became exposed due to injuries. The Giants used seven different starting combinations and, had they played another game, would have gone to an eighth. That, Gilbride said, changed the way the Giants were used to approaching things.
“In general, I think philosophically we just modified substantially what we normally do,” the recently-retired offensive coordinator told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday night. “We’ve been a dynamic, explosive, throw the ball down the field, let your guys go to a lot of vertical read type of stretch principals, and we had to abandon those. Those are the things that we’d done very well and allowed us to be in the top 10 offensively for a long time. You can’t do it because your quarterback would be on his back while you waited for those things to happen. You became much more conservative, much more three-step oriented, which was good for a while, but people, they’re smart on that (defensive) side of the ball and they identify fairly quickly what your weaknesses are and they realize what your adjustments have been, so they take those things away. When we had to expand what we wanted to do, that’s when our shortcomings manifested themselves.”
The Giants came into the season knowing that the line would be an issue with David Baas and Chris Snee coming off surgeries, David Diehl needing surgery during the preseason, and rookie Justin Pugh starting at tackle. But they came into the season thinking that their receivers would be a strength. With Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and the developing Rueben Randle, the Giants seemed to have a pretty strong trio of options. In fact, in the opener all three had 100-yard games against the Cowboys.
It quickly became clear to Gilbride – and opposing defenses – that the receivers were not a strength.
“Victor Cruz still played very well on the inside for us, but it became readily apparent to defenses that we weren’t playing as well with the outside receiver position,” he said. “That became an area that people just, they had no reservation about lining up just bump and run and getting an extra guy into the box, making it more difficult and challenging to run and forcing you to throw the ball vertically a little bit. You try to throw some three-step fades and fade stops, but they’re sitting on those things.”
So what needs to be fixed? Gilbride is usually mum on such issues because he doesn’t want to speak out of turn. Now that he’s retired, he came up with a pretty long offseason shopping list for the Giants.
“I think if the Giants can get the wideout position straightened out – the outside position, not the inside because between Victor Cruz and the emergence of Jerrel Jernigan at the end, that will help,” he said. “But there’s no question they’re gonna have to get a running back that can be the bell cow. I think we had hoped Andre Brown could be that person but he didn’t come back until about the 9th game, 10th game. It looked like he was gonna be that guy the first couple of games and then he was slowed by injury.
“But I would say the offensive line first and foremost has to be addressed,” Gilbride said with a slight chuckle. “I think Justin Pugh advanced and grew outside as a starter at the right tackle position, but they need another significant upgrade in the o-line and certainly some added depth.”
One of the main issues on the offensive line was the play of tackle Will Beatty, who was signed to a long-term contract last offseason.
“We made the gamble that William Beatty would be the guy and he had played very well last year,” Gilbride said. “This year he did not have as good a year, he was much more inconsistent than he had been the year before. He was slowed by some problems and then of course he finished the year with a significant knee injury, so that remains to be seen how he recovers from that. I think there’s no question he has the physical skills to play the left tackle position. He has the skillset to match up speed-wise with anybody. I just think he’s gotta demonstrate again the commitment and the toughness that you have to have on a play-in and play-out basis. There’s no question in my mind he has the physical talent, it’s just a matter of making his consistency be at the level it needs to be.”