When the Giants selected Daniel Jones from Duke University with the sixth pick in April’s draft, fans around the world were silent. They were expecting the pick to be Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The next day, the cover of the New York Post read, “Giants shock with Duke QB as Eli’s heir.” Come the start of the regular season, however, attitudes have changed. Jones didn’t just play well in the team’s preseason outings, he was nothing short of historic. Through the first three preseason games, the rookie completed 83.3% of his passes, while averaging 12.3 yards per attempt and amassing a 140.1 passer rating — all of which are the highest numbers by a rookie in preseason since 2006 by anyone who has attempted 30 or more throws.
But how much does this matter for the New York Football Giants’ 2019 season? Well, it doesn’t. And Giants fans should be happy about that. Team co-owner John Mara even said that he hopes Jones never sees the field because Eli Manning will be the starter. With the Giants clearly hoping to mimic the Packers’ transition from legendary quarterback Brett Favre to team mainstay and eventual Super Bowl winner Aaron Rodgers, the question for 2019 becomes, what can the Giants accomplish with Manning and will it be enough to keep Jones on the bench?
Something that will not help the Giants this year is their competition in the NFC East. With both the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys favored to make the playoffs, New York’s best chances at victory come early, in weeks two through four, when they play the Bills, Buccaneers, and Redskins.
The Giant’s defense will rely heavily on veteran leaders Alec Ogletree, Antoine Bethea and Janoris Jenkins, but the team also maintains high expectations for Clemson University defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, lockdown cornerback Deandre Baker and Old Dominion linebacker Oshane Ximines. With the changes the front office has made this past offseason, it’s hard to imagine that the defense will be the same porous unit it was last year.
Offensively, the Giants’ best recipe for success would be to consistently put the ball in star running back Saquon Barkley’s hands. The 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year will now be the team’s main option with Odell Beckham Jr. gone and neither wide receiver Sterling Shepard nor tight end Evan Engram likely to fill his shoes. However, expect to see the box regularly stacked with six to seven players focused on taking down Saquon, forcing Eli to make plays he’s never been known to make without the help of elite receivers. Taking this into account, the Giants have a rather realistic chance at six, and if they’re able to squeak out a seventh or eighth it should be considered a surprisingly successful year as long as Daniel Jones “never sees the field” and eventually turns into something like Rodgers. I’m not sure if it’s comical or disheartening that, in the future, this season may be measured by the eventual success of Daniel Jones. If you’re looking for wins this year in New York football, you might want to watch the other team that plays in East Rutherford.
That other team, the New York Jets, also had a high selection in the draft and took Quinnen Williams, a defensive tackle from Alabama, third overall. He will start immediately alongside Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon and Henry Anderson, who had the best season of his career last year with seven sacks, 16 QB hits and two blocked kicks. Former Baltimore Raven C.J. Mosley leads the next level of the defense as an inside linebacker, and Jordan Jenkins returns after leading the team in sacks last year to play outside linebacker opposite Brandon Copeland. The back end of the defense is led by 2018 Pro Bowl Defensive MVP safety Jamal Adams, who will make his case for being the best safety in the league, and fellow safety Marcus Maye. Trumaine Johnson will be the top cornerback on the team, and should benefit from reuniting with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, having had seven interceptions the last time he played for Williams on the Los Angeles Rams.
Anticipation over the team’s defense is coupled with excitement over second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. With a 64% pass completion rate in the final four games, Darnold’s end to the 2018 season exemplified the progression any franchise hopes to see a young quarterback demonstrate. There is nothing to suggest Darnold will regress, and his development can only be aided by the addition of veteran, five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil and veteran, two-time Pro Bowler Kelechi Osemele.
The biggest free agent signing for the Jets in recent memory, star running back Le’Veon Bell should be ready for a big season after a full year of rest. Bell has all the makings of a workhorse back for the Jets, as he was in Pittsburgh, and it would be surprising if, by the end of the year, he has not touched the ball over 200 times. The addition of a veteran slot receiver like Jamison Crowder, paired with the electric Robbie Anderson on the outside, allows Darnold to maintain confidence in his receivers ability to be in the right position and make plays. This is truly an exciting time to watch the Jets, not just because of their outlook for the season, but also because of what the future may hold.
However, the Jets schedule starts off with a difficult string of games. While they are likely to beat the Buffalo Bills at home in week one, they then face the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Patriots again. Even if they make it through that slate at .500, they will struggle to fight for a playoff berth in the second half of the season. But eight or nine wins is a respectable record for a freshly assembled team with a young quarterback and no elite wide receivers — and, depending how the AFC shakes out, nine wins could be enough to sneak into a wild card berth.
While it seems most likely the Jets will end the season with eight or nine wins, the possibility of having a 10-win season is not out of the question. If they do break into double digits in the win column, come playoff time, expect to hear a steady hum of J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!
Email Griffin Vrabeck at [email protected]