The challenge facing New York Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones this week just got a whole lot tougher.
On Wednesday, the Giants officially ruled out running backs Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Wayne Gallman (concussion), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) for Thursday night’s matchup with the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Barkley is one of the NFL’s best backs. Gallman is his top backup. Engram and Shepard rank first and second, respectively, among Giants players in both receptions and receiving yards this season.
With all four unavailable, the Giants will enter Thursday’s game with undrafted rookie Jonathan Hilliman as their top option at running back, career backup Rhett Ellison at tight end and a receiving corps of Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer and Cody Core, plus Elijhaa Penny at fullback.
Tate is the lone household name on that list. He served a four-game suspension to begin this season, then was quiet last week in his Giants debut, catching three passes on six targets for 13 yards in a 28-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Slayton, Latimer and Core have caught nine, six and three passes this season, respectively.
That group will face a Patriots defense that’s on pace to break NFL records for points allowed and sacks and the franchise record for interceptions. New England has allowed opposing offenses to score just 20 points through five games and has yet to surrender a passing touchdown.
Rookie quarterbacks also are 0-12 in Foxboro during the Bill Belichick era, and the Patriots have not lost to any first-year signal-caller since Geno Smith beat them back in 2013. This will be the fourth career start for Jones, whom the Giants picked sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.