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Giants at Jets: Storylines to watch as struggling teams meet

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The coaches are part of the story, but not all of it

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

What are some of the storylines to watch Sunday as the New York Giants (2-7) and New York Jets (1-7) limp into their meeting today MetLife Stadium? Let’s look.

Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold

Each franchise has pinned its hopes for the future on a young quarterback. Victories in Jones’ first two starts for the Giants brought some hysteria, but things have come back to earth for the sixth overall pick and his team. Five straight losses and 16 turnovers by the rookie have dimmed the optimism.

Darnold has 10 turnovers in five games. The second-year quarterback has been intercepted nine times, and his percentage of passes intercepted (5.2) is easily worst in the league. Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns is second at 4.4 percent.

These two youngsters will always be compared, at least in the New York/New Jersey media market. They share a stadium, they share a city and a media market, many thought the Giants should have drafted Darnold in 2018.

Who will come out on top today?

The Giants’ re-shuffled offensive line

The Giants’ offensive line has not been great this season. Football Outsiders has the Giants ranked No. 22 in both Adjusted Line Yards in the run game and Adjusted Sack Rate in pass blocking.

That group is expected to see two new faces play for the first time this season. Spencer Pulley will replace Jon Halapio (hamstring) at center and Nick Gates is likely to make his first NFL start at right tackle in place of Mike Remmers (back).

Will that end up being good for the Giants or bad? Pulley is an experienced third-year player with 25 NFL starts. Gates impressed the Giants during the preseason. So, we’ll see.

Leonard Williams faces old team

This will be just Williams’ second game since the Giants acquired him from the Jets at the trade deadline. Williams claims no extra motivation.

“I’m obviously excited to play against the team that I once played for and that traded me to this team now,” he said. “There’s no extra motivation than last week. I’m still with this team, I still want to win every game like I would every week. The motivation level is still the same.”

Young Giants’ defensive backs

Much has been made of the struggles of first-round pick DeAndre Baker, of his admission that he is still learning the playbook and of defensive backs coach Everett Withers saying that Baker is still learning the “sense of urgency” required to do so in the NFL. The Giants traded up in the draft to get Baker, giving up picks No. 37 (second-round), No. 132 (fourth-round) and No. 142 (fifth-round) to move up to No. 30. Thus, they have a lot riding on his ultimate success or failure.

Could Baker see his snaps limited on Sunday as 2018 supplemental draft pick Sam Beal makes his long-awaited NFL debut after injuries sidelined him for the first 25 games of his NFL career?

How will Corey Ballentine, expected to start his second NFL game in the slot, do. His debut had good and bad moments.

Can Saquon Barkley do it alone?

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) won’t play. Neither will tight end Evan Engram (foot). That leaves the Giants minus two of their best pass-receiving options and puts even more focus on Barkley.

The second-year back has not been his explosive self since returning from a high ankle sprain. He has carried 51 times for 164 yards over the past three games, just 3.2 yards per carry. Barkley will get extra attention from the Jets today, but the Giants will need some of those Barkley-esque big plays to avoid an embarrassing loss.

What happens after the game?

This depends on which team wins, and just exactly how disenchanted the ownership of the losing team is with its coaching staff. Jets fans have even taken to the skies to beg the team to fire coach Adam Gase, but the Jets reportedly are not inclined to do that now. Giants coach Pat Shurmur and his coaching staff are also drawing increased scrutiny as the losses mount. The Giants have a bye week after Sunday. It seems unlikely they would pull the plug on Shurmur, but could a loss bring some changes to his group of assistants?