By the numbers
Let’s talk about Danny Dimes
For a frame of reference as Jones readies for his first start, here is what Eli Manning did in his first four starts:
- 17 of 37, 1 TD, 2 INTs (14-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons)
- 6 of 21, 0 TDs, 2 INTs (27-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles)
- 12 of 25, 0 TDs, 0 INTs (31-7 loss to the Washington Redskins)
- 4 of 18, 0 TDs, 2 INTs (37-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens)
I don’t bring that up to say that we should expect Jones to stink on Sunday. Just to say let’s not expect him to be a miracle-worker. If he turn out to be one, great. It’s just not fair to expect him to be one.
Here’s what Jones said on Wednesday when I asked him what he could to help a team with issues that have gone far beyond quarterback play.
“Through the first two weeks, like you said, there have been a number of issues. As a team, we all have to perform better. I think everyone’s on the same page there,” he said. “My job is to come in and be prepared and know exactly what we need to do and execute that. Like I said, we have good players and good spots. My job is to execute the offense, to get the ball where it needs to go on time and accurately. I don’t think my role changes in that sense. Just to execute.”
Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday that the offense “should look the same schematically.”
Except that it really won’t. Jones is a different quarterback than Manning. Younger, more mobile, more capable of and used to running and making plays with his legs, with different strengths as a passer and really a stronger throwing arm at this point.
Shurmur on Thursday wasn’t buying the “Jones will make more mistakes because he is a rookie” argument.
“I think we expect the players that we put in the game to perform well. We try not to make excuses for the fact that players are young. If they’re in there, we expect them to play. I think that goes for quarterbacks as well,” he said.
“We demand that they [players] perform well. We understand when things happen and why they happen, and we try to correct the mistakes. But no, we’re going to put him out there and expect him to do what he needs to do.”
That Tampa Bay defense
The Giants have scored only 31 points through two weeks, 27th in the league. That average of 15.5 points per game is part of the reason Jones is playing and Manning isn’t. The Giants faced really good defenses the first two weeks, though, when they lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
This isn’t changing on Sunday.
Through two games, former New York Jets coach current Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has transformed the Tampa Bay defense. The Bucs were 27th in total yards allowed per game, 24th in rushing yards allowed per game and 26th in passing yards allowed per game a year ago.
This year? After two weeks, the Bucs are fourth in Football Outsides Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) stat.
The 22.5 points per game Tampa Bay is giving up is misleading as it includes a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns thrown by Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.
One of the reasons for Tampa Bay’s defensive success is one that seems simple. They do not miss tackles.
Missed tackle % through two weeks— Louie Benjamin (@PFF_Louie) September 19, 2019
1. Patriots - 3%
2. Buccaneers - 8%
t3. Falcons - 9%
t3. Bills - 9%
32. Titans - 26%
Another has been the play of Shaquil Barrett.
Barrett has all four of the Bucs sacks so far this season, and five of their seven quarterback hits. In five years with the Denver Broncos, Barrett started only 15 games and had only 14 sacks, with a career high of 5.5 in 2014.
Barrett had three of those sacks last Thursday against the Carolina Panthers. Here are two of the sacks and a third critical play from that game:
What’s gotten into him?
SB Nation’s Stephen White, a former NFL defensive end, took a look at that recently. White concluded that, mostly, it’s about being given a real opportunity.
Shaquil Barrett signed a one-year deal this offseason after he spent his first five seasons with the Broncos working with great edge rushers like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Barrett was no slouch himself in Denver, but it was hard for him to really make a name for himself while he was stuck behind future Hall of Fame players.
Now that he is starting in Tampa, he has exploded onto the scene in the first two weeks of this season. ...
He showed a wide array of moves on Thursday night as well, and it wasn’t just Williams he was beating all night long, either. I know it’s still early in the season, but after years of playing behind two of the greatest edge rushers the game has ever seen in Ware and Miller, Barrett looks ready to prove he is pretty damn good himself. He’s the real deal.
Run the dang ball!
The Giants have Saquon Barkley. They will now be sending out a quarterback making his first NFL start. It would behoove them to keep their porous defense off the field as long as possible.
It would make sense to run the football as much as possible.
That, though, would also have made sense the first two games. Yet, Manning threw 89 passes and got sacked twice while the Giants ran the ball only 37 times. That’s 91 times they intended to throw in 128 plays, or 71.9 percent designed passing plays.
Some of that, of course, is influenced by being behind by multiple scores late in games. Still, with Barkley being the team’s best player, it doesn’t make any sense and has to change.
Here are a few crazy stats from Inside Edge:
- The Giants are winless (0-22) when passing on 60 percent or more of plays since the start of the 2017 season -- tied for worst in NFL; League Avg: .216
- The Giants are 1-16 (.059) when rushing for less than 100 yards since the start of the 2017 season -- worst in NFL; League Avg: .298
- Giants have thrown the ball 61.1 percent of the time in the first half since week 12 of 2018 -- sixth-highest in NFL.
All of that tells you the Giants offense has been out of whack, asking an aging quarterback to do too much and a young superstar running back to do too little. Hey, Pat Shurmur. Hand the ball to Saquon. A lot. Wayne Gallman and Elijhaa Penny, too. Oh, and let your mobile, young quarterback use his legs, as well.
Who’s catching the ball?
Well, here’s another reason to lean on the running game. Cody Latimer has a concussion. Bennie Fowler tweaked his hamstring this week and his status is uncertain. Golden Tate is still suspended. Corey Coleman is still out for the year. Darius Slayton is still trying to get healthy after battling a hamstring issue for the better part of two months now.
The Giants have a zillion (OK, five) tight ends and only one, Evan Engram, is a real weapon in the passing game.
There were plenty of times over the first two games when Manning either couldn’t find anyone open or couldn’t find anyone who could hold onto the football.
.@giants made a change at QB? We all watch the same tape. This is part of what I watched this week. The new QB played 3 years @DukeFOOTBALL with 1 drafted player and won 2 bowl games. Maybe that is what the “brass” is thinking but don’t put this 0-2 on Eli #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/fMj5VBdr6z— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 18, 2019
Sterling Shepard appears on track to play, but the overall quality of the Giants receivers isn’t going to change just because there is a different quarterback throwing them the ball.