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Giants-Browns story lines: Daniel Jones, the Odell trade, special teams, more

Stories to watch this week as the Giants host the Browns in Week 15

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Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants host the Cleveland Browns Sunday night in a game that is important for both teams. Here are some of the story lines to pay attention to.

Daniel Jones

Will the Giants’ quarterback be able to move around any better than he did last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals? In reality, being able to move at all would be an improvement.

There are no guarantees.

“Ultimately the biggest thing for him we’re looking at is we want him to play, he wants to play, but we’ve also gotta be smart with him. We felt after consulting with all the doctors and everyone kinda giving their opinion on things and talking to him we felt like it was a situation where the risk wasn’t — it was OK enough where he could go out there and play [against the Arizona Cardinals] and not re-injure it as bad,” Schuplinski said during a Tuesday videoconference.

“We’ll re-evaluate it again this week and see where he is tomorrow (Wednesday) in practice. I’m assuming this process is going to be pretty constant now moving forward.”

This is an issue for a Giants team that needs the play-making ability Jones generally brings with his legs as one of the league’s most productive running quarterbacks. First, Jones’ legs have been responsible for many of the Giants’ biggest plays. Second, eating a sack because you can’t move to avoid one rather than getting out of the pocket and at least throwing the ball away sets back an offense that is in trouble if it gets off schedule.

Can the Giants keep up?

It is easy to think fo the Browns as a plodding, ground-and-pound, team. After all, Cleveland is third in the league with an offense built largely around running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

In the last two weeks, though, the Browns hung 41 points on the Tennessee Titans and 42 points on a really good Baltimore Ravens defense. In the process, they threw for 340 and 355 yards.

Cleveland has scored 40 or more points three times this season. The Browns have scored 30 or more points in four other games.

The Giants have scored 30 points only once this season, and have failed to reach 20 points in any of their last three games. Daniel Jones’ limitations won’t make it easy for the Giants to keep up if this turns into an up-and-down-the-field game.

A ray of hope for the Giants is that despite all those big offensive outbursts, the Browns have also posted games in which they scored 10, 7 and 6 points.

Old-school football

We know the Giants are going to want to run the football with Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris. The Browns, with Chubb and Hunt, have only had two games all season in which they have rushed for less than 100 yards.

High-scoring or not, this figures to be an old-school, physical game in which running the football matters. Really matters.

The Odell trade

Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t playing, having suffered a season-ending torn ACL a few weeks ago. Still, with Beckham’s Browns coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday the 2019 trade that sent Beckham from the Giants to the Browns has been the subject of some discussion in the media this week.

I went on record a few weeks ago saying that I was fine with the trade of Beckham.

A further question, though, is did the Giants win the Beckham trade?

At this point, I say yes. Jabrill Peppers is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Dexter Lawrence is a quality defensive tackle, though he may never impact the pass rush enough to be a true star. The jury is out on 2019 third-round pick Oshane Ximines.

As for Beckham, he had 1,035 yards receiving last season, but this year was averaging career lows in most receiving categories before being hurt. I just don’t think he’s the same guy we saw in his first couple of seasons with the Giants.

Considering the fact that Peppers, 25 and Lawrence, 24, should be primary contributors on defense for several seasons I would say the Giants won that trade.

The one negative, of course, is that the Giants never replaced Beckham with a true No. 1 receiver.

Your thoughts, Giants fans? Did the Giants win or lose that trade? Or, is it still too soon to tell?

Playoff possibilities

The Giants’ chances of winning the NFC East took a major hit with their loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It breaks down like this:

  • Football Outsiders now gives the Giants just a 22.8 percent chance of winning the division, a drop of 29.8 percentage points from last week’s 52.6 percent. Washington is listed with a 68.2 percent chance of winning the division.
  • ESPN’s Football Power Index drops the Giants from a 57.2 percent chance to 24.4 percent, a 32.8 percent fall. FPI has Washington with a 68.6 percent chance of being division champion.
  • FiveThirtyEight drops the Giants from 54 to 15 percent, a 39 percent drop. Washington is given a 74 percent chance of winning the division

The Washington Football Team hosts the Seattle Seahawks this week. It will help if Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf, Jamal Adams and the rest of the Seahawks do the Giants a solid this week.

Something special?

How about we start with hopefully getting something acceptable from the Giants’ special teams this week?

A strength for most of the season, the special teams have been a liability in recent weeks.

The punt team has had coverage issues, committed false-star penalties and had a blocking breakdown that led to a blocked punt. Punter Riley Dixon has also not been as efficient with his ball placement in recent weeks as he had been at the beginning of the season.

In addition, the Giants have given up a kick return touchdown, missed an extra point, fumbled a kickoff and not gotten much from their return game.

Personnel changes on special teams seem to be afoot. Gunner Brandon Williams was waived this week. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Joe Webb, a veteran jack-of-all-trades signed last week by the Giants, is added to the roster this week to help special teams. We might also see Dante Pettis, a record-setting collegiate punt returner, active for the first time as a Giant. Pettis has never returned kickoffs, but with the lack of real production there from Dion Lewis it seems like the Giants have to try someone else.

With coach Joe Judge’s special teams and New England roots, it wouldn’t be any surprise to see starters asked to play more snaps on coverage teams.

The Giants simply aren’t explosive enough on offense to have their special teams continue to put them at a disadvantage.

Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

The Giants’ offensive line had a stretch of games during the team’s four-game winning streak where it was really good, in particular against the Cincinnati Bengals and in the second half against the Seattle Seahawks.

Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the line regressed in pass protection as Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy were sacked eight times.

“We were not a good offensive line the other day,” offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo said on Tuesday.

Which version of the offensive line shows up on Sunday will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Giants have a chance at an upset victory they really need.