The Giants can look at turnovers as one of the major reasons why they lost 27-17 Sunday night to the Eagles. But it was clear that they missed WR Steve Smith, out with a chest injury. Smith had become QB Eli Manning's safety net, even if Hakeem Nicks had passed him by as the Giants' most dangerous receiver. Now they are both out as Nicks is expected to miss around three weeks with a compartment leg syndrome, which is a fancy term for a leg injury.
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There was a lot of concern before last season about how the Giants' WR corps would work with a mostly untested Smith, a wholly untested Nicks, an at-the-time disappointing Mario Manningham and a cast of nameless others. It turned out to be an unquestioned team strength as Manning showed great belief in his young group and put them in a position to succeed. Both sides worked extremely well together, and they evolved into a superior unit, with only dropped passes holding these these wideouts from joining the elite groups in the NFL.
Now Manning must work for the next week and perhaps two without Smith and Nicks, leaving him with some real concerns as the Giants get set to face the 6-4 Jaguars. Although the Jaguars have plenty of questions in their secondary, the Giants must reshape their offense temporarily, or at least find some other options to lean on.
Certainly, the wish would be to run the ball more effectively than they have in recent games. After rushing for 200 yards against the Cowboys and 197 against the Seahawks, the Giants have found the treading to be tough, as they have been held to 107 in their rematch against Dallas and 61 in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. Ahmad Bradshaw also had trouble holding onto the ball, a problem all season that apparently isn't getting better.
The Jaguars are a middle-of-the-pack run defense statistically (19th in rush yards allowed, 19th in yards per carry allowed) with the low point coming in the loss to the Chiefs (236 rush yards allowed). But in recent games, they have tightened up significantly against the Cowboys (50 rush yards allowed), Texans (81 yards) and Browns (88).
Another way to overcome the losses would be to target Manningham, who had a career-high 10 catches in Week 10 and has shown some game-breaking ability at times. But that mostly has come with Smith or Nicks (or both) on the field. Manningham's consistency has never been his strong suit, but it will be interesting to see how he handles being the top dog.
The tight ends have been an afterthought in the passing game for the Giants, but don't be surprised to see Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum (who caught a TD pass Sunday) be more involved. They are the big targets the team needs with Nicks and Ramses Barden out, and they might be able to supply some of the chain-moving catches Smith provided on third downs especially.
Nonetheless, Manning is in a very tough spot without some of his primary weapons available.