EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The two young stars who will fuel the Giants' offense for many years today said they believe the team is heading in the right direction.
Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and the rest of the Giants must play Sunday's season finale against Philadelphia before focusing fully on the next step. But at 4-11, the Giants have reached the stage of a non-playoff season when they're being asked questions not about the next game, but what might happen after that game.
It likely helps their outlook that the Giants just had their two best offensive performances of the season, a 36-20 triumph against Miami followed by Sunday's 41-35 overtime triumph in Washington. The 77 combined points are the most they have scored in consecutive games since they put 81 points on the board Nov. 1-8, 2015 against New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
"I think we've been optimistic," Jones said when asked if the past two week has given him a greater belief in the future. "I think through the season we've played well at times. I think overall, we've been inconsistent, but I think we have the pieces. We certainly have the ability to put together a game like we did Sunday and to play even better than that. I think we're very optimistic going forward. The challenge is to continue to improve and I think a win Sunday would help us keep going that direction."
Barkley was asked why he is bullish on the team's future.
"Just the little things," Barkley said. "I like the fact that even though we had a lot of adversity and the season's not going our way, just how people come to work and how people handle themselves. Those are things that matter to me. It's easy to give up, it's easy to not care, but to still have that mindset and then to come out every single week and fight at a high level, even though some of those games didn't turn out the way we'd like to, means a lot not only to me but to the team. So, that's why I don't just think, I know and I believe that we have it here and things will be better soon."
Barkley is optimistic in part because of the presence of Jones, who has thrown 23 touchdown passes against just 11 interceptions in 12 games (11 starts) in his debut season. But Barkley didn't list a single statistic when asked where Jones has improved the most since the beginning of the season.
"Leadership," Barkley said. "He's a little more vocal on the sideline than he was in the beginning of the year when he first started. I would say that's probably the biggest thing. You don't have to be that vocal guy, when I mean vocal, it's not like screaming, 'Let's go, let's go, let's go,' it's sometimes just bringing a (tablet) and communicating with me or communicating with the offensive linemen."
Jones admits he's more comfortable being vocal than he was when he replaced Eli Manning as the starting quarterback in Week 3.
"I think just being around more and getting to know everyone better, people getting to know me better," Jones said. "I understand I'm still a younger player and like I said, there's a lot to learn, a lot to learn from the older guys. But, being able to communicate, being able to talk through things and get on the same page I think is important, particularly for a quarterback. So, I try to do that when I can."
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who is with the quarterbacks when the team breaks into position groups in practice, said he is pleased with Jones' progress.
"I think he's done a really good job," Shula said. "Unfortunately, though, we don't have the wins to show for it. But just going back from day one of the offseason to training camp, his knowledge of what he's being asked to do and then the speed at which he does it has been impressive for a young guy. I think that like anybody else, he needs to continue to make strides in that area. He's very talented, but there are a lot of things that come with the position. The ups and the downs and the highs and the lows, and handling all of the 'what ifs', as we say. Things that maybe show up that you hadn't quite talked about, whether or not it's on the field or off the field. All the things that you're going to go through as a first-year player, and then you move into the second year.
"But right now, we're just kind of locked in on this week. He had a good practice today, so hopefully we'll have success early. But again, it's just kind of, as we talk to all of our players, just dial in on one play. Don't worry about anything else. Just worry about the things you can control and what you're asked to do."
Jones has done that very well all season. Now he must do it once more before he can begin focusing on his offseason improvement.
Barkley approaches another 1,000-yard season
*Barkley needs 89 yards to become the first player in Giants history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He ran for 1,307 yards in his 2018 Rookie of the Year season.
But when asked if 1,000 yards means anything to him, Barkley delivered a firm, "no."
"It's just numbers," he said. "At the end of the day, we're still, hopefully we'll be 5-11, not a playoff team. So, when my production or the numbers I put up translates to us being a playoff team or in contention to be in the playoffs, then those numbers will matter."
*Tackle Mike Remmers (concussion) and cornerback Corey Ballentine (back) did not practice today.
Eight players were limited: cornerbacks DeAndre Baker (knee) and Sam Beal (shoulder), linebackers Alec Ogletree (back) and Lorenzo Carter (knee), tight ends Rhett Ellison (concussion) and Scott Simonson (concussion), wide receiver Darius Slayton (knee) and offensive lineman Nick Gates (shoulder).
*Three of Philadelphia's key offensive players continued to miss practice: tight end Zach Ertz (ribs/back), wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) and tackle Lane Johnson (ankle).
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