The odds were stacked against them playing against the best defense in the NFL, and rookie quarterback Daniel Jones looked like, well, a rookie quarterback. This week the Giants face one of the worst defenses in the NFL and another rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray.
The Giants are clearly hoping that Jones will be able to use the “mini-bye” following Thursday Night Football put the last two weeks behind him and pick up where he left off against the Washington Redskins. Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Shula offered his thoughts about Jones and the Cardinals’ defense while talking to the media on Thursday.
On Daniel Jones
The Giants’ rookie quarterback is coming off of a pair of rough outings against the great defenses of the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots. Obviously nobody expected Jones to play at a “Franchise” level right out of the gate and struggles along the way are absolutely to be expected as a rookie matures. Part of that maturation will be learning from those mistakes, fixing issues, and not letting them become reoccurring habits.
The Giants’ offensive coordinator is frank about what the Giants want from Jones, but also realistic about where he is in his development.
“We want him to lead us to win,” Shula said. “But with any young quarterback, just the continued progress of making good decisions consistently and not making the bad ones. You’re going to make mistakes. There are going to be things every week that you wish you could do a little bit better. You just don’t want the ones that are, ‘I wish I didn’t do that, and it really didn’t have anything to do with the defense,’ those types of things. Along those lines, the continued increase in timing, better timing, making decisions on staying with number one or getting off number one, things like that.”
Making better decisions is something every quarterback strives to do, from rookies like Jones to players like Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Shula was careful to point out that unforced errors happen, and the important part is learning how to learn from them and move on, not let them snowball.
Shula said, “It’s not just for a young quarterback. It’s really for… You watch around the league, even some of the best quarterbacks around the league are trying to do things maybe they shouldn’t be trying to do too much. That’s the beauty of the position. It’s one of the most unique positions in all of sports because you have to make split-second decisions with guys trying to take your head off, so to speak. You want to be on time, otherwise you’re going to be late against good corners that are going to intercept the ball. I think the biggest thing is if you do make one, then you have to have a short memory and move on. Then through experience, just say ‘Hey, I’m in this situation again. It’s first down, I don’t need to hold on to the ball. Just throw it away. It’s okay to throw the ball away.’ Those are the things that come to mind.”
On the Cardinals’ defense
The Giants are coming off of games against two of the best defenses in the NFL and looking forward to a game against one of the worst. Shula was asked what, in his view, has been hurting Arizona’s defense. His response was, predictably, diplomatic.
“First of all,” Shula said, “you can kind of throw [Arizona’s ranking at the bottom of the league] out the window, I think. Every week in the NFL, it doesn’t matter. You can throw stats out the window. When you look at your schedule at the start of the season, you can throw that out. I think that they’re young on defense, and they’re still learning. Everybody is still learning the system. They were up last week against a really good offense and kept them down until the end against Atlanta. They’ve been in some really good games. We have to worry about ourselves, no matter who we play.”
He is right that Arizona has a young defense, with rookies or second year players starting at several positions. So not only are they learning a new defense, they are learning how to play in the NFL.
The Cardinals do have a couple notable veterans on their defense, including Terrell Suggs (who has four sacks and three forced fumbles), as well as Chandler Jones, and a returning Patrick Peterson.
About Chandler Jones (who has four and a half sacks, as well as three forced fumbles of his own), Shula said, “He’s very athletic. I’d say two things. He’s very athletic, and he has a high motor. To add a third thing to that is his size. He has long reach, he can bend, he can accelerate, he can change directions. His motor is always running. Then you throw in his experience and instinctiveness. He’s really good. He’s having a good year, and I think he’s one of the top players in the league.”
The Cardinals are also getting Patrick Peterson back from suspension, which should help reinforce their weak secondary. This marks the third time in three weeks the Giants will face a defense boasting an All-Pro caliber cornerback.
“Another great player,” Shula said. “He’s extremely talented. He has great football awareness. You have to be very, very careful when you’re throwing the ball in his direction for a lot of reasons. He plays with a lot of confidence, as we’ve all seen throughout his career. Again, we have to be very, very careful throwing the ball that way.”