EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – First, the quarterback news.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur said today he does not know whether Daniel Jones or Eli Manning will start at home Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. The determining factor is Jones' health, more specifically how well his right high ankle sprain has healed.
"When he's ready to play, he'll go back in and play," Shurmur said.
He wasn't ready last night and was inactive for the Giants' game in Philadelphia. Manning played for the first time in almost three months. The Giants jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead, but never scored again and lost to the Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field, 23-17, in overtime.
Jones had started the previous 10 games. He was hurt on Dec. 1 vs. Green Bay, did not practice last week and was officially declared out of the game on Saturday.
"Obviously, he wasn't able to make it," Shurmur said. "He was still, pretty much, in the protective boot at the end of last week. He was able to stand on the sideline without the boot. He's making progress, but it's hard for me to say exactly where he's at until we see him move around tomorrow."
That's when the Giants will return to the practice field.
"I haven't been able to see Daniel move around, and then we'll just see where he's at to start the week," Shurmur said. "If Daniel can't go, the second thing would be that Eli would start."
Manning completed 15 of 30 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns to Darius Slayton and no interceptions. But 11 completions and 179 yards were in the first half, when both the offense and defense played impressively.
The Giants played a different game in the second half on both sides of the ball. Offensively, their first-half numbers were 17 points, 226 yards, nine first downs, two third-down conversions and three punts. In the second half, those figures dropped to zero points, 29 yards, two first downs, no conversions and six consecutive punts. They never saw the ball in overtime, as the Eagles took the kickoff and drove 75 yards in eight plays, the last the game-winning two-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz.
Which brings us to the defense, which throttled Philadelphia's offense in the first half (three points, 116 yards, five first downs, three third-down conversions and three punts). But on the Eagles' seven possessions after halftime, they scored 20 points, gained 302 yards, picked up 22 first downs, converted six third-down opportunities, and punted three times.
"It's pretty difficult, especially when you start off strong," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "Similar situation to last season. We talked a lot about finishing, and we weren't able to do that. We have to go back to the drawing board and see what was giving us problems."
"I think we both made adjustments," Shurmur said when asked about the difference between the two halves. "Plays change throughout the game. They were running very similar type plays in the second half on offense as they did in the first half. We adjusted some of our calls because they were playing some zone. But what happens is, and here's really what happened in the second half, they were able to stay on the field by gaining first downs, and that extended drives and allowed them to score the points they needed. We did not stay on the field, so some of the things you like to get to, you don't have the opportunity to do. That's why it sort of looks the way it does."
The Giants have three games remaining, including a rematch with the Eagles in the season finale. No matter who plays quarterback, the objective for Shurmur and his players remains the same -win as many of them as they can. But that's no easy task for a team saddled with a nine-game losing streak and a 2-11 record.
"You need to have a short memory here," Shepard said. "We're trying to get a win, so it's on to the next week. We need to figure out what we have to clean up. It's tough, man. But you have to keep on going. We'll figure this thing out whenever we figure it out. I feel like the train is going to keep rolling."
Shurmur insists he sees positive signs and is confident the team can finish the season well.
"We try as educators to do everything in our power to give the guys the best opportunity to win a game," he said. "Each play, you call each play with the idea that it's going to work. You practice it during the week and you call it during the game, and you trust that the players are going to execute it. Same thing. You try to look at each situation and just try to give the players the best chance to win and stay positive. I'll continue to say that I see improvement, but it means very little until we start winning games. But you just stay positive and you just keep working with the players. This is what we do as coaches, is we coach. I understand the numbers. I get it. I get all that. But you just try to keep inspiring the players to play.
"It's unfortunate we weren't able to finish that game (in Philadelphia). I thought we played a solid first half, we didn't do enough things in the second half good enough to win. Defense battled throughout, and we didn't stay on the field on offense and convert our third downs and give ourselves a chance to move the ball and score. It's unfortunate to lose that game that way, but we're going to keep battling and put our efforts toward playing Miami and beating Miami this week."
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES
*The only injury reported by Shurmur from the game was right guard Kevin Zeitler's ankle. "We don't know how serious (it is)," Shurmur said.
*The Giants re-signed punter Sean Smith to their practice squad. Smith kicks with his left foot, which will help the Giants' punt returners prepare for Matt Haack, the Miami Dolphins' left-footed punter, whom they will face on Sunday. Smith was previously on the Giants' practice squad from Oct. 31-Nov. 5, when he helped the returners prepare for Dallas' Chris Jones.