EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett are each on track to return to the Giants Sunday in Baltimore. If they do, perhaps the offense they command will be right behind them.
After missing two of the last three games, Jones is healthier than he was when he was inactive last week for the game against Cleveland and barring a setback with either his hamstring or ankle will start at quarterback against the Ravens.
"I thought he had a good day yesterday," coach Joe Judge said on a Zoom call with reporters before practice today. "He went out there, we put him through everything. Today will be a more intensive day. Today will be a higher volume day for him. It will be interesting to see how he responds. We'll see him out there moving around throughout all the team periods. He'll jump right into his normal role and go forward with it. The intention is if he's able to play, we intend to play him."
Moments later, Judge was asked a follow-up question about his level of optimism regarding Jones' potential return.
"I was encouraged with how he moved yesterday," Judge said. "I was really encouraged. I think some of the moves we made last week with him, although it was kind of hard for him to kind of sit out on it with the double injuries, but I think that helped resolved some of those issues. All the feedback we've gotten medically is that he's continued to improve and he's at lesser risk of being injured, and that's really the things we're looking for right there as far as positive news. But he moved around nice yesterday. We'll put him through more today. I can't give you a percentage or any kind of a gauge on that. But I would say we came through yesterday's practice feeling like we're on the right track."
Garrett, the offensive coordinator who calls plays for Jones and the offense, wasn't in MetLife Stadium when the Giants faced the Browns because he was quarantining after a test revealed he had contracted COVID-19. Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens assumed the play-calling duties.
This week, Garrett has participated in meetings remotely. And while Kitchens stepped in today when the coordinators had their weekly media availability, the Giants' expectation is Garrett will assume his duties in Baltimore.
"From everything we understand, he'll be available at the game to call plays like he has before," Judge said. "There's really more of that timetable from the league of ... We're still waiting on a couple points of clarity, but we are expecting to have him at the game calling plays and being on the sideline."
Judge said the offensive preparation has gone efficiently and productively in Garrett's absence.
"The actual meetings themselves are going very smoothly," Judge said. "It's kind of crazy having the voice come through a speaker in terms of the install and talking through it when the guys are in the building. That's a little bit different. But different is really not a challenge for us. We kind of want to thrive in that kind of situation. Today is an install. We did everything through Zoom anyway, so this is kind of just a standard business day today. I think Jason's done a really good job of adjusting how he's had to work, of staying connected with the players, of staying connected with the coaching staff."
There's no escaping the point that the offense needs to – well, score more points. The Giants scored just one touchdown and 13 total points in losses the last two weeks to Arizona and Cleveland. They have scored fewer than 20 points in four consecutive games. Their 17.4 points-per-game average for the season place them 31st in the NFL.
"Offensive football is about trying to get these guys in position to make plays, and then making plays," Kitchens said. "I think overall, we need to do a better job as a coaching staff getting them in a position to make plays. Then when they have the opportunities, we need to make the plays. That's what it comes down to. Each and every week, it doesn't change. It's the same. You try to get them in position, and then they have to do it. This game is about the player. The player has to make the play. The coach has to put him in a position to make the play. That's what we try to do on a weekly basis. Sometimes we do a better job than others. We try to do a great job each and every week."
The challenge will be particularly acute on Sunday, because the Ravens both score a lot of points (28.8 a game, the NFL's sixth-highest average) and allow very few (20.5 per game, the league's fourth-best figure).
Judge was asked today about the team's point production. He also said the coaches must put the players in position to make plays and the players must capitalize when the opportunities are there. But Judge went further.
"We've put ourselves in position several times," Judge said. "Through a multitude of reasons, we have to go ahead and finish drives better. When we've gotten down there, we need to come away with points. There's no secret to that. That's not something we're overlooking internally, that we're not putting our head in the sand and trying to ignore that we don't have to do better as a team collectively all across the board in all three phases. We're working every day on finding better ways to do that, and our guys are working hard.
"I think there's been a lot of progress made. But like I tell the players all the time, the results are what the results are. We can get better throughout on a weekly basis, we can do a lot of good football within the game. But when you don't win the game, it's going to be the bad football that's highlighted, and that's the way it should be because that's what we're paid for."
Against the Cardinals, the Giants advanced inside the 20-yard line once on 12 possessions and scored their only touchdown. Last week, they reached the red zone three times in the first half vs. the Browns and scored only three of a potential 21 points.
"When I think of the red zone, I think of tight windows," said Colt McCoy, who substituted for Jones against Cleveland. "I think of being accurate with the football. I think of making contested catches. I think of protecting well. Sometimes you have to get outside the pocket and make plays. We just didn't do any of that last week. All the things I just mentioned. We can be better as a whole unit, on all of those."
"Close doesn't matter," Kitchens said. "It's all about the end result."
*Wide receiver Golden Tate (calf) did not practice. In addition to Jones, rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee) was limited. Tight end Evan Engram (calf) and rookie tackle Matt Peart (ankle) practiced fully.
View photos from Wednesday's practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as the Giants gear up for a Week 16 matchup with the Ravens.