ARLINGTON, Texas -- It all starts up front. If that saying holds even a shred of truth, the New York Giants could be in trouble.
Their offensive line was a point of contention entering the season. After a worrisome performance in a 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, it became clear this might ultimately be their undoing this season.
General manager Jerry Reese and McAdoo have been selling for months that the unit would be improved. It was only fair to wait and see if they were onto something. The summer produced some promising results.
But Sunday night was ugly. The Giants allowed three sacks, rushed for 35 total yards and their offense compiled 233 total yards. The excuse that it's only one game doesn't apply in this case either. This is the same starting five on an offensive line that struggled last season. They struggled again Sunday night for a national audience to see.
Hart, the Giants' starting right tackle, had a rough time with Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who had one sack last season. Lawrence had five tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss matched mostly against Hart.
Right guard John Jerry and left tackle Flowers were each flagged for a holding penalty and allowed a sack. Flowers' sack allowed came when the Giants were in the red zone and ruined a promising drive.
All this should leave the Giants concerned with the state of their entire offense, even though star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. didn't play because of an ankle injury. Even when Beckham returns, they may not be able to consistently function effectively with a shaky line and an immobile quarterback in Eli Manning. That is showing to be a recipe for disaster.
Manning, 36, and the Giants struggled to score points and consistently move the ball on offense last season. It was much of the same on Sunday night. Manning seemed to be getting rid of the ball quickly (perhaps too quickly?) and the offense was consistently out of rhythm, with the exception of one scoring drive to start the second half.
"I think I hung in the pocket and moved around," Manning said. "Looking at the rush I saw Roger [Lewis] downfield and did an OK job moving around. I tried to extend a couple of plays, but couldn't make anything happen with them."
Manning targeted wide receiver Brandon Marshall four times, and Marshall's only completion came in the final minute. His leading receiver was running back Shane Vereen, who was targeted 10 times and caught nine passes. The Giants' offense consisted of an overload of dinks and dunks.
It's not as if the Cowboys are overflowing with talent on their defensive line or were doing anything special. Their success was surprising. They weren't bringing a bevy of blitzes or unique looks. They were running a significant amount of basic twists or stunts that the Giants have been struggling to handle, dating back to the preseason.
"I agree," coach Ben McAdoo said.
Why is that?
"Because we're struggling to block it."
So why can't they fix it?
McAdoo considered it a combination of technique and communication. The bottom line is it doesn't appear to be getting fixed.
Making changes to the line might need to be an option. Jerry had ceded some of his reps in the preseason to Brett Jones. D.J. Fluker, who could be an asset to the running game, is also an option. The backup tackle is undrafted rookie free agent Chad Wheeler.
In his typical protect-the-offensive-line fashion, McAdoo didn't seem ready to make changes. It was only one game.
"Again, you can't just point the finger at one person or one position when you have an outing like that," he said.
Except this isn't one person or one outing. Giants fans have seen these offensive line struggles before -- from some of these same players -- and it doesn't appear to be changing.