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Young players taking on key roles for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nick Gates played every snap at right tackle in the first start and extensive action of his career. Eric Smith, who had never before played a regular-season down, participated in 75% of them at the crucial left tackle position after Nate Solder suffered a concussion. When Janoris Jenkins was later concussed, the top three cornerbacks were rookies DeAndre Baker and Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal, who played his first professional game, preseason or regular season.

Oh, and rookie quarterback Daniel Jones played another game that displayed his exhilarating possibilities while also fumbling three more times, including one that was returned by the opposition for a touchdown.

The promise and potential of youth is always exciting, but the growing pains associated with it, not so much. The Giants were reminded of that again yesterday in their 34-27 loss to the Jets, their sixth consecutive defeat.

“The decision to go with them, in most cases, there is no decision,” coach Pat Shurmur said today. “They are the best players at the position. The challenge is for anybody that does anything for the very first time. They are talented players, but anybody that does anything for the very first time, there is a lot to be learned. There’s, I guess, pains that come with growing and we’ve just got to be very consistent, we’ve got to raise them right, we’ve got to coach them hard, and we’ve got to do like you do with any player. But they have the ability to get experience, and we all know there is no substitute for experience.”

The Giants, who next play in Chicago on Nov. 24, saw both sides of the young player coin yesterday.

Jones threw for 308 yards – his third 300-yard game since taking over as the starter in Week 3 – and for the second time in three weeks, threw four touchdown passes without an interception. Fellow 2019 draft choice Darius Slayton – playing in his eighth game - caught two of the scores, part of his career-best 10-catch, 121-yard game.

But Jones was victimized on one of the game’s biggest plays, when he was sacked for a nine-yard loss by safety Jamal Adams, who ripped the ball from his hands and raced 25 yards for a touchdown that extended the Jets’ lead to 21-13 early in the third quarter.

The Giants will practice tomorrow and Wednesday before beginning their bye-week break. Shurmur was asked what the to-do list will be for Jones, who has lost nine of his 13 fumbles.

“He has already been here, so first and foremost, we debriefed the game,” Shurmur said. “We are going to practice for two days and he’s going to go through the same process we as coaches do. I think of quarterbacks in that way. He’ll go through all the situational football, he’ll look at the things he’s done well. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns, he’ll look at the eight interceptions, and look at the fumbles. You basically go through everything that you’ve done, and you try to sit back, take a breath, and try to do the things you need to do to correct them. Which we’ve been working on all along, you are just able to sit back and do it in total.”

Shurmur praised Gates, who stepped in for the injured Mike Remmers (back).

“I thought he played well,” Shurmur said. “Listen, he’s a tough, competitive guy. We were looking forward to seeing him play because we feel like he has a chance to be a good player. He battled. One thing about Nick Gates, he’s tough, he’s competitive and he tries to do things the right way. He had a lot of really good plays out there.”

Defensively, the Giants started three rookies in tackle Dexter Lawrence and cornerbacks DeAndre Baker and Corey Ballentine. They combined for five tackles. Young linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines totaled six stops. Beal was called on later in the game. “(He) actually did a pretty good job the first time back, competing on special teams a little bit,” Shurmur said.

But Baker was flagged for a costly pass interference penalty to open the fourth quarter, setting up Le’Veon Bell’s go-ahead one-yard touchdown run on the next snap. Shurmur was asked if he is considering “wholesale” changes in the secondary.

“We’re constantly working all the players,” he said. “When Beal was in there, our starting three corners were a guy that didn’t play last year and two rookies. Certainly, Julian Love gets work at safety for us. We’ll just see as we move forward.

“When you look at mistakes, sometimes there are physical breakdowns, and that happens. A guy just gets beat. In any situation, you’re always working on the fundamentals. It’s something you work on all the time. There is a lot of really good fundamental play, and then there are times when you see somebody do something right three or four or five times, then the next time it doesn’t come out the right way. That’s what you have to just keep working on.”

Then, presumably, the young players will continue to grow and improve.

“We’ve just got to take advantage of this time we have here, go back and look at some of the things that we’ve done well, because there were a lot of things we did well,” Shurmur said. “But, we certainly made mistakes in that game that cost you and we’ve got to find a way to eliminate those. We’ve got to keep getting some of these guys that are out there playing for the first time to be more consistent throughout the game. So, that’s where we’re at. Our focus is obviously to improve and do what we can to win our next game following this bye week.”

*Shurmur said Saquon Barkley is “feeling much better. He’s fine. … I saw him today and he said he was feeling a lot better.” Barkley gained just one yard on 13 carries yesterday. He missed three games earlier this season with a sprained ankle, but he refused to blame his output against the Jets on any injury.

*Tight end Rhett Ellison was placed in the concussion protocol after the game.

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