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Valentine’s Views: ‘Things I think’ after loss to Patriots

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Daniel Jones’ development and some other thoughts

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’m getting old. I usually write for a few hours after New York Giants games. I’m 59 now, though, and these 8:30 games are rough. When Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots ended and I posted the recap the only thing I wanted to do was go to bed. So, that’s what I did.

With a night’s sleep and some time to think about the Giants and what we witnessed on Thursday night here are some “things I think” as the 2-4 Giants get a mini-break before facing the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7.

On Daniel Jones and growing pains

Jones’ incredible preseason and tantalizing performances in back-to-back victories that began his career as the Giants’ starting quarterback perhaps caused some to forget that Jones is a rookie quarterback who is just getting his feet wet and experiencing things for the first time in the NFL.

There were always going to be night like Thursday, when Jones threw three interceptions, completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 35.2. It’s no surprise at all that Jones had a rough night against Bill Belichick and the Patriots in Foxborough, especially without so many big-time offensive players. No rookie quarterback has gone into Foxborough and beaten Belichick’s Patriots in 12 tries.

Yes, I gave Jones a ‘Wet Willie.’ He deserved it. Yes, he rightly took the heat for all three interceptions. He deserved that, too.

Still, Thursday is nothing to be alarmed about when it comes to Jones and his future. Mark Schofield reminded us the other day that “Quarterback development is not linear.” Each and every game will not be an improvement over the last. There will, and have already been, great days. There have already been bad days. There will be more, probably worse than Thursday night.

All of that is OK. Rookie stinkers by Eli Manning included games where he went 6 of 21 and 4 of 18, each with two interceptions. It’s part of the process for a young quarterback.

What will matter is whether or not Jones, in the end, becomes what his best performances and throws to date indicate he could be.

Pat Shurmur and game management

The biggest complaint I always hear about the Giants head coach is about his game management. I tend to shy away from criticizing individual play calls on offense or defense. I’ve always thought that a good play call is one that works. A play that doesn’t work is a bad play call. Simple as that.

I do, though, understand the gnashing of teeth about Shurmur and his in-game decision-making. Last night’s example was choosing to punt on fourth-and-2 from the Giants’ 33-yard line with 7:08 to play and the Giants down two scores.

Shurmur said he chose to punt because he “felt like it was the right thing to do.”

It wasn’t. The only acceptable choice there, down two scores and facing the strong possibility of not getting the ball back two more times, is to go for the first down. So what you are in your own territory. The Giants punted and gave up a back-breaking 63-yard touchdown drive that ended a game where Shurmur had basically punted away the Giants last chance, anyway.

Is doing the offensive play-calling and running the game too much? Does he need better in-game advice from whoever is talking to him in his headset? Second-guessing coaches is sort of a national pastime, and it’s kind of easy to do, but Shurmur is leaving himself open to that second-guessing too often.

Oh, and I do think sometimes he is throwing the challenge flag just to make the point that he thinks NFL officiating is a mess. I wish he’d stop doing that.

Improvement on defense

The Giants did play better defensively Thursday, with New England’s offense only generating 21 points. The Giants had a pass rush, they made a couple of fourth-down stops (albeit one ruined by a Jackrabbit penalty), they covered better at times and they played with aggression.

They also seemed a little defiant, as evidenced by this Michael Thomas post-game remark:

“There aren’t any moral victories and aren’t any excuses. But at the same time, this is the standard from here on out and we have to go out and correct the self-inflicting plays that we gave up. You know, the mental mistakes and the miscommunications. But how we played today, how we battled and made plays, that is the standard from here on out. If we clean up the rest of the stuff, that is how we will play moving forward. It’s on us to hold us to that standard from here on out.”

Can they? I did think Thursday’s defensive effort was one they could build on.

A word on Deone Bucannon

I asked you guys the other day if the Giants should try to sign recently-released linebacker Deone Bucannon. Reality is, they are trying to do that but they have a fair amount of competition.

Like Carl Banks, I would like to see GM Dave Gettleman pull off a Bucannon signing. David Mayo has been playing well, and Alec Ogletree played well Thursday. That’s why both got “Kudos.” Are you certain, though, that you can picture either as a starting New York Giants linebacker in 2020? I’m not sure I can.

I have a hard time believing that at 27 Bucannon doesn’t have some good football left in him. He was James Bettcher’s original “moneybacker” with the Arizona Cardinals, and without Bettcher the last two seasons Bucannon has not been the same player. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put him on the field for all of eight defensive snaps in five games before releasing him.

In my view, a 10-game flier on Bucannon would be well worth it to see if he has enough left to be part of the solution for the Giants at linebacker.

Quick thoughts

  • Really interesting Thursday to see Tae Davis, a Week 1 starting linebacker, as a healthy scratch. That means Mayo, Nate Stupar and Josiah Tauaefa have all passed him on the depth chart.
  • Another interesting move was that Kaden Smith, a rookie tight end claimed on waivers from the San Francisco 49ers, got 10 snaps in his first NFL game on Thursday while Garrett Dickerson never saw the field on offense.
  • The Giants went just 2 of 10 on third downs. That’s not going to cut it, and should improve as their play makers get healthy.
  • Darius Slayton (3 catches, 32 yards) did not do enough on Thursday to earn a “Kudos,” but I’m still impressed and think he has a bright future.
  • Olsen Pierre is the latest Giant to sustain a concussion. I would love to see the NFL’s data on number of concussion from this season to last. Somehow, I’m wondering just how effective these new anti-concussion helmets actually are.