EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Linked but not always connected, sacks and quarterback hits have remained subjects of discussion since the Giants' loss to the Dallas Cowboys Monday night.
To crystalize, the Giants would like to allow fewer of them, while their defense hopes to record more of them.
In the 23-16 defeat, Daniel Jones was sacked five times – for the second time in three weeks – and according to the postgame statistics, was hit 12 times, though some outside evaluators had a higher number.
That's only part of the contact Jones absorbed. He also had nine rushing attempts (for 79 yards) and while he ran out of bounds on most of them, Jones is still exposed when he tucks the ball and takes off.
"You never want your quarterback to take any hits," coach Brian Daboll said today. "But I'd say Daniel has a unique skillset, too, in terms of his athleticism. I think he's done a good job of taking care of himself when he does run with it. I would say there's not a lot of design runs in there, there was a couple; there's not a lot of design runs. There's a fair amount of scrambles, and he's got a couple of different choices (with) what he can do when he scrambles. One is, obviously, throw it down the field if people uncover. Two is, try to throw it away, and three is to make yards. If he has an opportunity to make yards, you can tell a quarterback, 'Don't take this hit' or 'Do this.' And then they start thinking about things."
In three games, Jones has absorbed 13 sacks, (unofficially) 29 hits and has 25 rushing attempts. He has gained 125 yards on runs both designed and unscheduled. But neither Jones nor Daboll seem particularly concerned about potential exposure to defensive mayhem.
"I think those are opportunities that you kind of feel throughout the game and try to take advantage of," said Jones, who Sunday will face a Chicago Bears defense that has six sacks this season. "I've got to be smart and get down when I can and avoid big hits. I've tried to do that; I think I can do that better at times. That's an opportunity that I'll continue to look for."
"I think Daniel's making good decisions, when to take off," Daboll said. "He's tried to protect himself. Is that always going to happen? No. But certainly you want to eliminate or limit the amount of hits. Guys that can scramble and make loose plays cause problems for the defense in that regard of keeping chains moving or making some loose plays. I'll never take that away from him."
But it's safe to say the Giants don't want Jones to be sacked more than four times a game, on average. The Giants are fourth in the NFL with an average of 169.3 rushing yards a game. But they are 30th in average passing yardage (162.3). That is due to many factors, including injuries to wide receivers and the effectiveness of the ground attack, but also the offensive line.
"I think we do a good job of getting a hat for a hat in the run game," left tackle Andrew Thomas said. "Our communication, I think our technique is a little bit better in the run game, and I think that's why you see it. Then obviously, Saquon is very explosive, so we give him a seam, he makes something happen.
"In the pass game right now, there's not really a lot of different pressures that we're seeing. It's just more so games up front, and that's what we're having the most difficulties with is just passing off games, protecting the depth and the width of the pocket. That's something we've got to do better to allow D.J. to throw the ball."
While Jones has been sacked 13 times, the Giants' defense has posted just three sacks, by safety Julian Love and edge rushers Oshane Ximines and Tomon Fox. Dallas quarterback Cooper Rush sat in a clean pocket for most of the game Monday, when he was hit just twice.
Lineman Dexter Lawrence – who was credited with one of the hits - said that is "definitely not" an acceptable pass rush.
"We talked yesterday and today about how we didn't get enough pressure on the QB," Lawrence said. "I feel like that starts with the guys up front. Me, mostly. I put a lot on me to get him off his spot, to get him moving, throwing off his back leg and things like that. Just got to be better.
"(That is done by) just pushing the pocket back, making him uncomfortable. As a d-line, that's what you have to do. That's the plan every week and that's how you've got to attack it."
Once again, the New York Giants are bringing back their classic blue uniforms from the '80s and '90s this Sunday as part of two Legacy Games presented by Quest.
*Thomas, who has developed into one of the NFL's best tackles after enduring some rough games early in his 2020 debut season, has counseled rookie right tackle Evan Neal, the seventh overall selection in this year's draft, who was largely responsible for allowing DeMarcus Lawrence to get three sacks Monday.
"I've definitely talked to Evan," Thomas said. "It's a short week, so we kind of had to put it to bed quickly. We're already moved on to game planning for the Bears. But not just Evan, I think that the whole offensive line – we understand that we didn't play to the caliber that we want to. Obviously too much pressure, and there are some plays in the run game that we definitely could've had some more explosive runs if we got better movement.
"Just encouraging him to keep working and to have a short-term memory, but just a reminder that the stuff that you put on film, the rushers next week, they're watching that. Just a reminder to clean that up and keep working the technique. He's a talented kid, has all the tools in the world. He's mature, so I'm confident in him."
*The Giants held a walk-through today but released an injury report based on projected practice participation.
Seven players would not have practiced, including wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who was later placed on injured reserve.
The list included wideouts Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Wan'Dale Robinson (knee); defensive backs Cor'Dale Flott (calf) and Nick McCloud (hamstring); defensive lineman Leonard Williams (knee); and linebacker Jihad Ward (knee).
Defensive backs Aaron Robinson (appendix) and Justin Layne (concussion) would have been limited.