September 20, 2018 / 4:24 PM / a year ago

Giant concern: Protecting Manning vs. Watt, Texans

Even during the practice week, the hits keep coming for Eli Manning and the winless New York Giants as they prepare for the Houston Texans.

Sep 16, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) leaves the field after the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Already saddled with a beleaguered offensive line that left Manning under frequent duress last Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants added injury to insult by placing starting center Jon Halapio on injured reserve after he suffered fractures in his lower leg and ankle in the third quarter of their seventh loss in eight games.

The Giants (0-2) replaced Halapio, who started six games at right guard in 2017, with 11-year veteran John Greco. Greco spent his first three seasons with the then-St. Louis Rams before playing six years with the Cleveland Browns prior to signing with the Giants last November.

Manning has been sacked eight times, six by the Cowboys in that 20-13 loss. The Giants have struggled to shift their offense out of neutral, ranking 28th in total yards (579), 29th in yards per play (4.5), and 30th in scoring (28 points). Still, in advance of the only meeting between winless teams on the NFL schedule this weekend, Manning expressed confidence that a smooth transition is afoot with the Giants visiting the Texans (0-2) on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

“Greco, he’s a vet, he’s been here,” Manning said. “He came here last year; he’s been here all training camp. We’ve worked together, we’ve gotten snaps throughout training camp so that shouldn’t be a problem. He knows what’s going on.

“We’ve met this week and talked a bunch on calls and making sure we’re seeing the same thing and hearing things the same way.”

Despite featuring a defense that has performed decently in road losses at New England and Tennessee, the Texans aren’t in a position to enter their home opener brimming with confidence over the Giants’ struggles. The Cowboys might have offered a blueprint for harassing Manning, but the Texans are mired in an eight-game skid and continue to find ways to lose, whether by untimely penalties or deflating turnovers, namely from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“Obviously, Dallas did a good job in that game of getting to the quarterback,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve got to make sure that No. 1, we stop the run. That’s our deal every week. Then, when they drop back to pass, we’ve got to spin the dial. I think that’s the big thing, too.

“Part of that is every week, getting pressure on the quarterback. How you do that is another ball of wax but I think that’s all part of what we’re trying to do this week.”

Watson is just two games into his return from an ACL repair that cut short his dynamic rookie season. Reconciling that fact and his unsurprisingly spotty play against outsized expectations has been a challenge for most everyone, Watson included. He bristled at questions concerning the Texans’ poor start after their 20-17 loss to the Titans and didn’t appear to soften his stance days later when asked to assess his three turnovers, including two end-zone interceptions.

With just eight starts on his ledger, Watson still needs time to mature. That process can sometimes be painstaking.

“I don’t have no regret from throwing those,” Watson said. “You live and you learn, shot plays, throwing it to my guy, try to give him a chance. The other team made plays. They get paid just like we do, they’re professional athletes, so we’ll continue to do what we do and whatever OB (O’Brien) asks me to do.”

—Field Level Media

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