EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' receiving trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard have accounted for 719 of the team's 1,338 receiving yards and four of their eight touchdowns.
Yet the Giants (0-5), whose latest heartbreaking loss came at the hands of the previously winless Los Angeles Chargers, will have to soldier on without Beckham, now on injured reserve with a fractured ankle; Shepard, who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle; and Marshall, who per an NFL Network report could miss multiple games.
It's certainly a nightmare come true for head coach Ben McAdoo, whose offense had started to show signs of snapping out of its early season funk the last three weeks. Now left to pick up the pieces from such a devastating blow, McAdoo said there's no time to sit and feel sorry for themselves.
"We have to keep throwing effort at it," he said during his conference call Monday with reporters. "Yesterday, again, no excuses, we ran out of some firepower on offense. But the guys kept fighting. There is a lot of fight, the games go down to the wire. We just got to find a way to find our path to victory."
Their path to their elusive first victory will likely come via the trio of Roger Lewis, the only receiver on the initial 53-man roster to avoid the injury bug Sunday, rookie Travis Rudolph, who was signed from their practice squad, and Tavarres King, who was with them last year, but who was cut during the preseason.
McAdoo and the Giants opted for Rudolph and King specifically for their familiarity with the offense. But starting this week, the focus will be on trying to get those two up to speed and on the same page with quarterback Eli Manning.
"We have to go out and we have to make sure we give them as many reps as we can with the quarterback," McAdoo said of the plan to bring the "new" receivers up to speed. "Get them into some type of rhythm. Get some type of chemistry going. There are guys who are familiar with what we're doing. So, we have confidence there. We know them, they know us. So, we just have to go out and put our work in this week."
Besides getting the new receivers up to speed with the offense, the other thing McAdoo is going to have to guard against is a feeling of despair settling in the locker room. Clearly no member of the team is happy with the winless start, but the loss of Beckham, the team's star player and its lone player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, is particularly devastating and one that could potentially suck whatever spirit is left in the players.
"Well, when they all go down, when you lose players, it's tough," Manning said after the game. "You like when they can get off on their own and hope it's not serious, but at the end of the game if you see your best player in pain, it can be a tough situation."
Tough or not, they have no choice but to make the best of a unique and difficult situation.
"It's still fight," said Lewis. "I feel like we're a close-knit team and I feel like there's nobody on this team that's going to give up. We're going to get ready for next week and go out and play hard again."
"We will bounce back. We will go out and flush it," added offensive lineman Justin Pugh. "We're still professionals. This is still our job. We have to go out there and execute. Get this thing done."
The Giants' 0-5 start not only disappointed the organization, but it also mystified head coach Ben McAdoo.
"We're all disappointed and irritated to be where we are right now," he said during his weekly conference call with the New York media. "No one thought we would be sitting here like this in this position."
The Giants' winless start is their worst since 2013, when they started off 0-6 before winning seven of their last nine.
The difference, however, is that expectations were moderate for that team while the 2017 team was touted as a potential Super Bowl contender after logging an 11-5 record in McAdoo's first year as a head coach.
Obviously, any talk about a Super Bowl berth has been tabled as McAdoo, his assistant coaches and his players try to figure out how to stop what has become major hemorrhaging of the program that McAdoo said is in a slump that has seen the team blow a lead in its last three games.
"We've been right in the ballgames and have had a lead in the fourth quarter in these ballgames and we haven't been able to extend the lead and haven't been able to keep the lead," McAdoo said.
"You got to find a way to win with each team you have and year to year it changes, and we haven't been able to get that done and that's my responsibility."
So how do they work themselves out of this slump?
"I think we just got to get better at getting better," McAdoo said. "Wholesale changes are tough at this point. Your players are your players, your coaches are your coaches. We need to find a way to go out and improve the fundamentals and prepare with class and give ourselves a chance to win.
"We have to keep throwing effort at it. Yesterday, again, no excuses, we ran out of some firepower on offense. But the guys kept fighting. We have a lot of fight in this team. I'll say that about them. There is a lot of fight, the games go down to the wire. We just got to find a way to find our path to victory."
McAdoo also said he is not deaf to the disappointment that exists within the Giants' team headquarters.
"Everyone is disappointed, I am aware of it. Everyone is irritated, I am aware of it," he said.
"I said it once, I'm going to say it again, I believe in this group of players and coaches and what this team could be. We're not there yet, but we owe it to each other and the organization to handle ourselves with class, prepare well this week and give us a chance to win the ballgame on Sunday night."
Cornerback Eli Apple has had a rough 2017 season.
Per Pro Football Focus, Apple is currently the worst performer of the Giants' cornerbacks, having allowed 25 of 37 pass targets against him to be completed for 305 yards and four touchdowns for a team worst 128.8 rating.
Because of his struggles, opposing offenses seem to be favoring attacking Apple more so than cornerback Janoris Jenkins. However, Apple disputed that he's become a favorite target of opposing teams because of his play so far.
"If that is the case, I welcome it, to be honest," he said last week before the Giants hosted the Chargers. "But, it happens, you know? Anytime you're lined up against great receivers, he's going to get the best of you sometimes and it happens. ...This is a learning curve, it's a learning lesson and that's how I take everything."
Learning curve or not, the coaching staff apparently saw enough. This past Sunday against the Chargers, head coach Ben McAdoo and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo decided to bench Apple for the first three defensive series, replacing him on the outside with veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, while moving Ross Cockrell in the slot.
In the meantime, Apple, who was also benched for part of a game last year as a rookie, was relegated to special teams, where he logged a season-high 15 snaps Sunday.
After the game, McAdoo confirmed the benching of Apple was indeed pre-planned, adding, "We have a lot of guys who were rolling in and out of there. We want to see guys compete, and we're confident in all our DBs."
Apple, who also confirmed he was benched; the coaches informed him of the move a few days before the game, didn't take the news well, and thought that he was being singled out for the poor play by the defense.
"I wasn't happy," he said after the game, adding, "It's not just one guy, it's the whole culture, it's everything. We've got to fix it."
McAdoo, when told of Apple's comments, glossed over the part about the concerns for the culture.
"I think we are in a slump right now and we have to get back to work," he said during his conference call with reporters Monday. "Make sure we are holding each other and ourselves accountable. The standards can't drop. The standards have got to stay high and we have to figure out a way to close these games in the fourth quarter with wins."
McAdoo didn't say if he planned to speak with Apple, but in terms of trying to keep a finger on the pulse of a team whose confidence is badly shaken, his hope for Apple and the rest of the team is that they are able to put this behind them when they return for work Tuesday.
"You have to flush those emotions before you get to that Wednesday practice and really after you correct the game on Tuesday, you have to flush the emotions and you have to move onto the next opponent," he said.
"You have to keep your chin up and you got to be full speed ahead on the next one. That's the most important thing for us. Be all in on the next one."
When it rains, it pours, and for the Giants, right now they're stuck amid a torrential downpour.
Such is the case for the offense, which lost four of its top receivers in their loss to the Chargers.
Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a broken ankle that has landed him on injured reserve and which will require surgery at some point this week.
Brandon Marshall, who began the year in a slump but who started to come around this past week, also suffered an ankle injury that per the NFL Network could necessitate him missing multiple games.
Slot receiver Sterling Shepard sprained the same ankle he injured in the summer and is listed as day-to-day by the team. And receiver and return specialist Dwayne Harris broke a bone in his foot that will require surgery Tuesday and that landed him on injured reserve.
That's a lot of firepower lost for the offense, which in the waning minutes of its game Sunday had to abandon its use of 11-personnel (three receivers) due to a lack of healthy bodies. Since then, the Giants have begun restocking the position, signing Tavarres King, who was with the team in the summer; promoting Travis Rudolph from the practice squad, and signing Darius Powe, who was also with the team in the summer to the practice squad.
With so few precious practice minutes available to teams in-season, McAdoo and his staff plan to expedite the learning curves of the new faces so they can step in.
"We have to go out and we have to make sure we give them as many reps as we can with the quarterback," McAdoo said. "Get them into some type of rhythm. Get some type of chemistry going. There are guys who are familiar with what we're doing. So, we have confidence there. We know them, they know us. So, we just have to go out and put our work in this week."
The young receivers aren't the only ones who will get a chance to help the team out of its current funk. McAdoo, who has always said he's not afraid to play younger players, said that some of those guys at other positions are going to get opportunities as well.
"At this point, we have some guys that are nicked up, so it's going to create opportunities just naturally for some younger players and for some other players to jump in there and play. And that sort of takes care of itself when you have the type of guys nicked up that we do. But we don't shy away from playing young players, regardless."
With his roster significantly different than the one he brought out of training camp, McAdoo was asked if the goal of the team has to be adjusted. The head coach has dismissed any talk about playoffs and Super Bowls, and instead has been trying to get the team's focus on getting that first win.
"We put a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of effort into this thing and we owe it to the organization to handle ourselves with class and go prepare well this week and give us a chance to win the game," he said.
NOTES: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) will have surgery at some point this week to repair a fracture to his ankle. Nothing is scheduled at this time, but head coach Ben McAdoo did say Beckham's injury is indeed season-ending. ... WR Dwayne Harris (broken foot) will miss the rest of the season. Harris, the team's punt and pickoff returner, finishes what is likely his last year as a Giant having averaged 20.9 yards on kickoff returns and 6.9 yards on punt returns. He will have surgery Tuesday to repair his fractured fifth metatarsal in his foot. ... WR Sterling Shepard (ankle), whom ESPN reported would miss at least two weeks with an ankle sprain to the same foot he sprained in the summer, is day-to-day per the Giants. ... WR Brandon Marshall (ankle) was undergoing further testing and examination Monday on his ankle, according to a team spokesperson. Marshall's status for the upcoming week was unclear. He was carted off the field late in the second half after suffering his ankle injury. ... LB Jonathan Casillas (stinger) suffered his injury in the second half and didn't return. A team spokesman said Casillas, the starting weak-side linebacker and defensive captain, is day-to-day. ... S Landon Collins (sprained ankle) is day-to-day, according to the team. Collins told reporters after the game that he was kicked in the leg and that he tried to fight through his ailment only to have to come out of the game periodically. ... CB Janoris Jenkins has apparently drawn some heat from the head coach after the veteran cornerback left the playing field before Sunday's game ended. Head coach Ben McAdoo wouldn't comment on Jenkins' actions, saying, "We'll handle all those issues in-house." Jenkins also was seen leaving the locker room before the media was allowed in.
REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus - Eli Manning, who wasn't sacked in the last two weeks, was dropped five times this week and hit six more times. While Manning didn't help his cause by leading some of his receivers into traffic, he stood no chance behind a porous offensive line that had no answers for Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, or did Manning have much of a chance after losing four of his five receivers to injury.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: B - The Giants finished with a season-best 152 rushing yards on 25 carries thanks to the work of Orleans Darkwa and rookie Wayne Gallman. And speaking of Gallman, how nice must it be for the Giants to finally have a running back who can bounce runs to the outside?
--PASS DEFENSE: D - Save for an interception by safety Darian Thompson on a ball thrown right to him, the pass rush was non-existent and couldn't bring down Philip Rivers, one of the last remaining statues at quarterback. The missed tackles continued and coverage linebacker Keenan Robinson was horrific. Also, other than for a couple of neutral zone penalties, Jason Pierre-Paul was once again invisible.
--RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus - Another week, another 100-plus yard performance given up by a run defense that has fallen faster than a penny dropped from the Empire State Building. Damon Harrison again had himself a good game, but the missed tackles by the linebackers and safeties are a big reason why short runs are turning into hefty gains for the opposition.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: B - This maligned unit actually had its best game of the season with no major miscues. Before suffering a season-ending broken foot, Dwayne Harris averaged 12.7 yards per punt return, which helped quite a bit with field position.
--COACHING: F - Other than delivering a statement to struggling cornerback Eli Apple, who was benched for three series, head coach Ben McAdoo's stubbornness in calling the plays is hurting this team. Witness the delay of game penalty the Giants took because the head coach had his face buried in his menu and didn't realize that the clock was winding down until it was too late. Instead of kicking the extra point after the penalty yardage was assessed, he went for the 2-point conversion anyway. There was also the decision to abandon the run in the third quarter despite the game being close. In fact, it wasn't until most of his receivers exited the game that McAdoo was forced to abandon 11-personnel. How many times is he going to stick with the same stubborn approach before realizing that some of his philosophies that he keeps hoping magically develop just aren't a fit for this team?