It took the Giants some time to get rookie quarterback Daniel Jones to put pen to paper, but he’s now officially ready to participate in the team’s first training camp practice on Thursday. The former Duke signal caller was always favored to get into cap on time. The question now becomes whether or not he can take meaningful snaps away from Eli Manning during his rookie campaign.
If you’re inclined to listen to higher-ups inside the Giants organization the answer to that query is an unequivocal no. Head coach Pat Shurmur has gone to great lengths this season to avoid portraying Manning as any sort of mentor or player/coach. Specifically, he’s told reporters that “it’s not his job” to coach the quarterback who will ultimately take his place leading the New York offense.
It’s easy for the franchise to back Manning up during the offseason. He’s earned a ton of internal credibility during his time in the Big Apple. Piloting a team to multiple Super Bowl titles has that impact on a player’s status. Manning helped his teammates win championship rings after the 2008 and 2012 regular seasons. Unfortunately for Giants fans, his play has dropped off sharply since those magical campaigns.
That’s why the Giants spent a valuable first rounder on Jones in the first place. There are a lot of legitimate questions about what sort of value GM Dave Gettleman got by drafting the quarterback at No. 6, but selecting him there made it clear that New York officials see him as their passer of the future. When most NFL teams spend such a high draft pick on a quarterback it’s because they expect him to see the field very quickly.
Expect the Giants to do everything they can to protect Manning early in the regular season. That means that opposing defensive coordinators should expect to see a ton of Saquon Barkley in the early going. The talented running back is coming off a special rookie campaign and he’s capable of putting up monster numbers in his second-season. The former Penn State standout will get plenty of carries, but eventually he’s going to run into a lot of eight and even nine-man defensive fronts. That is precisely the time when pressure will be heaped onto Manning to open up the offense by making plays down the field.
Manning’s hold on the starting quarterback position is going to hinge on how productive he is with his limited opportunities early in the season. The Giants aren’t going to put him in a situation where he needs to drop back and throw the ball 40 times per game. Instead, they will try to control the ball with Barkley and sprinkle in play action passes just often enough to keep the defense honest. It’s possible that strategy can produce a decent offense for a relatively short period of time.
Sooner or later, the Giants will need to put a game in the hands of their signal caller. That’s when Manning’s shortcomings are really going to come into focus. He just doesn’t have the arm strength that masked some of his deficiencies earlier in his career. The first time New York tries to put a game in Manning’s hands, his weaknesses are going to be laid bare for all the world to see.
That’s the moment when cries from the Giants passionate fan base will start to call for Jones to be inserted into the fray. As stated earlier, it’s really a question of when, not if, Shurmur and his coaching staff will be forced to bench Manning in favor of Jones.
The timing of the team’s inevitable changing of the guard at quarterback is difficult to nail down. The uncertainty regarding how the franchise will ultimate handle the delicate issue of Manning’s benching makes wagering on the Giants incredibly challenging. Oddsmakers have appropriately placed the action on their win total for the season anywhere between 5.5 and 6.5.
Savvy fans shouldn’t get anywhere near the over. The ceiling of this team with either Manning or Jones at the helm isn’t very high. It’s hard to imagine them getting anywhere near playoff contention even if things break right for them in the NFC East. The power of the Cowboys and Eagles in the division will saddle the Giants with four likely losses. Even Washington could pose a serious threat to New York if Dwayne Haskins catches on quicker than expected.
Fans can safely expect a dramatic season in New York this year. That’s not going to be healthy for the Giants quarterback room or their win total. Shurmur and company will struggle to avoid the bottom of the NFC East in 2019.