Daniel Jones’ debut season will take an unusual twist on Monday night with a first that will also be a second.
The Giants’ rookie quarterback will make his initial start against the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium. But it will be his first second appearance against a single opponent. His regular-season unveiling was in the Giants’ final series in their opening 35-17 loss in Dallas on Sept. 8. Jones completed three of four passes for 17 yards but lost a fumble on the Giants’ last offensive snap (after a review).
Jones said that brief introduction might provide some benefit on Monday.
“Maybe just a little bit of experience against those guys,” Jones said. “I think just being able to watch that game, the second time we play them, the second time we’ll run our offense against what they do, it’s helpful to be able to see that and learn from it.”
Asked a follow-up moments later, Jones said, “just seeing our stuff, our offense against them and kind of how we match up and what certain looks look like against them. I think all that stuff helps in being able to prepare the second time against a team.”
The Giants’ 24-3 defeat of Washington on Sept. 29 gave Jones a 1-0 start in NFC East games.
“He’s played against the Redskins, a division foe, and he’s played against some really outstanding defenses along the way here,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s played on the road, he’s played at home. He’s just clicking them all off. This just happens to be the first time he’s playing against the Cowboys, who happen to be a division foe and an outstanding defense.”
Jones will be the first Giants quarterback other than Eli Manning to start a game vs. Dallas since Oct. 10, 2004, when Kurt Warner led the team to a 26-10 victory in Texas Stadium. Manning has started the Giants’ last 31 games vs. the Cowboys, including one in the playoffs. He is 14-17 against Dallas and his 1,047 passes, 655 completions, 7,560 yards and 53 touchdown passes are all regular-season records for one opponent against the Cowboys.
Monday could be the dawn of another long-term rivalry between a Giants quarterback and the Cowboys’ defense.
“I don’t know if I necessarily think of it that way, but it is a rivalry, these two teams,” Jones said. “It’s a divisional game, it’s an important game, it’s a big game, and I realize that there’s a rivalry element to the two teams playing, just in that they’ve been in the division and played for a long time. So, I’m excited to be part of that, and yeah, I think I realize it’s a big game.”
Shurmur didn’t minimize the significance of a quarterback matching up against a division opponent.
“I think it’s important,” Shurmur said. “As you go along and you play the team multiple times, then you get a feel for them, they get a feel for you. But this is the first time they’re playing against Daniel as our quarterback. He actually did take a couple snaps, but nothing of note in the first matchup. But he’s on tape having played the games he’s played, so I’m sure that’s what they’re looking to try to defend.”
Far more critical to the Giants’ hopes of ending their four-game losing streak is that this could finally be the first game in which Jones has all of the team’s top offensive weapons at his disposal. Sterling Shepard, who missed the last three games while in the NFL concussion protocol, has not yet been cleared to play. But he is practicing fully, an indication he is heading in that direction.
Shepard, Golden Tate, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley have all been out of uniform for one or more games since the beginning of the season. Jones became the starter in Week 3 and he would be the biggest beneficiary of an offense in which all key contributors are in uniform.
“I think it’ll help us,” Jones said. “Those are all really good players. When you put them all together there’s a lot of different things that we can do, a lot of different ways to attack. I think the guys who stepped in have played well throughout the season. But yeah, getting Shep back this week will help.”
“I think we all need to go out and play well together,” Shurmur said. “This is probably the first time they’ll all sort of be out there together. Our new version of things. It’s important that they just go out and play, do their jobs and try to execute. If the ball is thrown your way, catch it. If you’re supposed to block somebody, block him. If we hand it to you and you run with it, make yards. I don’t mean to try to minimize it or boil it down too much for you, but they just need to do their jobs.”
That would certainly help Jones succeed no matter who the opponent is.
*Aside from Shepard, the only two players to appear on the Giants’ injury report were cornerbacks Corey Ballentine (concussion) and Grant Haley (knee) who both practiced fully.
*The Giants signed punter Sean Smith to their practice squad. Smith is a lefty and will help the Giants’ punt returns better prepare for Dallas’ Chris Jones, who also kicks with his left leg.