EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants have lost two important members of their offensive ensemble but don't want or expect Daniel Jones to become a one-man band.
Running back Saquon Barkley is headed for surgery and is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard has joined him on injured reserve with a turf toe that will sideline him for an undetermined time period. Their absence puts more of a burden to unleash the offense on Jones, the quarterback, for an attack that has scored three touchdowns in two games.
But coach Joe Judge emphasized that the second-year pro shouldn't put added pressure on himself.
"I know he's putting himself in position to do everything he can to help the team," said Judge, whose team returns to the field Sunday at home against the San Francisco 49ers. "He just has to be himself and do what he has to do. Everyone else has to play their best as well."
Jones still has several weapons at his disposal, including wideouts Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and C.J. Board, tight end Evan Engram and running backs Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman and the newly-signed Devonta Freeman. But how it all comes together and how productive and efficient the offense is depends largely on the quarterback – as it does on any team.
And the 0-2 Giants will be the first to concede they need to be better. With 29 points, they are the NFL's lowest-scoring team. Their 104 rushing yards are a league low. The Giants have completed only five passes of 20 or more yards and have three runs longer than 10 yards – two by Jones.
It is the lack of long gains that has drawn Jones' attention.
"We talked a little bit about generating explosive plays as an offense and everyone doing their job," Jones said on a post-practice Zoom call with reporters. "I think that's the way we're going to do it. We have a lot of guys who can make plays. It's about everyone doing what they have to do to execute as an offense. That's the way we are going to be most effective. It's not any one guy, it's not a couple guys. It's all of us executing to put the ball into position to score points to make those explosive plays and keep drives going. It's not one guy or two guys, it's the group stepping up and I'm confident we'll be able to do that."
The Giants traveled at least 75 yards on four of their offensive possessions, including a 95-yard touchdown drive in Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears. They also moved 50 yards in the game's last two minutes without a timeout before the game ended on Tate's offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone. Now the Giants are looking to add the big plays to their repertoire.
"We've shown the ability to move the ball," Jones said. "We've had some long drives, lots of plays, moving the ball down the field. That's important to be able to do that and execute. You also need to be able to have the chunk and create the explosive plays. That helps an offense as well. Being able to do both of those things, being able to consistently execute and have those explosive plays, get those chunk plays, is a big part keeping a defense on their heels."
Jones made plays with both his arms and feet on the 11-play, 95-yard march that spanned the third and fourth quarters. The drive almost ended three plays in, when Jones was in the grasp of linebacker Robert Quinn. But while falling to the ground he flipped the ball to Lewis, who picked up 11 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Jones scrambled for a 12-yard gain.
"I don't think you can force those plays," he said. "Letting them come naturally and taking advantage of what the defense gives you, whether it's getting flushed from the pocket or things breaking down, down the field. Getting a sense for that and making plays. I'm not sure it's something that I'm necessarily being told to do. It's expected of me to sense and have a feel for."
In addition to his coaches and teammates, Jones has another resource he relies on for advice and support – his predecessor.
"I still stay in touch with Eli (Manning) fairly regularly," Jones said. "He's someone who I've learned a lot of football from. It's not necessarily this offense, but he's been in a number of them and obviously knows the game, knows the position real well. He's a guy I can talk to and ask questions. He's been extremely helpful in that regard. He's someone I have a good relationship with, and he's certainly offered his help and something I've used and certainly appreciate."
Manning was a team captain in each of his final 13 seasons. Jones was recently elected as a captain for the first time by his teammates and he is helping to set an example on and off the field.
"I think I'll certainly continue to try to lead and try to help us move in the right direction," Jones said. "I think it's everyone stepping up, like it is on the field with our execution on the field. The football aspect of it, in terms of the team camaraderie, I think it's a similar approach. I think we have a lot of leaders on this team. There's only a few people who are necessarily captains but a lot of guys are leaders and a lot of guys are comfortable in that role. We'll continue to rely on guys and guys will continue to step up and do that."
*Jimmy Garoppolo did not practice today and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan expressed doubt that the San Francisco quarterback will play because of the high ankle sprained he suffered Sunday against the Jets.
"Most likely Nick Mullens (will play)," Shanahan said. "I mean, I'd be surprised if Jimmy is ready, I know he's still trying to hold out hope. We'll see there at the end of the week, but right now we're going as if Nick is playing."
Mullens was 3-5 as a starter in 2018, including a loss to the Giants in which he completed 27 of 39 passes for 250 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
*Two Giants were on today's injury report: defensive back Adrian Colbert (quad) was limited and linebacker Carter Coughlin (hamstring) practiced full. Carter did not play in Chicago.
*In addition to Garoppolo, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman and defensive end Dee Ford did not practice for the 49ers.
View photos from Wednesday's practice as the Giants begin their on-field preparation for Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers.
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