Giants’ Barkley: ‘Our goal and every team’s goal is to go to the playoffs’

At 2-6 and on a four-game losing streak, the New York Giants are struggling. However, the great thing for the Giants is they play in the NFC East, which means they have shot to win the division, albeit a long shot, but a chance nonetheless. 

On Monday night at MetLife Stadium, New York has an opportunity to get themselves back into the division race when they battle the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys(4-3). 

When asked on Friday if winning on Monday could put the Giants in position to win the NFC East, Giants RB Saquon Barkley had this to say.

“Can it? Yes, it probably can, but is that our focus? No. Everything we want is still out there, our goal and every team’s goal is to go to the playoffs and compete for a super bowl,” Barkley said. “Is that still out there for us, yes, it is, and even though everyone wants to say what they want to say about our team, we understand everything that we want is still there.

“We’re not focused to have this game, win, and then go compete for the NFC East. You can’t go compete for the NFC East if you don’t just focus on tomorrow, and that’s another day to practice, get better, and prepare yourself for Sunday.”

Now, are the Giants really good enough to win the NFC East? Probably not, but beating the Cowboys gives them a chance. Furthermore, the Giants have two games left against the second-place team in the division, the Philadelphia Eagles, so we’ll see what can happen.

Every team’s goal should be the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but it’s clear the Giants, who have a young quarterback in Daniel Jones, still have some building to do. Therefore, playoffs and Super Bowl talk will probably have to wait until next year.

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Eagles’ Pederson: ‘I think any time DeSean is on the field, defenses have to account for that’

When the Philadelphia Eagles brought back WR DeSean Jackson in the offseason, the thought was they would have a deep threat that teams would have to account for at all times. After his performance in Week 1 against the Redskins, where he caught eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, many thought the Eagles’ offense would be tough to stop in 2019.

However, in Week 2 against the Falcons, the 32-year-old Jackson would injure his abdominal muscle and has been out of action ever since. At times, Philadelphia has had a difficult time stretching the field without Jackson. Fortunately for the Eagles(4-4), Jackson is close to returning and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at the Linc against the Bears(3-4).

“I’m optimistic that he’ll play,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. “We are going to get through today, again. He’s had a great week of practice. He’s been limited on the injury report all week. We’ll get through today and tomorrow, and we’re optimistic that he can play.”

Obviously, the Eagles want Jackson at his best, but if Philadelphia can just get him on the field, that would be huge for the team.

“I think any time DeSean is on the field, defenses have to account for that, for that speed and his receiving ability,” Pederson said.”Whether or not he’s the primary on the route, could be a different story, but I think the respect of what he gets defensively, whether it takes two guys to defend him or if they are going to just put one guy on him.

“Yeah, it definitely helps us, I think as an offense when he’s on the field because he’s such a dynamic guy, speed guy, and really good leader for our young guys that are also playing at this time.”

The good thing for the Eagles is that even if Jackson can’t play this week, the team will have a bye the following week, which means he would have more time to get healthier. It’s clear that with Jackson in the lineup, Philly’s offense looks more dynamic, and the sooner they can get him back, the better off this team will be.

Giants’ Jones on playing Cowboys: ‘It’s a divisional game, it’s an important game, it’s a big game’

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.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Stefanski on Cousins winning Player of the Month: ‘I think the rest of the offensive players can take pride in that achievement’

The month of October was a special month for Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, and because he played so well, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month.

Cousins finished the month 91-of-116 (78.4%) for 1,262 yards, ten touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 137.1 while leading the Vikings to a perfect 4-0 record. The Michigan State graduate’s 78.4 completion percentage led the NFL, while his ten passing touchdowns tied for the league lead. His 137.1 passer rating in October marked the second-highest passer rating in any month in NFL history (minimum 100 attempts), trailing only Peyton Manning’s 138.0 passer rating in September of 2013.

The eighth-year veteran helped the Vikings offense record 1,875 yards of total offense in four October games, the second-highest yardage total in any four-game span in franchise history (1,968 yards in Weeks 2-6 of the 2004 season).

Obviously, for Cousins to have success, everybody on the offense has to be playing well, and according to Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, this award about the whole offense.

I think it’s a great individual honor, but I think even Kirk (Cousins) would tell you, it reflects on your teammates,” Stefanski said on Thursday. “Somebody has to catch those balls. Somebody is protecting for him. I know he would tell you that. Proud of him and I think he earned that, but that’s really as much as it is an individual honor, I think the rest of the offensive players can take pride in that achievement.”

Everybody on the offensive side of the ball should get credit for Cousins winning this award, but Cousins really stepped up his play this month, and that’s one of the reasons the Vikings are in 6-2 and playing some big-time football right now.

Vikings’ Zimmer on Chiefs: ‘This will be a good test for us’

Offensively, the Minnesota Vikings struggled in the early part of the 2019 season. In their first four games, the Vikings averaged 21 points per contest, but most of that was because of the success of the ground game. The next four games, things changed. Kirk Cousins and the offense got on track, and the Vikings averaged 31 points per game during that stretch. 

On Sunday, this Minnesota(6-2) offense may have to score a lot of points. The Vikings will travel to Kansas City(5-3) to battle the explosive Chiefs, and even without Pat Mahomes, the Chiefs’ offense is still explosive with Matt Moore as the quarterback. 

“They’re fast, really fast,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said about the Chiefs’ offense on Wednesday. “(Mecole) Hardman, all of them, (Sammy) Watkins, they’re all fast, every one of their guys. Their running backs are fast, (LeSean) McCoy and (Damien) Williams… So we’ll have to be on our toes, and we’re going to have to play good against them and try to eliminate some big plays.”

Fortunately for the Vikings, their offense is playing at a high level, and when asked if he feels the Vikings’ offense is better equipped to win a high-scoring game, Zimmer had this to say:

“I mean we’ve been fortunate, we’ve been able to move the ball pretty well,” he said. “That does give me hope, and we’ve run it in a variety of ways. We can score in a variety of ways, whether it’s running or throwing. So I guess the answer would be yes.”

Currently, Minnesota is on a four-game winning streak, and Zimmer knows that the Vikings have to be at their best if they want to beat the Chiefs. 

“I think we play a lot of contenders in these next eight weeks, and they(Chiefs) obviously are a contender,” Zimmer said. “This will be a good test for us; they’re a good football team. We’re going to have to play good to win.”

Zimmer is right. Playing the Chiefs will be a huge test for this football team, and It will be very interesting to see if the Vikings can pass the test on Sunday. 

 

 

Jags’ Minshew on playing Texans: ‘It’s definitely a big one’

The first time Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew played the Houston Texans, many were not sure what they were going to see out of the sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. It was Minshew’s first career start, and for most of the game, the Jaguars’ offense struggled. Then, the fourth quarter came along, and Minshew was able to lead Jacksonville on two scoring drives. However, with an opportunity to take the lead on a two-point conversion late in the game, Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette was stopped short of the goal line, and the Jaguars would lose to the Texans 13-12 in Week 2.

On Sunday in London, Minshew will get another opportunity to beat the Texans, as the Jaguars face Houston for the second and final time this season.

“I think you get confidence from playing a team and seeing them before,” Minshew said on Wednesday. “You get a little understanding. But we also know it’s going to be a different challenge, they have a lot of things different, as do we.”

This is a big game as far as the AFC South is concerned. Right now, the Texans(5-3), who are in second place behind the Colts(6-2) in the division, are one game up on the Jaguars(4-4), and If Jacksonville loses on Sunday, the Texans would essentially be three games up on the Jaguars because they would have swept the season series. Therefore, the Jaguars have to beat Houston on Sunday.

“I think this is too big of a game to really think about anything else,” Minshew said. “We’re sitting at a pivotal point, 4-4, playing a divisional opponent. This will be the last time we get to play them, so it’s definitely a big one.”

The Jaguars have eight games left, and the next three games for Jacksonville are against division opponents, so this stretch will probably determine whether the Jaguars make the playoffs in 2019, and a win against the Texans would be a great way to start this pivotal stretch for Jacksonville.

Eagles’ Groh on Wentz against Bills: ‘I thought he had great command of the offense’

Last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles got a much-needed victory on the road against the Buffalo Bills. Behind the running of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, a workmanlike effort by Carson Wentz, and the play of the defense. Philadelphia was able to defeat the Bills 31-13. With the victory, the Eagles are now 4-4 at the halfway mark of the season.

Against the Bills, Wentz had to deal with a very good Bills’ defense and the weather. It was a rainy and very windy day in Buffalo, but through it all, the fourth-year quarterback was able to get it done. Wentz finished the game completing 17 of 24 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown. Also, he made some plays with his legs. Wentz rushed for 35 yards, which included two huge runs for first downs on the Eagles’ final scoring drive.

Wentz did his job, and Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh was happy with his performance.

“I think he did a great job handling the elements, number one, certainly bringing his team home a winner,” Groh said on Tuesday. “Seventeen-of-24 [passing], if I’m not mistaken, in very difficult circumstances. You saw a couple of the balls that he threw just the wind just knock it completely off target. So, the wind and not so much the rain, it wasn’t too bad from a precipitation standpoint, but he did a great job managing the game, getting us into the right plays, doing that on the road, and also handling our stuff at the line of scrimmage and getting everything communicated there.

“So, I thought he had great command of the offense both in the huddle and his decision making when to tuck it and run, get himself down, keep himself out of harm’s way, extend drives. Really productive game for him.”

The Eagles kept their season alive with this victory, and last season after eight games, the Eagles were 4-4. Philadelphia managed to go 5-3 the rest of the way to get into the playoffs.  How they finish this season might be determined by how well Wentz plays the rest of the way. If Sunday was any indication, it might end well for Philadelphia.

 

Newest Giant Williams: ‘I’m just ready to bring some toughness, some pass rush, some run stop, everything’

The Giants today sharply upgraded a defensive line that already includes three highly-drafted young players.

The team announced it has acquired lineman Leonard Williams, the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, in a trade with the Jets, who will receive a 2020 third-round selection and a 2021 fifth round selection that could become a fourth.

Williams joins a defensive front that includes three-year veteran Dalvin Tomlinson (second-round selection in 2017), second-year pro B.J. Hill (third-round choice in 2018), and rookie Dexter Lawrence, who was chosen 17th overall in the 2019 draft.

Tomlinson and Lawrence have started all eight games this season (the former has started 40 consecutive games) and Hill has played in every game with five starts. Hill leads the trio with 23 tackles (eight solos) but has yet to record a sack after finishing with a Giants rookie record 5.5 last year.  Lawrence has 21 tackles (11 solo) and 2.0 sacks, and Tomlinson has 1.5 sacks among his 20 tackles (12 solo). Among the reserve linemen, Olsen Pierre has 2.0 sacks and RJ McIntosh has 1.0.

“I don’t know any of them personally, but I know about them,” Williams said. “I’m definitely excited to get to work with them, get to know the guys personally so we can bond together and get at it. I’m still learning, I have to learn the defense, get the playbook and all that stuff tonight. This is my first time ever in a new building in the NFL, there is a lot going on right now.

“I’m just ready to bring some toughness, some pass rush, some run stop, everything. Being a good teammate to the guys, being a good guy in the building on and off the field, just know that I am going to give it my all every day.”

Williams said he will be able to learn the defense in time to contribute to the defense when the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

“I don’t think it will be too hard,” he said. “When I was in college, I had a different defensive coordinator every year, I had two different D-coordinators here (with the Jets). I think because I’ve had so many different D-coordinators and had to learn defenses quickly, I’ve learned how to learn stuff fast.”

In a corresponding move, the Giants waived linebacker Tae Davis, who was one of the four starting linebackers in the season opener in Dallas. Davis has played just three other games and has been inactive four of the last five, including Sunday in Detroit. He joined the Giants last year as a rookie free agent from Chattanooga and played in 14 games with four starts.

The 6-5 and 302-pound Williams has never missed a game in his five NFL seasons, starting 70 of the 71 games in which he’s played, including 65 in a row. The only game Williams did not start was on Oct. 25, 2015 vs. New England in the sixth game of his rookie season.

Williams’ career statistics include 299 tackles (169 solo), 17.0 sacks, 90 quarterback hits, one interception, three passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. In seven games this season, he has 20 tackles (eight solo), five quarterback hits and one pass defensed.

“We are excited to have Leonard,” said coach Pat Shurmur. “He is a young yet very experienced defensive player who has the ability to make an impact against the run and the pass. In our system, he has the ability to play multiple positions on our defensive line. I have been impressed by how hard he plays every single snap. Everybody we spoke with talked about what a hard worker Leonard is and what a good teammate he is.”

Williams had his most productive season in 2016, when he was selected to the Pro Bowl and named the Jets’ MVP after he started all 16 games for the first time and recorded career-high totals of 86 tackles, 49 solos, 7.0 sacks, and both of his forced fumbles.

Williams’ name had been floated in trade rumors for several weeks. But that didn’t diminish the surprise when he got the news.

“I still was a little bit shocked because I got drafted there,” Williams said. “I know we have a new G.M. (Joe Douglas), so I knew it was still a possibility. Mentally, I was still preparing myself, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not. I also didn’t know it would happen with the Giants. I think that’s a big help not to have to go to a new city.

“I think it’s a transition. Any change is going to be a little bit of an adjustment. At the same time, I am excited, the guys seem happy to have me here. I’m obviously going to try to work hard and do as much as I can for people that want to have me around.”

Being traded to the Giants lessens the logistical challenge Williams faces this week.

“That definitely makes the adjustment a lot easier,” he said. “If I had to be traded, it makes it a lot easier that I don’t have to pack a bag and move to a whole new city overnight. I’m still right up the street, I don’t have to change my area code or anything like that. I came right down here this morning, just a quick 30-minute drive, I’m still in the same area, still in New York. That definitely helps the adjustment.”

Williams’ second game with the Giants will be against his former team. On Nov. 10, the Giants will be the visiting team when they face the Jets.

“I’m excited for it,” Williams said.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

Jaguars place Marqise Lee on IR

The Jacksonville Jaguars have placed WR Marqise Lee (shoulder) on the team’s reserve/injured list and promoted undrafted rookie CB Tae Hayes to the active roster, the club announced today. 

Lee, who injured his shoulder against the Jets on Sunday, had three receptions for 18 yards in six games this season. This is the second straight year that Lee will end the season on injured reserve. In 2018, Lee tore his left ACL during the preseason. Lee was selected in the second round by the Jaguars in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Hayes, 5-9, 188, spent the first eight weeks of the season on the Jaguars’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster. 

 

Giants’ Jones: ‘I think there’s a certain sense of urgency in the building’

When you are on a four-game losing streak, you have to do different things as a team, and for the New York Giants, a players-only meeting on Monday was the first step in changing things.

What happened at this meeting? No one is saying.

“We’re going to keep all that kind of stuff between us as players,” Giants starting QB Daniel Jones said on a conference call. “I think there’s a certain sense of urgency in the building, but in terms of that stuff, we’re going to keep that in-house.”

When asked if the meeting was necessary, Jones had this to say:

“Again, like I said, we certainly feel a sense of urgency, and I think guys are coming into work, determined to get it right, but in terms of how that went, we’re going to keep that in-house.”

According to Giants LB Alec Ogletree, the players were happy about what came from the meeting.

“I’ll just leave it at, the players wanted to have our meeting, and we had our meeting and accomplished what we wanted to get done,” Ogletree said.

“We’ve always been together. It’s only us that go out there on the field and play together, so it’s just a matter of making sure everybody is still communicating, still on the same page, and trying to fix the problems.”

If players-only meetings really worked, teams would have them all the time, but maybe this could change things for New York. The big test on whether this meeting worked will be next Monday night against the NFC East-leading Cowboys. A loss against Dallas(4-3) ends New York’s slim chances of winning the NFC East, which is a long shot. However, this is the NFL, so anything can happen.