Giants writer Art Stapleton and Jets writer Andy Vasquez preview this Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium.
Art Stapleton and Andy Vasquez, North Jersey Record
EAST RUTHERFORD – Hours prior to the Giants’ selection of Daniel Jones, one that was booed by fans at a draft party inside their own stadium, a handful of Jets fans paraded around the streets of Nashville wearing custom-made t-shirts mocking Big Blue.
The image of three fans in particular, donning those green tees featuring a caricature of Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in shades, was tweeted out by the Jets’ official account with the same caption that adorned the shirts: “Thank You, Giants.”
That’s a friendly reminder to serve as the backdrop for Sunday’s game between the MetLife Stadium co-tenants: Jones and the Giants vs. Darnold and the Jets.
With all the talk last season of how the debate would be between Darnold and Saquon Barkley, Jones steps into that spotlight with his first real chance to make a statement about his maturation. His presence alone will not validate the Giants’ decision to pass on Darnold for Barkley, but this is a prime opportunity to begin convincing the masses that they chose the right quarterback.
There have been ups and downs entering the eighth start of Jones career, a five-game losing streak after two wins back in September on the heels of replacing Eli Manning.
Jones’ touchdown pass to Cody Latimer in Monday’s 37-18 loss to the Cowboys was a thing of beauty: he checked the play at the line of scrimmage, flipped it because of how the Cowboys were lined up, moved receivers to where they were supposed to be and calmly fired a perfect pass for the score. These are the moments the Giants need to embrace, and they can’t get lost in an otherwise frustratingly mind-numbing game in which a bad team again showed it isn’t good enough to beat a better team.
“That’s good quarterback play, that’s what it was,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur told NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY Network Northeast.
Not surprisingly, there are other facets of Jones’ game that have gotten more attention.
And when you lose five in a row, that comes with the territory.
Maybe the worst thing you can say about a quarterback is that he is a turnover machine.
That’s been said a lot lately about Jones, and he has definitely earned some of the criticism with his total of 16, tied for the league-lead in just seven starts.
“What you see by watching him play is he’s a young player that is fighting and scratching,’’ Shurmur said.
Jones is ignoring the criticism and pushing through to the next play, the next decision, the next lesson. From most accounts, he is listening to the advice delivered by those around him, and the progress – incremental in some areas, especially in ball security – has at times been tough to spot without breaking down every aspect of game video.
“This isn’t about training the quarterback,” Shurmur said. “Again, I’ll go back to that. This is about doing what we can to win the game, and we feel like him being in there gives us the best chance. So, regardless of your age as a player, you have to go in there and – you can’t fake football. You have to do it and play it the right way.”
Jones, 22, has faced his share of defensive challenges. The Jets have not been that.
Their cornerback depth is questionable. They don’t bring much heat on quarterbacks, even with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams trying to dial things up. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins did whatever they wanted to do last Sunday with 288 yards and three passing scores.
If there has ever been a defense Jones and the Giants can attack, it’s this one.
Jones has 13 total touchdowns (11 passing and two running) with eight interceptions, eight lost fumbles and an 82.8 quarterback rating. Darnold has looked like a rookie, too, even though he is in his second year, with six touchdowns and nine interceptions with one lost fumble and a quarterback rating of 70.5.
There are questions about the future of Jets coach Adam Gase, and should he prevail Sunday, the heat will shift to Shurmur and his long-term viability with the Giants.
The development of Darnold and Jones will play a significant role in that.
“I think it’ll be exciting. It gives both teams from New York an opportunity to compete against each other,” Jones said. “I mean, guys have said there is always a lot of energy in the game. It’s kind of unique playing an away game at home, but it’ll be fun.”
If Jones can finally put a complete game together, the Giants might be the one thanking the Jets seven months later.
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Art Stapleton is the Giants beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Giants analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and sign up for our NFC East newsletter.
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