EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants won three of the final five games that Daniel Jones started in 2021, losing only Monday night road encounters with last season's Super Bowl teams, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. But after Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury against Philadelphia on Nov. 28, the Giants lost their final six games, including a 22-7 decision yesterday vs. Washington.
With Jones in the lineup, the Giants averaged 18.4 points a game. Without him, that number was almost halved (9.3). Given that, it's safe to assume one of the keys to improvement in 2022 is for the Giants' to keep their top quarterback healthy. And Jones said today the healing is moving forward.
"I'm doing good, progressing," he said on a Zoom call with reporters. "There's a healing process that takes time, so trying to stay diligent with my rehab and treatment working with the guys here, but everything is going well and feel good."
Jones said he "absolutely" expects to be fully cleared in the spring or summer.
"There's no contact for me until August," he said. "So, I can do everything from a lifting, throwing, running standpoint. I'm not limited in those areas. It is a process. I think it's weeks, but it's really irrelevant at this point because I don't expect to be doing any contact."
While Jones is focused on healing his neck, he is also thinking about rehabilitating the offense. The Giants scored an NFL-low 24 touchdowns – 23 on offense – and finished 31st in the NFL with an average of 15.2 points, 297.3 total yards and 188.0 passing yards a game. They did not throw for more than 200 yards in any of their last nine games (the final six with Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm starting at quarterback), nor did they have a receiver with 50 catches.
"Obviously, no one expected it to turn out like it did," Jones said. "I think when you look at what went wrong, I think you have to be smart in how you characterize it. It's never one thing. You've got to look at the picture as a whole and what's going on, so that's what we'll do going into this offseason. I certainly take a lot of responsibility in it and I think each of our guys should understand what they need to do in their roles to improve as an offense. I'm certainly going to do that. Like I said, I take a lot of responsibility in where we are and how we perform. As a group, as individuals as well, we have to analyze that, understand it, study it and then work to improve and make sure we're not in that position again moving forward."
In the season's final six weeks, Jones watched from the sideline as the offense struggled to get into the end zone.
"I think it gives you a different perspective, standing," he said. "I think it's certainly not as helpful as playing. You're going to learn the most on the field playing in the game, so obviously you never want to be on the sideline watching. That's a tough spot to be in. You see a different perspective, but I'm not sure – there are things you can see, obviously, watching the game and trying to go through it like you're playing, but there's no substitute for being on the field."
That's exactly where Jones expects to be when the 2022 season begins.
*Saquon Barkley missed four games with ankle injury and tied Devontae Booker for the team lead with 593 rushing yards. Barkley was sidelined for virtually the entire 2020 season after severely injuring his right knee in Week 2. But Barkley didn't approach the numbers he posted in 2018-19, when he became the first Giants player to rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Barkley was asked today, "How sure are you that you're going to be a better version of yourself next year?"
"I'm almost 100 percent sure, to be completely honest, because the only thing I can focus on is the things that I can control," Barkley said. "I can control my work ethic. I can control my effort and my attitude this offseason. This offseason is going to be all about getting myself in tip-top shape and getting my body back to the form where I need it to be, so I can be the player that I know I am."
The Giants have not won more than six games in any of Barkley's four seasons, but he remains confident the team can improve its performance and place in the standings.
"I do believe it can be done," he said. "I think you see it every year throughout the National Football League, a team that did not do so well the year before and then the next year they're in playoff contention. It's the offseason. In the offseason as players, we've got to come in, we've got to work and ownership and coaches, they're going to do the right thing to add key additional pieces that we need for our team. We're going to get healthier with guys like (linebacker) Blake (Martinez) coming back and just going to keep working and do what is going to be necessary to happen for us to make us turn it around."
*According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Barkley and Booker are the first pair of teammates to tie for a team's rushing lead since Ray Nolting and Sam Francis each ran for 297 yards for the 1938 Chicago Bears.
*The two most significant transactions of James Bradberry's NFL career were executed by Dave Gettleman.
In 2016, Gettleman selected the cornerback in the second round of the NFL draft for the Carolina Panthers. Four years later, he induced Bradberry to sign with the Giants as a free agent.
Gettleman announced his retirement today after four seasons as the Giants' G.M. He spoke to the team this afternoon.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Bradberry said. "When I hear about retirement, I think of that person's legacy and also the hard work that they had to put in to get to retirement. So, now he's going to be laying back, chilling probably on a beach somewhere and I congratulate him for that. But at the same time, I think about he gave me an opportunity to play for the Panthers. Then, he gave me another opportunity to come here and play for the Giants, so I'm very appreciative of him and I thanked him for that out there after the speech, congratulated him as well."
Jones, whom Gettleman selected sixth overall in the 2019 draft, had similar feelings.
"Obviously, tough to see him go," Jones said. "He's a guy who gave me this opportunity and brought me in here, so I'll forever be grateful to him for that. I think the world of him as a guy and thought he did a good job. Tough to see him go and certainly wish him the best going forward. Just grateful for him and what he's done for me."
Gettleman chose Barkley with the second selection in 2018.
"It's sad to see him retire," Barkley said. "I'm always forever going to be grateful and thankful for Mr. Gettleman. He gave me the opportunity to live out my dream and to come and play for an amazing organization. Obviously, I wish we were able to have a lot more success, but the things that he taught me and things that I learned from him, I'm going to continue to carry them on in my career and the messages that he kept giving me or the conversations that we have, I know I will take with me and help me kind of put my career in the right direction and finish it off the way I want it to be and how he perceived it to be, too."
*Martinez was one of the six team captains who missed games due to injury. The team's leading tackler with 151 in 2020, he tore his left ACL in Week 3 against Atlanta. Martinez had played in every game the previous four seasons for Green Bay and the Giants.
"For my recovery, I'm just taking it one day at a time," Martinez said. "Obviously, as a competitor, I'm doing everything I can and as much as I can each day to make sure I'm progressing in the right direction."
Martinez also offered some thoughts on the team's future.
"I got kind of a backseat viewpoint on this year," he said. "I think every guy has the same frustration. We're all competitors, we all want to win, we want to compete out there. For us, just looking ourselves in the mirror, figuring out what we could do better across the board, throughout the offseason, throughout training camp, throughout the season, to make everyone around us better when we're out there on the field. I think moving forward, when we get back on the field, finding those little things where, kind of like Saquon hit, it's just making those plays when they come to you, understanding scheme, and executing when we need to in crucial moments."
*On Sept. 16 in Washington, another captain, center Nick Gates, suffered a serious lower left leg injury that required several surgeries.
"I'm doing good," Gates said. "I'm making good steps and good strides in my rehab. I can't really tell you a specific timeline on when I'm going to be back or not. I'm just taking it day by day, just trying to get better each day and just listening to what the trainers are saying.
"My plan is to get back on the field as fast as possible. I don't know if it's going to be this year or whatever, but just taking it day by day."
*The Giants signed eight players to reserve/future contracts. All of them spent all or part of the season on the practice squad and some also spent time on the active roster: quarterback Brian Lewerke, linebackers Trent Harris and Omari Cobb, tackle Devery Hamilton, tight end Jake Hausmann, defensive tackle David Moa, defensive end Niko Lalos and wide receiver Travis Toivonen.