The New England Patriots play on Thursday night this week, so we’re delivering our weekly opponent preview one day early.
Here are three things to know about the New York Giants:
1. Daniel Jones still needs work
After leading the Giants to victories in each of his first two starts, the No. 6 overall draft pick struggled Sunday in a 28-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, averaging just 4.8 yards per pass attempt and throwing his fourth interception in three games.
The Vikings, who boast one of the NFL’s more talented defenses, routinely flummoxed Jones with their pass rush. When pressured, the Duke product completed just 3 of 12 passes for 10 yards with a pick and was sacked four times, according to Pro Football Focus.
Now, Jones faces a deep, experienced Patriots D that’s on pace to break the single-season NFL record for sacks. New England also is 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks during the Bill Belichick era and hasn’t lost to a first-year QB in any setting since falling to the Geno Smith-led Jets at MetLife Stadium in 2013.
Belichick, for what it’s worth, had high praise for Jones during his Monday conference call. The coach was impressed with what he saw when Jones visited Gillette Stadium during the pre-draft process.
“He’s a very impressive young man,” Belichick said, “and I’ve gotten the chance to see him play in the last few weeks here. He’s a smart kid, has a good football background, very athletic, runs well. He’s fast, he can get out of the pocket and he’s a hard guy to catch. … (New York’s system) is a very diverse offense, and it looks like Jones has handled it very well. He does all of the things that they do. …
“He has a pretty complete playbook for his level of experience, and he handles all of those things well. He’s an accurate thrower at all three levels. He’s shown a lot of poise in the pocket. He’s taken some hits and had people around him back in the pocket, but he has a lot of poise and toughness and just stands in there.”
2. Jones might not have much around him this week
As if winning in Foxboro wasn’t difficult enough for an inexperienced signal-caller, Jones could be without his top two pass-catchers and his top two running backs in this game.
No. 1 receiver Sterling Shepard reportedly will not play as he recovers from a concussion, and tight end Evan Engram (knee) was listed as “did not participate” on Monday’s hypothetical injury report. Giants coach Pat Shurmur said there was a “possibility” star running back Saquon Barkley could return Thursday night, but reports indicate that’s unlikely.
Barkley’s backup, Wayne Gallman, who played well last week in a win over the Washington Redskins, remains in concussion protocol after being knocked out of Sunday’s contest. He reportedly is unlikely to play against the Patriots, as well.
Expect veteran Golden Tate to become New York’s No. 1 receiver in Shepard’s absence. The 31-year-old had a quiet Giants debut Sunday after serving a four-game suspension, catching three passes on six targets for 13 yards. Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer and Cody Core round out the Giants’ receiving corps.
Jonathan Hilliman is next in line if Barkley and Gallman can’t go.
3. Their defense is suspect
Only the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins have allowed more yards per game this season than the Giants, who surrendered 490 to the Vikings in their latest outing. Kirk Cousins completed 22 of 27 passes in that game and averaged 11.3 yards per attempt, and Dalvin Cook cruised through New York’s defense to the tune of 218 yards from scrimmage, 132 of them on the ground.
The Giants haven’t been dreadful defensively this season — they rank near the middle of the pack in most metrics and had allowed just six points over their previous six quarters entering the Minnesota game — but they’ve been wildly inconsistent. They’ll need to be at their best against a Patriots team that’s topped 30 points in four of its five games.