No one roots for injuries, but you can envision the rest of the NFC East taking a look at the Giants and thinking, “Well, how do you like it now?’’
Eleven games into their season, the Giants are 4-7 and in first place in the division by virtue of a tiebreaker with Washington and pending the Eagles-Seahawks game Monday night. It looks as if the attempt to stay ahead of the pack, at least for a while, must go on without Daniel Jones, who was forced out of the 19-17 victory in Cincinnati with a right hamstring injury. Depending on the severity of the damage, Jones could be out a multiple weeks, as hamstring strains never go away quickly, always linger and are definitely exacerbated by coming back too soon. Plus, so much of what Jones brings to the table is based on his mobility. His will not be able to run to full capacity and he could not plant on his right leg to throw after he got hurt.
Just like that, the Giants are mired in the quarterback slop where the Cowboys and Washington reside. The Giants certainly know something about how these scenarios unfolded.
In Week 5, the Giants knocked Dak Prescott out for the season when a routine tackle by safety Logan Ryan turned into a disaster for Prescott when he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. The Cowboys held on to beat the Giants that day to move to 2-3. Since then, using Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert and then Dalton again at quarterback, the Cowboys are 1-5.
In Week 8, an inadvertent trip by Giants safety Jabrill Peppers ended Kyle Allen’s season to a gruesome dislocated ankle. Washington was already in flux at quarterback, benching Dwayne Haskins for Allen, and now must rely on veteran Alex Smith, coming off his own grueling injury history.
Losing Allen is not the same as losing Prescott, but the Giants did end the season of two quarterbacks in their division.
As for the Eagles, Carson Wentz is healthy but playing so poorly reports are rampant rookie Jalen Hurts will receive increased snaps.
Jones played 100 percent of the snaps on offense, as the Giants are always embroiled in close games, other than their Week 3 blowout loss to the 49ers. Six of their past seven games were decided by three points or less, not allowing for any garbage-time moments for backup Colt McCoy.
Jones made it to 700 consecutive snaps this season before injuring his hamstring on a 7-yard run in the third quarter. He made it back onto the field for two more snaps on the next series and then had to leave for good, leaving him at 702 snaps through 11 games after playing 51 of the 81 offensive snaps, leaving the other 30 for McCoy.
Everything was trending upward for the Giants on offense. They gained a season-high 386 yards in Cincinnati after totaling what was a season-high 382 yards in their last game, two weeks ago against the Eagles. It was the fifth straight game with more than 300 total yards on offense, a sharp increase in production over the first portion of the season. The 142 rushing yards was the sixth consecutive game with more than 100 yards on the ground, another sign the offensive line is stabilizing – and that Wayne Gallman has found his NFL legs.
When Jones gets to add to his snap total and rejoin what was a surging offense remains to be seen. The Giants will learn what most of the NFC East already knows all-too well: Life after the starting quarterback is rarely pleasant.
More that came out of a post-bye victory for the Giants:
— The last time the Giants controlled the ball for longer than their 37:26 time of possession in Cincinnati? When they had it for 35:05 in a 15-7 victory in Philadelphia, Oct. 27, 2013. The only points for the Giants that day came via five Josh Brown field goals. This time around, kicker Graham Gano supplied 13 of the 19 points, with four field goals and one extra point.
— Rookie safety Xavier McKinney got to dip his toe in the water in his NFL debut. He was on the field for five snaps on defense and nine snaps on special teams. The more he can tolerate — he is coming off foot surgery — the more he will get.
— The Bengals had only 40 rushing yards. They have some talented receivers but Brandon Allen, the No. 3 quarterback, could not deliver the ball to them. As a result, the Giants allowed 155 yards, the lowest total by a Giants defense in more than 10 years. The Bears gained only 110 yards on the Giants on Oct. 3, 2010, a 17-3 Giants victory.
— You want to frame Evan Engram’s performance with his fumble on the Bengals 15-yard line, go right ahead. It is an incomplete characterization. Yes, it was, at the time, a crushing turnover. To be fair, safety Vonn Bell made a nice play punching the ball out as Engram, laid out, was going to the ground. It was not exactly a case of sloppy ball security. Also, did you see what Engram did while he was on the field? He caught six passes for a career-high 129 yards. His 53-yard catch-and-run is the Giants’ longest pass-play of the season and second-longest offensive play of any kind –— Jones’ 80-yard run remains the longest. Engram also had a 44-yard reception on a brilliant grab, leaping with safety Brandon Wilson and snatching the ball away with some strong hand fighting. There is talent there and this coaching staff needs to continue to pry it out of Engram.
— With Matt Peart on the reserve/COVID-19 list, there was no rotation at offensive tackle, with Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming playing all 81 snaps. There is never a rotation at center, where Nick Gates did not leave the field. Kevin Zeitler played all 81 snaps at right guard. At left guard, rookie Shane Lemieux started for the fourth consecutive game and played 57 snaps. Erstwhile starter Will Hernandez subbed in for 26 snaps. In 2021, Hernandez will be entering the final year on his contract and, quite suddenly, his once rock-solid hold on a roster spot and starting job is showing cracks. Hernandez, though, will not go in the tank. He played well against the Bengals – he was the highest-graded Giants offensive lineman in the game by Pro Football Focus and he was exceptionally solid in pass blocking.
— Leonard Williams had one sack and three quarterback hits. Williams has six sacks; his career high is seven, for the Jets in 2016. He is playing on the franchise tag and actually living up to the hefty price-tag of $16.1 million. The guy will get paid, by the Giants or someone else, although what is expected to be modest salary cap space around the league could mitigate Williams’ financial return.
— Jabaal Sheard made his first start of the season and it might not be his last. Not after he came up with his first sack in his 10 games with the Giants. Sheard ended the game when got to the quarterback and knocked the ball away away from Brandon Allen , allowing Williams to make the fumble recovery with 49 seconds remaining. Sheard, 31, is a 2011 second-round pick of the Browns and the Giants are his fifth NFL team. Down the stretch, that experience could be a valuable addition to the defense.