The Daniel Jones era is off to a 2-0 start after the New York Giants defeated their divisional rival Washington Redskins 24-3 in the Meadowlands on Sunday. It was a team effort, and the Giants controlled the game from start to finish. The much-maligned defense had their strongest performance yet, and rookie Daniel Jones did just enough to maintain the lead throughout the game.
In a game where turnovers were aplenty, the Giants defense got out to hot start, as rookie Ryan Connelly picked off Case Keenum on the third play from scrimmage. Jones and the offense took advantage of the favorable field position, putting together a meticulous but effective 8 play, a 32-yard scoring drive that included a fourth-down conversion. Third-year pro Wayne Gallman, who had himself a nice day stepping up in the absence of Saquon Barkley, capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown catch.
After the defense forced a punt on the ensuing Washington drive, Jones again led the Giants to a touchdown, this time driving 94 yards on 13 plays. Gallman found the endzone for the second time with a one-yard run.
The Giants defense forced another 3 and out of Case Keenum, but Jones immediately followed it up with his first career interception. The following drive for Washington saw rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins enter the game for the first time in his career, hoping to spark the hapless Redskins offense. On his first drive, he took advantage of favorable field position and led the offense to a field goal for their first points of the game.
With 2:14 seconds in the quarter, the other rookie first-round quarterback led the Giants down the field for an Aldrick Rosas field goal to end the first half. This was in large part to a 31 yard Evan Engram catch and run and another 20-yard screen pass to Gallman.
The second half saw a lot less offense and a lot more turnovers. The only scoring play came with under two minutes left in the third quarter when safety Jabrill Peppers jumped in front of a Dwayne Haskins pass and took it 32 yards for a Giants touchdown to extend the lead to 24-3. Haskins finished the game with 107 yards and three interceptions.
The Giants had two more turnovers themselves in the second half, as both Ron Hilliman and Wayne Gallman lost fumbles. Fortunately, neither led to any points as the defense continued to shutdown Haskins and the Redskins. Daniel Jones entered the victory formation for the first time in his career, and the New York Giants improved to 2-2, and Washington fell to 0-4.
Of course, we must begin with Daniel Jones. While he wasn’t able to replicate his Week 3 showing, fans cannot expect an NFC Offensive Player of the Week type of performance every game. The rookie quarterback made some rookie mistakes, but overall he continued to show Giants fans things to be excited about. He finished the game completing 23 of his 31 passes, with 225 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
While he was able to hold on to the ball Sunday after two fumbles against Tampa Bay, but the rookie threw the first two interceptions of his career. The two plays were extremely similar, with Jones facing pressure up the middle and looking for Sterling Shepard on deep crossing routes. Both passes were picked off by Washington’s Quinton Dunbar.
These types of things are going to happen, especially with the downfield aggression Jones has shown in his first two starts. On the positive side, Jones was fantastic on third down yet again. With Jones as the starter, the Giants have converted 14 of 26 third downs (54%). For perspective, the Giants were 5 for 23 (22%) with Eli Manning at the helm. This is in large part due to the mobility Jones has brought to the Giants offense. While Jones didn’t rush for any touchdowns after scoring two last week, he put forth 33 yards on the ground on five carries.
The most notable was late in the third quarter on a 3rd and long, where Jones shed two would-be sacks and scampered 16 yards for a first down. Not only do Jones’ legs come up big when pulling the ball down and rushing, but his mobility within the pocket has been huge for the offense.
There have been countless plays where Jones has been able to step up and around in the pocket and throw the ball on the run or on his back foot, plays that likely would have ended in sacks with Eli at quarterback. Simply put, Daniel Jones does things for this offense than Eli Manning physically cannot do.
While all the hype was around the rookie quarterback this week, the biggest concern for the Giants offense was how they would deal with the absence of 2018 Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley, who is expected to miss at least a few more weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The coaching staff, opting to not bring in any free agent running backs, put their trust in third-year pro Wayne Gallman. Gallman more than delivered, putting forth 63 yards and a touchdown on the ground and adding another 55 yards and a score through the air.
While Gallman doesn’t have that home run ability that makes Barkley so special, he showed more than enough to keep the job while Saquon is out. He had a 15-yard catch on a third and long on the first drive of the game which allowed the Giants to convert on fourth and short, which eventually lead to his first touchdown. Later in the first half, during a Daniel Jones two minute drill, he converted a second and twenty with another impressive catch and run.
As for the Giants pass catchers, Sterling Shepard caught seven passes for 76 yards on nine targets which led the team in each category. He continues to play well in his return from the concussion suffered week one that kept him out of the Bills game. Shepard seems to have a nice rapport with the rookie quarterback, and Jones has done a great job putting the ball in places where he can run after the catch.
Evan Engram, who had 131 yards and a score last week, was held in check for most of the day by former Giant Landon Collins. He managed 54 yards on four catches, 31 of them coming on a catch and run late in the first half where he torched Washington linebacker, Cole Holcomb. Despite a quieter day, Engram continues to prove to be a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers.
Rookie Darius Slayton, who shined in his debut last week, caught just two passes for 13 yards. The group looks forward to getting veteran Golden Tate back this coming week, who finished up his four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy.
The offensive line had a solid outing, not allowing a single sack of Daniel Jones. They also provided holes for Wayne Gallman and Ron Hilliman throughout the game. Without Saquon Barkley and his ability to make something out of nothing on any given play, it was vital for the offensive line to provide clear running lanes for Gallman to work with, and they did exactly that. With a steady lead the entire second half, the line allowed the Giants to run the ball, chew clock, and seal the win.
The much-maligned Giants defense, which had been giving up over 31 points per game and had ranked last in passing defense going into Sunday, built off their strong second half against Tampa Bay and held the Redskins to 3 points and forced four turnovers. It didn’t matter whether it was Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins under center, Washington was unable to get anything going Sunday.
The Giants were able to create pressure on both quarterbacks throughout the day, as it was another case of a “pass rush by committee”. Markus Golden continued his strong start to the season, combining on a sack with impressive rookie Oshane Ximines. Tuzar Skipper, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Ryan Connelly also found themselves in the sack column.
A key aspect of the pass rush that won’t show up in the box score was the interior pressure and push caused by Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence. While the Giants likely won’t have a guy who gets to double digits sacks this year, the pass rush has been much better than anticipated to this point, ranking 10th in the league in total QB hits.
The linebacker unit going into the game was thin, with Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) inactive. That left the Giants with rookie Ryan Connelly and journeyman David Mayo as the only true linebackers available. Things only got worse, as Connelly left the game in the fourth quarter with what has been confirmed as a torn ACL.
This is an enormous loss for an already beat linebacker group, and Connelly had been one of the most productive players on to this point in the season. He had another stellar performance before leaving Sunday, with an interception, sack, and five total tackles.
On the bright side, Mayo had a nice showing leading the team in tackles with 8.5. He will likely continue to have a prominent role going forward with the loss of Connelly and the other injuries on defense.
The secondary, which had been a huge issue through the first three weeks, had lights out performance. Janoris Jenkins bounced back from one of the worst games in his eight career in a big way, with two interceptions and deflection that lead to Connelly’s pick in the first quarter, earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. This was a welcome sign for Giants fans, who are hoping he can return to at least some version of the All-Pro corner he was in 2016.
On the other side, rookie first-round pick Deandre Baker put forth his second straight solid outing after a rough start to his career. He was targeted only once Sunday giving up just 11 yards. It seems Baker is getting more comfortable in DC James Bettcher’s system and playing an increased amount of press coverage, a strength of his coming out Georgia.
Jabrill Peppers continued the trend in the secondary as he also had his strongest game by far, combining for six tackles and finding the endzone on a pick-six. He also saved a touchdown on a goal-line pass from Dwayne Haskins that would have made it a one-score game late in the first half.
With Peppers being an integral part of the Odell Beckham trade, and being the replacement for fan-favorite Landon Collins, there is a lot of investment in the third-year pro. Bettcher seems to be getting more creative with him, using him both in the box and in coverage like he did with Collins.