The Giants come to town after a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. Led by second year quarterback Daniel Jones and all-world talent Saquon Barkley, the Giants are a club with a new Head Coach, looking to establish an identity. To learn a little more about this week’s foe, I reached out to Ed Valentine, the big boss over at Big Blue View to answer some questions.
Windy City Gridiron: Daniel Jones looked like he had an up and down opener against a stout Steelers defense Monday night. What’s he have to do in year 2 to show that he’s the QB of the future in New York?
Big Blue View: To this point in his career Jones has shown a stronger and more accurate arm than anticipated. He’s shown toughness. He’s shown an ability and a willingness to make plays with his legs. He’s had some wonderful games. He’s growing into the role of franchise leader.
There are two central things Jones must overcome, and they are related. So much has been made of his league-leading 18 fumbles a year ago, that has to get better. The biggest thing, though, is pocket awareness and decision-making. Can he get better in that area? He did a lot of great things Monday. One play killed him, though. When he threw an interception on the goal line after holding the ball too long — appearing to try to make a play that wasn’t there. That’s the big question mark.
WCG: Off-season reports had Evan Engram tabbed to be the focal point of this offense but Week 1 had other ideas. Is Engram still a major part of the offense and it was simply the Steelers taking that away from Jones or is he actually down the pecking order in Jason Garrett’s offense? Besides Barkley, who is the number two option in this offense if not Engram?
BBV: The Giants need Engram to be much better than he was on Monday, and he should be. The guy has tremendous height, speed, route-running ability and generally good hands for the position. The Giants need him to be a major factor. Just like they need Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate to join Darius Slayton in helping out the offense.
WCG: I like to make fun of Dave Gettleman because I haven’t really understood his team-building approach since he arrived in New York. What’s your assessment of Gettleman so far and what does this Giants squad need to do this year on the field for his job to be secure? Or am I off completely and he’s bulletproof?
BBV: Gettleman is not bulletproof. Absolutely not. The Giants nearly swept him out with Pat Shurmur, but chose to give him more time to try and complete the revamping of the bankrupt roster he inherited. That said, the Giants need evidence that Gettleman and new head coach Joe Judge share a vision, can work together, and are the right team to bring the Giants back. Gettleman will take a fall here long before Judge does, I believe. Of course, there is always the possibility that Gettleman, who is 69, could decide to retire.
As for my assessment of Gettleman, I am one of those people who is inclined to feel more positive about his work than many others. I think Gettleman can recognize talent. I think his drafts have upgraded the talent level on the roster. I supported trading Odell Beckham Jr. I was fine with Daniel Jones being taken No. 6 overall. Now, he has to justify that. I think the one area where I wonder about Gettleman is whether or not he truly understands maximizing draft assets. Trading away picks for DeAndre Baker was always questionable. He’s had a couple of opportunities to move down and add draft assets and hasn’t done it. I’m an old guy myself and I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks. This is one I wish Gettleman would learn.
WCG: The Giants defense has been a weak spot, ranking 28th in DVOA last year. Do you expect improvement on the defense this year? What’s their biggest weakness that the Bears can take advantage of on Sunday?
BBV: Yes, I expect improvement. The Giants have a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham. They have added Blake Martinez, James Bradberry and Logan Ryan on defense. They do have a solid front with Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.
The Giants’ biggest weakness right now, I think, is in the secondary. Cornerback Corey Ballentine is unproven. Ryan has only been on the team a couple of weeks, as have backups Isaac Yiadom, Brandon Williams and Adrian Colbert. Xavier McKinney, who would have been the starting free safety, is on IR. Darnay Holmes, a rookie, is in the slot. That group is a work in progress. It could be fine in the long run, I’m just not sure right now.
WCG: The Giants opened as 5.5 point underdogs to the Bears. What do the Giants need to do to leave an empty Soldier Field with a victory this year?
BBV: First and foremost, take advantage of their opportunities on offense. You can’t recover a muffed punt at the 3-yard line and only get 3 points. You can’t go on a 19-play, 87-yard drive and get zero points. The Giants did those things Monday. They have to find room for Saquon Barkley to run.
Defensively, the Giants played pretty well Monday night. They are still sort of figuring out the secondary. I’d say force a couple of mistakes. The Giants defense struggled to create turnovers last year, and didn’t create any on Monday.
Thank you to Ed and Big Blue View for the knowledge!