By Arnie Leshin
Oh that dismal National Football League NFC East.
Not since that awful 2006 season in the NFC West has there been such a division as you will find. Four teams that have accounted for 782 points and been roasted for 976, all under .500, and with the “surging” New York Giants evening its two meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles with Sunday’s 27-17 triumph at Metro-Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., they are a half or perhaps a full game behind Philly.
You see, the Eagles are 3-5-1 and that early-season tie can either help or hamper them. The Giants, with a sweep over the Washington Football Team, and a home game coming up against the fading Dallas Cowboys, can forget a wild card berth coming from this division, but at 3-7 are right in the mix for the top spot and a first-round home tilt in the playoffs.
Dallas had a bye weekend and has fallen to 2-7 and into a last place tie with Washington, which dropped its Sunday game at the Detroit Lions on a game-ending 59-yard field goal, 30-27. It was that or overtime, but Washington still has a chance despite already losing the tiebreaker to the Giants in a pair of games lost in the final minutes.
As for the Giants of first-year head coach Joe Judge, the team’s second-year starting quarterback, Daniel Jones, the first-round 4th pick out of Duke, has been the main force. He has improved so much, he might be the current best quarterback in the division. In fact, while Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington have made weekly changes to the position, it’s been only the young Jones for the long-time Empire State franchise that plays in the Garden State.
After watching Jones set the tone, it’s obvious that the Giants scouted him well, and despite the doubting Thomas’, he has been just the right replacement for retired Eli Manning, who twice defeated the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.
Jones is mobile, something that Eli (or Payton) were not. He stands 6-foot-5, runs with smarts, swiftness and long strides, and once he takes off looks like a running back on the run. In a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he sped 68 yards up the middle before losing his way and falling to the ground 11 yards from touchdown heaven, and the Giants had to settle for a field goal in a close game.
But in the win over Philly before a limited coronavirus pandemic turnout, he again led the team in rushing, this time carrying the ball 13 times for 78 yards. He faked a hand-off early in the game and sped up the middle with defenders not able to keep up for a 27-yard touchdown. He also threw one touchdown pass, and Wayne Gallman, Jr., tugged the ball twice into the end zone, once landing over two Eagles and into the end zone.
In all, Jones totaled 244 yards through the air, and again ran the option very well. For the second game in a row, he has no turnovers. Last year, he committed fumbles, threw interceptions. This year, he clutches the ball on rushes and sacks. This year, he throws the ball away if he has no open receivers. Even Eli (Manning) is impressed, says so, watches every Giants’ game and supports Jones in every way.
“In his first year with us,” said Manning, “he was always learning, always checking the charts, always asking questions to me or the coaches. Quiet in the clubhouse, but personable and a welcome sight. We always practiced the option with him, but I’m amazed at how well he handles things, how smartly he releases the ball, how he runs the offense, and how the players respect him as I do. And I think he has also helped making us so much better on defense.”
Let’s face it, Duke is a basketball power, but long-time Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski was aware of Jones’ talent whenever he made it to the school’s football games.
“I made it to as many of the football games that I could, especially those at home,” said Coach K. .”I got a kick out of watching Jonesie run the offense, watch our sideline supporting him, his leadership, his accurate passes, his crafty ness running the option, the offense, then standing on the sidelines and cheering our defense. Now I watch him on TV, and I told the Giants when he was chosen that they are getting a very special player and person.”
How true, and how important it is that Coach Judge is impressed. He’s been around the game for awhile and on the coaching staff of New England before coming over to the Giants.
“Oh yes, we are very pleased with Mr. Jones,” Judge said. “I’m sure other teams would have liked to draft him, but we are especially happy with our choice, and this team is feeling good on both ends of the ball as we get to the bye weekend.”