A Realistic Blueprint for the Rest of the Big Blue Season

Eric Fishbin and Zach Schiller, Sports Editor and Assistant Sports Editor

The New York Giants season is not likely to end with an NFC East division title. The team probably is not going to be in the Wild Card chase either, for that matter. However, the blueprint for the Big Blue looks a little better after quarterback Daniel Jones’ first career start on Sunday, September 22 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones showed Giants fans flashes of play to get excited about in the nail-biting 32-31 win and filled up the stat sheet with 336 passing yards and four total touchdowns, including the game-winning rushing touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the game.

Jones’ first start was everything and more Giants fans could have hoped for. However, despite Jones’ big day and come from behind theatrics, the fan base should not expect more than a year of development for the first-year quarterback out of Duke University.

No matter how well Jones plays, he, or any quarterback for that matter, is unlikely to play well enough to overcome the Giants defensive struggles. The defense looks as porous as the band of misfits in the Little Giants from the 1994 Warner Bros. movie starring Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill.

Even if Jones can put up 30-point games week after week, the support will not be there on the other side of the ball. The team cannot force turnovers.

Through three games, the Giants defense has forced only one turnover and it was because of a clear offensive mistake (see linebacker Ryan Connelly’s interception on quarterback Jameis Winston from the Buccaneers game).

Additionally, the defense has struggled significantly with tackling this season and their coverage in the secondary raises a lot of concerns. Because of the state of the current defensive unit, the Giants will struggle to keep games close this season and to win close games. Even this past week, Jones’ heroics were almost all for not, as the defense allowed Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers to drive the length of the field in a minute, only to be bailed out by Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay missing a chip shot 34-yard field goal.

In addition to the Giants defensive struggles, Jones isn’t exactly stepping into a dynamic offense. The offensive line, which has been a weakness of the Giants for years, did not do a great job protecting their rookie quarterback, allowing five sacks on the day.

The loss of the Giants most versatile player on offense, all-pro second year running back Saquon Barkley, to a high ankle sprain which will keep him out four to eight weeks, certainly will not help Jones.

Still, there is a silver lining. Barring injury or a Pat Shurmer change of heart, Jones will have nearly a full season to pick up valuable game experience that simply cannot be simulated in practice or preseason games.

By virtue of being drafted with the sixth overall pick in this past years NFL draft, Shurmur and General Manager Dave Gettleman believe that Jones is the future of the Giants franchise and will be patient with him through a season that will undoubtedly have its high points, like this past Sunday’s come from behind victory, but also its growing pains. Jones is under little pressure to win games immediately (the Giants probably wouldn’t mind a high draft pick), and the team should instead prioritize Jones’ development.

This will benefit Jones and the young core around him featuring wide receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and running back Saquon Barkley when he returns from injury.

To fantasy football owners and Giants fans’ delight, Engram and Shepard shined with Jones under center. Engram hauled in six receptions for 113 yards and scored a touchdown after beating every Bucs defender down the field on eight targets. Shepard also caught a touchdown on one of Jones’ most accurate throws of the day and tallied 100 yards on seven receptions on nine targets.

Akin to the New York Knicks 2018-2019 season, Giants fans are in for a year of watching the future of the team develop for a season. That comes with some growing pains. While Jones tossed and ran for two touchdowns, he also lost two fumbles on plays resembling quarterback Eli Manning in the pocket. Exciting runs or great throws will undoubtedly be coupled with an excruciating interception or a bad sack. However, these highs and lows are all part of the learning curve for a young NFL quarterback, and Jones is no exception.

While this season may not be a success in terms of the Giants record this year, it will hopefully mark the beginning of Jones development into Manning’s successor as the Giants next franchise quarterback.