The Giants seem inevitably headed toward a second straight game-time countdown clock on Odell Beckham Jr., this time for Monday night's home opener against the Detroit Lions – with no definitive update on the wide receiver's ailing ankle.
But if the aftermath of Sunday's awful performance in Dallas made one thing very clear – this offense is not the same without Beckham in it – it is more than fair to ask the obvious question that reality presents.
Should it be THIS bad?
In a word: No.
And yet it was. The addition of free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall couldn't offset the loss, not with four targets and just one catch, on the game's final play. The arrival of rookie tight end Evan Engram couldn't do it either, not with a four-catch, 44-yard night helped by one 31-yard play. The combination of running backs Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa weren't good, not with seven and three rushing attempts respectively, their 30 combined yards a mere fraction of Ezekiel Elliott's 104.
And more than anything, a holdover offensive line couldn't do anything to help out veteran quarterback Eli Manning, who was under siege from the first snap, forced into the escape-the-pocket, make-a-quick-throw offense that is everything he isn't.
We all know what Manning's favorite way to escape that sort of pressure is: find Beckham. How many times has the Pro Bowl receiver emerged at just the right time, shedding a defender (or two) or leaping above one to make an acrobatic catch, providing his quarterback a safety net that even when things fall apart, he can break a big play? That's what Beckham does best, and why he has emerged as one of the league's most dangerous, not to mention dynamic players. He's the player who keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night, the receiver who makes even great cornerbacks look ordinary, the one guy who absolutely changes game plans.
But with Beckham stuck on the sidelines in sweatpants, with Beckham unable to suit up due to the high ankle sprain sustained Week 2 of the preseason against Cleveland, with Beckham wisely instructed to wait at least one more week before putting that ankle to the real test of cutting, sprinting and leaping, the Giants offense was awful. One field goal awful. Fifty offensive plays (to 70 for the Cowboys) awful. Thirteen first downs (to 22 for the Cowboys) awful. Two three-and-outs and a five-play drive to open the game awful. One 14-second possession just before halftime (that led to a Cowboys' field goal drive and 16-0 lead) awful. A total of two offensive possessions in Dallas territory (including the game's final one, when the game was over) awful.
It's no wonder the normally even-handed Ben McAdoo issued such a harsh assessment in his post-game comments, saying "No part of our offense was functional tonight." And give the coach credit for not looking for the easy way out, also saying, "We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell. That's no excuse."
Then what is? Is the offensive line really that bad?
It sure looked it, falling regular victim to a well-designed Dallas scheme of stunts and twists, unable to generate any forward push and leaving the Giants on the wrong end of a 60-minute battle for field position. Certainly, a guy like Beckham is one who can flip a field, not only with a long catch, but with he can do after the catch, darting and sprinting past defenders, making a small play big or a big play huge.
The doubt is real. This is seven straight games, dating back to last season, when the Giants couldn't crack 20 points. This is a big fat zero in the touchdown column. This is a balance so out of whack it left a promising defensive effort exhausted and vulnerable by the second half. Without Beckham and his usual array of exceptional plays – ones like the over-the-shoulder grab Cowboys' rookie Cole Beasley made Sunday – without a turnover by a usually hungry defense, the Giants had no juice.
Yes, it's only one week. And it's only Week 1. But if the Giants' Odell countdown goes down to the wire again Monday and he's not yet able to play, the Giants better find a way to offset his absence better than they did Sunday.