In the wake of the change at quarterback, the New York Giants travel to Tampa Bay in Week 3. They will face a rested Buccaneers team that improved to 1-1 with a victory over the Carolina Panthers last Thursday.
“We’re on to playing Tampa Bay,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “I don’t want to steal somebody else’s phrase, but we are on to playing Tampa Bay and that’s where our focus is in the 2019 season. We all realize there’s a lot of football left to play, and you can see the uncertainty a team faces each week. You get a little juice, you win a football game, who knows what’s going to happen.”
Here are three keys for the Giants to claim their first victory of the year:
1. Rally around Jones. On Sunday, Daniel Jones will be the 14th quarterback since the 1970 merger to start his first NFL game in a Giants uniform. The Giants announced Tuesday that the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft will take over for Eli Manning, the only player ever to suit up 16 seasons with the franchise. Tampa Bay doesn’t care about any of that. Led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the blitz-happy Buccaneers will look to rattle the Duke graduate Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
As left tackle Nate Solder said, it will take 11 guys – not just one – to get the job done in Week 3 and beyond. Center Jon Halapio backed up that sentiment.
“We’re rallying around him,” he said. “We need to pick him up and have his back, just like how he has our back. He understands that he has a job and we have a job, too. We’re going to go in there with clear communication, and we’re going to have Jones’ back.”
Still, the Giants believe Jones can put a team on his back. That’s why they chose him so high in April. Shurmur said he thinks Jones will “display the toughness, skill and ability that we saw when we drafted him.” Within that is his mobility, which could add a different dimension to the backfield. Jones rushed for 17 touchdowns in his Blue Devils career.
No matter how little or how much the offense changes, Tampa and every upcoming opponent this season will try to stop the run, first and foremost. The Giants are averaging 7.57 yards per rush, the best mark in the NFL by nearly two yards (Houston is second at 5.77). The Buccaneers have allowed just 2.69 yards per rush.
2. Know the situation. There is a difference between third-and-three and third-and-eight, defensive coordinator James Bettcher said during his Thursday press conference. It sounds simple because football is simple. The best teams are the ones who understand situations in the heat of the moment and, more importantly, execute them. This is true for both sides of the ball. The Giants have converted just 21.7 percent of third downs (five of 23) this season. Tampa’s defense is seventh in that category (29.6 percent).
Defensively, the Giants are tied for 25th on third down (47.8). Last week, Buffalo converted four of six third downs in the first half (five of 13 for the game), which allowed the Bills to control the ball for over 18 minutes as they scored three unanswered touchdowns.
Keep an eye on these five players when the Giants travel to face the Bucs in Week 3.
3. “Change up the windows.” Through two weeks, opposing quarterbacks have completed 71.0 percent of passes, averaged 10.6 yards per attempt, and posted a 132.3 pass rating. Pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand – the Giants haven’t done enough of either this season – but Bettcher is looking to put his cornerbacks in better positions on Sundays, including rookie DeAndre Baker. The first-round pick will look to step it up against Jameis Winston, who has thrown the most interceptions (61) in the NFL since 2015.
“As a coordinator, you change up the windows when you have the opportunity to,” said James Bettcher, who in Arizona served under current Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, in addition to Bowles. “In some situations, call for tighter coverage than other situations. We need to help ourselves be in better third downs. We need to help ourselves be in better second downs by playing better on first down. That’s something that we talked about coming out of the game, and coming out of the first week as well. I think that’s what leads to being able to put those guys in some calls that might help them a little bit.”