New England Patriots fans have some unpleasant memories of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Two times, after the 2007 and 2011 seasons, the former first overall draft pick has led his team to Super Bowl titles by defeating the Patriots on the biggest stage. When the two teams meet again later today, however, the 38-year-old will not be under center for the Giants: rookie Daniel Jones is running the show in New York these days.
Jones joined the Giants as the highly scrutinized sixth overall selection earlier this year, and originally started the season behind Manning. After two poor performances by the veteran to open the season, head coach Pat Shurmur decided to make a switch and try his luck with the Duke product — a move that paid off: Jones led New York to two wins in his first two starts and showed considerable promise along the way.
“Jones has been really good. Since day one of rookie minicamp he has looked like a pro quarterback,” said Ed Valentine, managing editor at Big Blue View, when talking with Pats Pulpit about the first-year passer earlier this week. “He has the courage to take a hit, he has the mobility to make plays with his legs, and he throws a more accurate ball and has better arm strength than advertised.”
Jones’s numbers reflect his abilities as an accurate passer and as a player capable of making plays with his feet if need be — something the Patriots cannot sleep on when facing him tonight. Since taking over for Manning ahead of Week 3, he has completed 67 of his 105 passing attempts (63.8%) for 743 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He also attempted 12 rushes for 73 yards and another pair of scores.
The rookie has certainly been impressive despite originally not being projected to see the field much this season, something Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also expressed when talking about him during a press conference on Tuesday: “He’s very athletic, he’s mobile. I wouldn’t say he’s just go back and start running, but if he needs to run, if the protection breaks down or if there’s an opening there.”
“If he gets outside of the pocket, he can cause a lot of damage with his speed and his ability to extend plays,” said Belichick, essentially painting the same picture as Ed did about the highly drafted Duke product. “But, he’s a very accurate quarterback and has good poise. He’s shown good toughness in the pocket. He’s been hit a few times, but he just stands in there and can keeps ripping it. He’s been impressive.”
Needless to say that the Patriots will have to play a disciplined game up front in order to keep Jones in the pocket to win by challenging his decision making and accuracy. Could the rookie be up to the test? It certainly is possible, but there are two factors speaking against it:
1.) New England’s defensive abilities to disguise and make life hard for the rookie, by offering different looks, coverages and pressure packages on a play-to-play basis.
2.) New York’s injuries at the pass catching positions: running backs Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman Jr., wide receiver Sterling Shepard, and tight end Evan Engram have already been ruled out for today’s game.
Ultimately, Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Shula will have their hands full against a Patriots defense that has been outstanding through the first five games of the season. However, Ed seems confident in the youngster’s abilities to perform against his toughest test to date: “He’ll be fine,” he said. “He just may not have many weapons to work with.”
Ed also briefly answered some other questions about the Giants:
Q: Which players on both sides of the ball do Patriots fans need to know about?
EV: Offensively, wide receiver Darius Slayton. Speed to burn, better route runner than thought. He’s going to be a good player. Defensively, Dexter Lawrence is a MAN. A 340+ pound MAN. He’s going to be a really good player.
Q: If you were an offensive coordinator, how would you attack New York’s defense?
How would I attack New York’s defense? Put 11 guys out there and pretty much do whatever I felt like, to be honest. If it includes plays designed to go forward, they will work. In all seriousness, attack the edges with the run (get away from Lawrence). Attack the linebackers, since the Giants are injury ravaged there. Don’t be afraid to take some deep shots against the corners.
Q: What do you think the Giants will have to do in order to win on Sunday?
To win Thursday? Make a special request to the league to use the 2007 and 2011 teams. The Giants are not winning on Thursday. Not as beaten up as they are and with a defense that has been awful.