Here are five storylines to follow as the New York Giants prepare for the Washington Redskins in Week 4:
1. Daniel Jones to make home debut. The sixth overall pick will start in front of the MetLife Stadium crowd for the first time against the Redskins in the oldest rivalry in the NFC East. Last week, Jones scored the go-ahead touchdown on a seven-yard run with 1:16 remaining in a thrilling 32-31 comeback victory in Tampa Bay. While erasing an 18-point deficit, he became the first rookie with at least 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a single game since 1970.
“There’s certain things I knew about this kid when we drafted him,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He was tough, he was competitive and, in my opinion, he’s a winner. Now the rest of it is just pure quarterback stuff and because of those first three things, that’s why he’s going have a chance moving forward.”
2. Saquon Barkley sidelined. With the high of winning the first game of the season came the low of losing the sensational running back to a high ankle sprain. Barkley suffered the injury late in the first half and it will likely keep him off the field for weeks. Wayne Gallman is the next man up at the position while the team also has halfback-turned-fullback Eli Penny on the active roster. Jon Hilliman and Austin Walker remain on the practice squad. “Depending on what happens in the game on Sunday,” Shurmur said, “certainly the (pro personnel) guys are ready to go with their different lists of players and what their role might be.”
3. Case Keenum, not rookie Dwayne Haskins, will start Week 4. Keenum, who was part of the “Minneapolis Miracle” with Shurmur in Minnesota, will remain the starter in Washington. Keenum had thrown five touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating over 100 in the first two weeks. In the third, he threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles and was sacked four times on Monday Night Football against the Bears. The Redskins dropped to 0-3, but coach Jay Gruden didn’t sound like he was ready to make the change to Haskins, the 15th overall pick.
“I think the most important thing is we have to have some continuity,” Gruden said in his postgame press conference. “You know, I can’t be changing people every five minutes here. I’ve got to give Case an ample opportunity to play with these new guys. This is his first time in this offense really. … We’re not going to be perfect, but we need to be better and I think we can get better. Otherwise if I didn’t think we had a chance to get better, then I would make a change. But I feel like Case has the tools to become a very efficient quarterback in this offense and get us some victories here moving forward.”
4. Can the defense build off second half in Tampa? After the Buccaneers scored on each of their six possessions in the first half last week, they only managed a field goal in the second. Tampa had 16 first downs in the first half, but only eight in the second. In addition to four sacks (two by Markus Golden), the Giants also forced their first turnover of the season on an interception by rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly, who took over play-calling duties in the huddle after Alec Ogletree left with a hamstring injury. Shurmur said “sometimes it’s just a mindset” in how they turned things around in Tampa.
5. Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram continue to carry the load. With Barkley out and Golden Tate on the final game of his suspension, Shepard and Engram will look to put up the slack even more in Week 4. Engram’s 75-yard touchdown reception last week was the longest ever by a Giants tight end. Meanwhile, Shepard also posted 100 yards and a touchdown on a team-high seven catches. Rookie Darius Slayton, after he battled a hamstring injury for much of the summer, also made his debut and caught three passes for 82 yards, including a 21-yarder on the game-winning drive.
Buy tickets to see Daniel Jones' home debut on Sunday, Sept. 29.