Written by: Patrick Pryor @patpryorgraphic
After the first preseason game, Dave Gettleman can walk into his office, sit down, and not get a tirade of hatred and degrading for drafting Daniel Jones with the 5th overall pick. There’s no doubt most fans still aren’t convinced, but Jones, who most recently led his Duke Blue Devils to an Independence Bowl win, was given one drive to show off a bit. He did just that. He went 5 for 5, tossing 67 yards and a well-placed ball in the back of the endzone to Bennie Fowler. While some fans are a little more confident, this doesn’t change the fact that Eli Manning, as long as he is healthy, will be taking snaps from Jon Halapio against the Cowboys week 1. The Cowboys will be a tough opponent, bringing us to the true beginning of this article.
Weeks 1 through 4: Tate’s Suspension and the Fall of Eli
Dallas won the NFC East one week before playing the Giants in week 17 last year. The Giants came within one point of their 6th win, but fell short, resulting in their second-worst season since 2003. In week 1, Ezekiel Elliot is still holding out, good news for Dexter Lawrence and other Giants rookies. The Cowboys still have an effective running game, with rookie Tony Pollard, pro-bowler Alfred Morris, and kick returner Darius Jackson. While none match Zeke’s performance, they will still challenge a team that ranked in the bottom half of run defense. Even if the Giants defense is able to stop the run game, Jason Garrett can turn to Dak Prescott. Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and new addition Randall Cobb is hard to stop. Their 5 new defensive backs will have their hands full and will still be getting acclimated to playing with each other. Throw in 8 front seven additions, and week 1 is a learning experience for the entire team. Eli Manning is adjusting to life without Odell Beckham, with many new faces to throw to. Cody Latimer and others will hopefully begin their first full seasons. Saquon Barkley is a proven bright spot, likely the first overall pick in most fantasy drafts. He’ll provide a challenge for the emerging Dallas defense, but will still get his yards. No matter what, the Giants have trouble the first game. Dak Prescott makes quick work of the new Giants defense, and Manning has to work without Odell Beckham, who’s been replaced by less than equal receivers. A week 1 loss is headed for New York fans.
For the home opener, the Giants take on the Bills in Metlife. Despite going 6-10, the Bills Mafia was excited to see Josh Allen emerge as worthy of a first-round pick. After the Bills picked up Cole Beasley and John Brown, the young quarterback should be able to exploit a Giants defense coming off a divisional loss. The young quarterback is paired with a rising young defense. While Eli Manning is still connecting with the offense, Saquon Barkley will continue to perform at the top of his game, powering through another good front seven. LeSean McCoy will give Josh Allen a trusted spot to throw to. As the game progresses, miscommunications between Manning and his receivers become more apparent. The Giants will fall to 0-2 in at least a 10 point game. Obvious improvements over last season are there for the defense, but Manning, playing at 38, is holding back the team and not putting up the needed numbers.
After a loss at home, the Giants head back down south to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers fell to the Panthers but beat the 49ers in Week 1. Mike Evans continues to show why he is a top receiver, giving Jameis Winston high yardage through the first two games. Covering Amari Cooper and now Mike Evans, the Giants defense begins to find its feet. Tampa Bay’s roster doesn’t go too deep, and after forcing some mistakes, the Giants win a low scoring game, with their defense finally coming together. Their offense still struggles, with Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard putting up lower numbers than ever before.
The top storyline going into week 4 isn’t going to be about how the defense can return to having several pro-bowlers. It will be that this is the last week without Golden Tate, as his 4 game suspension ends. The questions will arise whether or not he’ll be able to help Eli Manning out of a bad slump. He hasn’t hit 500 yards, he has more interceptions than touchdowns, and he simply isn’t hitting his throws. The reporters begin their yearly talk of replacing him, with more ammunition than ever now that Daniel Jones is on the roster. It doesn’t help that he’s going up against top corner Josh Norman and former teammate Landon Collins. As Dwayne Haskins has beaten out Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, the Giants don’t have too much of a challenge on offense, as Washington is sporting a less than stellar receiving corps. However Manning, following three disappointing performances, can’t help but the calls for his job. Fans love him. They always will. He’s missed one game in his career, which wasn’t his fault, and brought two Super Bowls to New York in brilliant fashion. But fans have started to see the brightness in the young defense, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard. They aren’t getting anywhere with Manning. He plays all 4 quarters, his defense keeps it close all the way, but they fall short in the end.
Weeks 5-8: The Start of Daniel Jones
Golden Tate is back. With him, Engram, and the Shepards, Eli has to prove himself against a formidable Vikings defense. He doesn’t. While most games have been somewhere within two possessions, this is just the opposite. Diggs, Thielen, Cook, and Rudolph are just too much. Irv Smith has a breakout game. The Giants are caught off-guard. Pat Shurmur reads the stadium. The last time Eli Manning didn’t start, Ben McAdoo was fired before the next game, and Manning returned. Shurmur also knows he’ll be fired if he keeps Manning in for the rest of the year and goes 3-13. It’s now just a decision whether to let Jones play garbage time or send him in against the defending Super Bowl champions next week. He decides the latter is too dangerous and puts in Jones. He got fans excited with a perfect first preseason game. Playing in his first regular-season game… he won’t do much. It isn’t a disappointment, but the Vikings were too good and simply had a rhythm. In a crushing defeat, the Giants fall to 1-4.
A week of practice brings the Giants to Foxborough Mass. The Patriots are 3-2, dropping games against the Steelers and Jets in their annual early struggles. If anyone is glad to see Eli benched, it’s Patriots fans, at this point holding grudges for over half a decade. Pat Shurmur’s job is on the line, and Dave Gettleman needs Daniel Jones to perform well so he isn’t called into more questioning. Despite the defense performing in the top half of the league, it isn’t enough without offensive production. Dexter Lawrence really hits his stride bringing Sony Michel to a stop at the line several times this game. Antoine Bethea, Janoris Jenkins, and Deandre Baker each have a few pass breakups this game. They aren’t shutting down Tom Brady, but they are playing much better than the week before. Daniel Jones starts his first-ever NFL game. With a reliable corps of Golden Tate, Evan Engram, Sterling, and Russell Shepard, he challenges a deep New England defense. Playing close, it looks like the rivalry is starting a new era with Daniel Jones, as he brings the Giants to 2-4, beating Tom Brady in primetime.
The hype begins to build around the Giants. Doubters argue that it’s too early. It is. Daniel Jones takes a step back against Robert Alford, Patrick Peterson, and the Cardinals. Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones are too experienced for the young QB and will get to him several times. On the other side of the ball, Deandre Baker can’t handle the 15-year veteran, Larry Fitzgerald. It becomes apparent that Lawrence Dexter is quite alone in his talent on the defensive line. For the first time, Saquon Barkley has a rough game, and can’t get above 50 yards. He had been tearing it up. He should’ve been a confidence builder for Daniel Jones, but was a liability instead. Giants fans’ hope for a turnaround season is short-lived, their fourth loss at home brings attendance even lower. The quarterback debate is again a hot topic, and the Giants are at the bottom of the NFC East at 2-5.
The Giants can have one of the harder schedules in the NFL. They play the NFC North, which can bring them three losses. However, that means they play the Lions. The Lions have an early bye, which doesn’t help the fact that they will still be going into this game with 1 win and 5 losses. After one of the harder losses of the season, the entire team goes into Detroit with something to prove. The Lions don’t have the worst team, but they aren’t good. The Giants defense needs to bounce back yet again. No better place to do that. The rest of the defensive line supports Dexter Lawrence, and the secondary has another good game. Daniel Jones has no trouble putting the ball where he needs to against a lackluster Lions defense. Saquon Barkley rebounds. All around it's a good game. Many fans still aren’t swayed, as a win against the Detroit doesn’t prove a lot, but Daniel Jones is better prepared to face the Cowboys head on the next week.
Part 2 coming Thursday, August 15