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Valentine’s Views: Thoughts on the Giants as the season reaches the quarter-pole

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With one decision, the present and the future both changed

NFL: SEP 15 Bills at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants have reached quarter pole of the 2019 season at 2-2, with hope of being competitive this season and seeing clear reasons to dream of brighter days ahead in the seasons to come. Here are some “things I think” after four games.

Daniel Jones changes everything

When Pat Shurmur made the move to the rookie quarterback after an 0-2 start. Before the move was even made official, I went on record as saying I believed it was the right thing to do.

For an organization that has done too little winning in its recent past, finally fully embracing that they have to be about the future always seemed like the correct choice.

After two season-saving victories, I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with Art Stapleton of The Record the Wednesday after the Giants made the announcement. Standing in the media parking lot outside Quest Diagnostics, Stapleton and I agreed that the Giants had done the right thing for their future.

Art, though, posed a question that would impact the present.

“What if Jones is just better?”

As in better right now than the 38-year-old version of Eli Manning in 2019.

Well, guess what? Through two games, that looks like the case.

During Sunday’s game against Washington I turned to Patricia Traina, two seats away in the press box, a number of times during the game and said “Eli can’t make that play.”

The move to Jones could easily have been interpreted as a give-up on the 2019 season. Instead, it has injected life into it.

His mobility makes the offense better. Some of his throws have been just jaw-dropping. He doesn’t look like a rookie on the field, or have the demeanor of one off of it. He’s brought hope, for both the present and the future, back to a franchise that needed it. He’s making Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman look smarter. And the Giants better.

Everything is coming up Gettleman

I did not coin that phrase. As the Giants have won their last two games, though, and as more and more of the GM’s moves look prescient, it’s one you hear around the Quest Diagnostics media room or the MetLife Stadium press box.

Right now, it’s pretty hard to argue with its accuracy.

Every time he steps on the field, Jones seems to make Gettleman look better for choosing him No. 6 overall.

After last Sunday, it’s pretty hard to argue that Jones isn’t a far more advanced quarterback right now than Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback so many thought the Giants should have chosen at No. 6.

Jabrill Peppers had a game-changing impact Sunday vs. the Redskins. Landon Collins did nothing of consequence, other than sound petty in ripping Peppers.

Do the Giants look, sound or feel like a team that misses Odell Beckham Jr.? No, they do not.

Olivier Vernon has one sack and three quarterback hits in Cleveland. Markus Golden, signed to play his spot, has a team-high 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits for the Giants. Oh, and Kevin Zeitler is anchoring an improved offensive line.

Neither Dexter Lawrence nor DeAndre Baker has been great. The two first-round picks, though are starting and improving week-to-week.

Mid-round picks Oshane Ximines, Ryan Connelly and Darius Slayton all look like players who will help the Giants for years to come.

Not that long ago many seemed to think Gettleman was a doddering old man who didn’t understand the modern game, didn’t have a plan, couldn’t judge talent and whose most obvious skill was ticking players off as he shoved them out the door.

Obviously, there is a lot of season to play and no final conclusions should be drawn about anything. Right now, though, it looks like Gettleman might be the one who ends up with the last laugh.

Defining stretch looming

The fact that the Giants have to play the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots the next two weeks has already been discussed quite a bit. The Vikings have one of the NFL’s best defenses, even if it is balanced by an under-performing offense. The Patriots are, well, what they always are. Maybe better than ever.

Look beyond that, though. The Giants face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7, travel to face the Detroit Lions in Week 8 and host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9. It’s a brutal stretch in which the Giants will only be favored in one game.

The Giants are 5-point underdogs to the Vikings this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. To be honest, with the Giants being home I think that’s a game they can win. It’s one they need to win if they really want to entertain thoughts of being a true playoff contender this season.

Still, the Giants feel more like a team building toward a better future rather than one that is ready to be a legitimate contender right now.

A few quick thoughts

  • The more games the Giants win the more tempting it will be to bring Saquon Barkley back before he is fully recovered from his high ankle sprain. Let’s hope the Giants are exceedingly cautious with their best player.
  • The Giants challenged punter Riley Dixon by bringing in Johnny Townsend during preseason. Well, Dixon has responded, He is averaging 48.1 yards per punt, nearly three full yards better than the 45.4 he averaged a year ago. He is eighth among qualifying kickers so far with 52.9 percent of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
  • Speaking of the punt team, after four games does anyone not understand why the Giants claimed Cody Core and let Alonzo Russell go? The Giants are giving up 2.6 yards per punt return, third in the league, and are second in net yards per punt at 46.8. Core, as a gunner, is a big part of the reason. He is pretty much in the face of the return man on every punt.
  • With some roster flux due to injuries, I’m interested to see if the Giants make a move for a veteran free agent like linebacker Brandon Marshall or running back Jay Ajayi. I doubt they will, to be honest, but doing so might be a sign they think they can make a playoff push this season.
  • So much sour grapes from Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins. It’s unbecoming, and makes the Giants look good for moving on. Look in the mirror, fellas!

A class move by Ryan Connelly

The unfortunate season-ending knee injury suffered by Ryan Connelly robs the Giants defense of a good, emerging young player who could be a difference-maker. When I think of Connelly, though, I think about what I saw from the young man in the locker room on Sunday night.

After hobbling to his locker on crutches, Connelly sat on a stool and talked to a couple of different waves of reporters, including yours truly. About the game. About his knee. About his role on the defense, and the young group’s improved performance against Washington.

He did not have to do any of that. Many NFL players in his position would have made sure to be long gone before media was allowed in the locker room after the game. Stuck in the room, many would have simply waved media away or simply informed inquisitors he did not wish to talk.

Not Connelly. As difficult as the evening was for him, and as much pain as he was probably in, he sat and patiently talked to anyone who wanted to talk to him.

“Kudos” to him for that. It showed what kind of young man he is. And it made what happened to him stink even more.