EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have two wins, a new quarterback and, maybe most important, renewed hope. That is what Daniel Jones and victories against the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have provided a moribund franchise that was stuck in a rut.
How quickly things can change in the NFL. It was just over a week ago that the Giants seemingly conceded their season by benching Eli Manning. Now they have new life after manhandling a bad Redskins team 24-3 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s just the energy is different,” starting center Jon Halapio said. “I think a lot of it has to do with we’re winning right now, too. A little winning streak and we’re just playing good football together as a team.”
The Giants (2-2) are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for second place in the NFC East. We’ll find out in the next two games (vs. Minnesota, at New England) if this was anything more than a momentary self-correction against struggling opponents.
Either way, at least it’s fun for the first time in a while. At least the Giants and their fans can dream for a few minutes.
It has been a while since the Giants had this kind of hope, both for the present and future. This is the first time they have been .500 or better since Week 17 of the 2016 season. They will also get wide receiver Golden Tate back from his four-game suspension this week, and their defense has shown signs of improvement. That didn’t look likely after the first six quarters of the season, when the Giants surrendered 56 points to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. There weren’t many reasons to be optimistic.
Winning is always the magic elixir. But so too, apparently, is a quarterback who can maneuver around the pocket and make plays with his legs. Jones has changed the offense, which was 5-of-23 on third downs the first two games of the season with Manning at quarterback. New York is 14-of-26 the past two games since Jones took over.
The rookie’s legs have made a major difference. They helped convert several third downs Sunday, including a third-and-13 in the third quarter when he spun out of trouble and away from three defenders before running for a first down.
This keeps the chains moving. This keeps receivers involved with the hope of a big play happening even when there is a breakdown early.
“Him moving around helped us on third downs,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think situationally, I think we were 8-for- on third downs, and some of that can be attributed to his legs.”
Jones, 22, has changed the vibe around the whole organization and invigorated this current group.
“Oh, yeah. I feel it,” said running back Wayne Gallman, who stepped in for the injured Saquon Barkley and had 118 total yards and two touchdowns. “[Jones] provides his own energy to us and I can tell you it’s really big for me. He reminds me of Deshaun [Watson] a lot. Just how poised he is, how focused he is as a person and just how serious he is when it comes to doing his job.”
It was as if the Giants were stuck in a nasty vortex the past few years with Manning at quarterback. He clearly wasn’t the only problem, but he also wasn’t the solution. An immobile quarterback with a porous offensive line produced an untenable combination.
The Giants’ 8-24 record the previous two seasons proved that to be true. They’re now 2-0 since Jones took over.
Obviously, Jones isn’t the only reason for the wins. He didn’t hold the Bucs to three points in the second half last week or the Redskins to three points this week. He doesn’t cover, kick, block or get open to catch passes. The Giants as a team have played well the past six quarters. It has led to two wins.
Shurmur deserves credit for keeping this group from fracturing despite a sensitive quarterback decision. The Giants were frustrated but strangely confident throughout their early struggles.
They barely flinched when Jones was named the starter.
“There certainly wasn’t any panic among the team or in our building at 0-2,” Jones said. “I think we understood who we had. I think we understood the team. Getting back to 2-2, you feel good about it. But at the same time, if we’re going to keep winning, we have to address a number of things. We have to improve a number of things as a team if we want to keep it going. It’s important that we understand that and, like I said, keep moving forward.”
At the very least, they’ve taken a few steps already. Back to .500. Back to being an organization that now at least seems to be back on the right track. The new energy with Jones as the quarterback is working.