EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Pat Shurmur was asked this week how he expected rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to respond to a "disappointing game," the Giants' 27-21 loss last week to the Arizona Cardinals. The coach's response initially sidestepped an emotional component and instead focused on an issue that has plagued his team this season and during its current three-game losing streak.
"Well, the disappointment that he should feel should be in the ball security piece," Shurmur said. "We have to secure the football. The turnovers are the thing that we obviously have to get a handle on. In less than ideal conditions to throw, he made some really good throws. He made some good reads. There were some things that he missed that he'll continue to improve on."
Only then did Shurmur add, "I haven't seen any change in his preparation from the lead up to Tampa (Jones' debut game), the lead up to Washington, and then the last few."
Shurmur isn't the only one thinking about turnovers.
"It's a huge focus of mine," Jones said.
With good reason. The Giants have added an extra layer of difficulty in their quest to win games because they keep giving the ball to their opponents. In the loss to Arizona, three giveaways, all by Jones, led to 17 Cardinals points. The previous game at New England, the Patriots scored on a fumble return – as did the Giants – but a Jones interception resulted in a touchdown and another almost led to three Pats points (Mike Nugent missed the field goal attempt).
This season, the Giants have committed an NFL-high 18 turnovers (nine interceptions and nine lost fumbles) and their minus-10 turnover differential is the league's second-worst, ahead of only winless Miami's minus-11.
"I think it's tough to win when you're turning the ball over that much," Jones said. "I've got to do a better job with that. Decision making, securing the ball in the pocket, and securing the ball when I'm out of the pocket, all of that stuff is really important."
The Lions' differential is plus-four and they have coughed up the ball just seven times.
A poor turnover differential does not guarantee failure; the 2007 Super Bowl champion Giants were minus-nine in the regular season (but plus-five in the postseason). But too many scoreless possessions often result in defeat. Which is why Jones, who has thrown seven interceptions and lost five fumbles, and his coaches are focused on reducing turnovers.
"We do work on it," Shurmur said. "We practice it in drill work. We're constantly talking about two hands on the ball in the pocket. … In all scenarios, it's always super important to have two hands on the ball when you're in the pocket because you can't always count on the fact that they are blocked for a very, very long time. That's just stuff you work on. It's part of what a young quarterback goes through. As time goes on, that gets better. But obviously, we want it to get better fast."
"We work each week on two hands on the ball, just like every other team does," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "I think more importantly than that is getting the ball out faster, before they have a chance to swat at it. There were a couple of times we could have done that. You can't turn the ball over. When you're the guy that holds the ball every play, then you have to make sure you're aware of that. It's not just the quarterback. It's all of us. We have to have plays where the ball is getting out, getting open on time, protecting and all of those kinds of things. So yeah, we're working hard on trying to play keep away with the ball."
Another issue holding back the offense is sacks. The Giants have allowed 20 (18 with Jones playing), a total exceeded by just eight other teams. Last week, the Cardinals sacked Jones eight times, including seven in the decisive second half.
"Avoiding sacks is a team thing, and there were a few of those sacks that you would have to attribute to Dan trying to make a play downfield and holding onto the ball," Shurmur said. "One was on a screen. There are reasons why they happen. I think it's fair to say we need to do everything better on offense than we did last week."
Jones doesn't disagree.
"I have to do a better job at that stuff and I'm confident that I will," Jones said. "I think that'll help everyone stay in a rhythm and consistently execute. I think as an offense, we felt like we've been able to execute, we've been able to move the ball when we played. It's just things like that that are stopping us or preventing us from being as productive as we can.
"Getting the ball out on time is the biggest thing. I certainly need to do a better job with that. I think sacks are absolutely a team thing, and I did play a big, big part in that. I have to do a better job getting rid of the ball and getting the ball out on time where it's supposed to go."
Sounds like a formula for rapid improvement.
*Shurmur said linebacker Deone Bucannon, who was signed this week, will make his Giants debut.
"He'll be active," Shurmur said. "He'll be involved. He did a good job this week. Again, there was some familiarity with our system and I think he handled his workload really well."
*The Lions lead the regular-season series, 22-21-2.
*The Giants are 3-1 in Ford Field – 2-1 vs. the Lions, plus a 2010 victory vs. the Minnesota Vikings that was moved to Detroit after the Metrodome roof collapsed. Shurmur is very familiar with the dome stadium after spending the 2016-17 seasons as the Vikings' offensive coordinator.
"I played there many times, and it is loud," he said. "It's a loud venue. We always plan for noise when we go on the road. But you're absolutely correct. This is a very loud place. They have great fans in Detroit. They love their team, and I'm sure they'll be loud."
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