The Giants are 2-0 and their fans are buzzing like a 10-year-old who just had a gallon of blue raspberry Icees. Brian Daboll can do no wrong. Daniel Jones and the rest of the Joe Judge-David Gettleman holdovers are really what’s holding back the team. If only they could get some production out of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, they could compete for a Wild Card spot. The defense is feisty and has an indefinable quality to it, a real sum of its parts grittiness.
I got it, along with the other 50 text messages on the Giants text thread. The scent coming off of New York no longer smells like a late-August trash day. All it took to change the culture of the past five years were two wins against mediocre-to-probably-bad teams. Daboll’s decision to go for two in Week 1 is considered genius in hindsight, but had Saquon Barkley not made a play with the shovel pass, the gamble would’ve been widely admonished.
The win over Carolina didn’t require a comeback from 13 down, which counts as an improvement. They were gifted fumbles on the opening kickoff and the ensuing Panther drive, but walked away with two field goals. Had Baker Mayfield been better than below average, the four field goals the Giants netted would’ve been lamented for not being touchdowns.
That’s not what happened though, and everyone can have a good laugh at the randos catching fluttering handfuls of change from Dimes. Richie James leads the team in receiving, David Sills V nabbed three passes for 37 yards, and the only player anyone’s heard of to catch a touchdown is Sterling Shepard. (Raise your hand if you know Daniel Bellinger and Chris Myarick, the other two guys to haul in TDs this season.)
Golladay, he of a four-year $72 million contract, played two snaps Sunday. It’s unclear how injured Toney’s hamstring is, but he was a first-round draft pick a year ago, showed flashes, and has two touches — both runs — all season. New GM Joe Schoen’s second-round selection, receiver Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky, sat out against Carolina with an injury after catching one pass for five yards in the opener.
Golladay, who is perpetually injured, is healthy; he’s just not playing. There were rumors he cleared out his locker after Sunday’s game, yet Julian Love, who has a locker next to Golladay, said the receiver is “locked in” and “going about his work.” He did admit it’s a “weird situation,” and that’s the issue.
Everything coming out of New York about Daboll’s personnel decisions describes a meritocracy, with nothing gifted to any player no matter how much they’re getting paid. I understand the motives behind that thought process, and largely agree with his approach. The team went 4-13 last year, so no one deserves preferential treatment.
However, if the ball doesn’t bounce Daboll’s way a couple of times in the first two contests, he’s getting the Nathaniel Hackett treatment. Probably not as bad — Hackett comes off as someone who knows all the special moves in Mortal Kombat but panics and resorts to button-mashing during the real thing. Regardless, there would still be groaning from the New York media over a botched two-point conversion and too many field goals when combined with the receiver room and everything else (including top-five draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux sitting out the first two games with an injury).
It was floated out there that Daboll is FaceTiming with free agent wide receivers, and that’s kind of concerning considering they had all camp to figure this out. There’s a lot of speed and playmaking between Toney, Robinson, and Golladay. Whether Jones can utilize it is another thing, but it’s on the coach to at least try to make it work.
The Giants have 364 yards passing this season, good for fourth worst in the NFL. Backup-turned-Cowboys’ starter Cooper Rush wandered in from the Pecan Lodge with brisket still underneath his fingernails and threw for more yards versus the Bengals than Jones did against the Titans or Panthers.
Eventually, the Giants are going to need to surpass 200 yards passing to win a game. Is Daboll pulling a bizarro Gettleman, and depriving his QB of weapons to intentionally end the Jones era in New York? The past couple of years were all about surrounding Jones with a cast — other than the all-important offensive line — that’s too good to fail, and it feels like Daboll is arming his quarterback with a spork, a sharp stick, and Saquon.
After what felt like eons of third-down screen passes and draws, I’ve enjoyed the offensive creativity that’s been injected into this iteration of Giants’ football. I loved the play-action rollout with Barkley in the flat on third-and-6 that gave Jones options to seal the win over Carolina. The shovel pass for a two-point conversion was ballsy yet executed just well enough to give Barkley room to make a defender miss.
Daboll has the makings of a good coach. In order to elevate to a great coach, he needs to maximize all the resources on the roster even if he has to wipe off Gettleman and Judge’s greasy fingerprints.