The fans who showed up Friday night at MetLife Stadium hoping to see a completely transformed Giants offense under new coach Brian Daboll saw … well, not quite that.
No, this wasn’t the wholly inept offense that took the field here late last season, when Joe Judge’s second season spiraled into dysfunction.
But Daniel Jones and Co. didn’t exactly light it up during their two drives in an intra-squad scrimmage. The Giants’ pass protection, in particular, looked shoddy for most of the night, as defensive coordinator Wink Martindale brought his usual high volume of blitzes.
Could that wind up being a significant issue for the Giants, as they try to get a fair and final evaluation of Jones, in the fourth (and last) year of his rookie contract? maybe. But Daboll isn’t ready to pass full judgment yet on his offensive line.
“The best evaluation [of the line] will come when we play the games,” he said.
He meant preseason games, and the Giants are now less than a week away from their preseason opener, Thursday night at the Patriots.
But as for Jones on Friday night, he was 12-of-22 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, while facing significant pressure. He probably should’ve been sacked four times, but defenders aren’t allowed to hit the quarterback during these practice settings, of course.
“I thought he operated well,” Daboll said of Jones. “I’m sure there are plays he would want back.”
Like that near pick-six by Adoree’ Jackson on the first drive.
“It was close” to being returned for a touchdown, Daboll said, pursing his lips and adding nothing else.
Even though that throw didn’t come back to bite Jones, his first drive Friday was mostly a mess, partly due to protection issues. He completed 4 of 11 passes for 45 yards on the drive, which ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line.
On the drive’s second play, from Jones’ 27-yard line, he was nearly intercepted by Jackson, after staring down Kadarius Toney. And the next play, third-and-8, should’ve ended the drive, because Darnay Holmes would’ve sacked Jones. Holmes ran into the backfield unblocked.
But instead of pulling his first-team units off the field after just three snaps, Daboll let that play continue, and Jones hit Wan’Dale Robinson for a 28-yard gain — actually a nicely threaded pass.
The rest of the drive included plenty of lowlights for the Giants’ offense and Jones. Facing pressure from Leonard Williams, Jones badly overthrew Robinson. On the next play, Jones was high on a short sideline pass to Daniel Bellinger.
The drive sputtered after Jones missed back-to-back passes to the end zone from the 7. On first-and-goal, he failed to hit Kenny Golladay on a slant. And on the next play, he badly overthrew Collin Johnson after being flushed from the pocket. Jones should’ve been sacked by Kayvon Thibodeaux on the snap after that, third-and-goal, but the play continued with a completion.
“It’s good to get a lot of work against pressure as an offensive unit,” Daboll said, spinning positive on a night when Martindale’s defense left his pass protection looking lost at times.
After back-to-back strong practices for the Giants’ offense, on Tuesday and Wednesday, its performance Friday night failed to continue that trend.
And the Giants, already struggling with offensive tackle depth, were dealt another blow when rookie second-string right tackle Marcus McKethan was carted off with a right leg injury. The severity of the injury is unclear, but it didn’t look good.
By this point, Jones and the starting offense had already resulted in their second and final drive, which went better than the first (low bar). Jones on the second drive completed 8 of 11 passes for 67 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Andre Miller on fourth-and-goal.
Though Jones made some nice throws on the second drive, protection issues continued — two holding penalties, including one by left tackle Andrew Thomas on Thibodeaux. Thomas also jumped early for a false start flag. Thibodeaux clearly is going to be an important weapon for Martindale. Ditto for Leonard Williams, who would’ve had a second-and-14 sack on that drive.
Two snaps later — on third-and-12, right after Thomas’ false start — Martindale brought Julian Love on a blitz for the night’s fourth would-be sack, and the second by a defensive back. But again, the drive was allowed to continue. Jones made one of his better throws of the night on third-and-13 from his own 37, when he found Saquon Barkley on a screen, under pressure, for a 21-yard gain.
Jones had another good third-down throw on third-and-7 from the 17, to put the offense within striking distance for a touchdown. He hit Golladay in stride on a well-timed slant for a 9-yard gain.
Still, this was mostly a flaw-filled night for the Giants’ offense, despite no turnovers. Barkley dropped a pass on the second drive. So did Robinson, who, like Barkley, has looked good in camp.
No one ever said this was going to be an overnight fix for Daboll, as he tries to repair the Giants’ offense and spark Jones’ career. Friday was yet another indicator of that harsh reality.
Afterward, Daboll reflected on the current state of his rebuilding team. He expressed cautious optimism — with a statement that just as easily could be uttered only about his offense.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “But we’re a ways away.”
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Darryl Slater may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.