Can the Giants’ Tenuous Grasp of the N.F.C. East Hold?
Jones was relieved in Sunday’s game by Colt McCoy, a likely replacement under center. But Judge said he’s considering several options — from bringing in a free agent to preparing another player on the roster to take over as an emergency quarterback — all of which are harder now that the team has to conduct virtual meetings Monday and Tuesday to comply with more stringent N.F.L. guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The potential quarterback change comes just as the Giants seemed to have pieced an offense together by emphasizing ball safety. The Giants had lost running back Saquon Barkley to a season-ending injury in their second game of the season, but Wayne Gallman has rushed for a touchdown in five consecutive games, becoming a reliable red zone option for a team that has struggled to identify reliable targets. The Giants have rushed for more than 100 yards in each of their past six games.
Jones, too, had seemed to learn from his past turnover woes, going without an interception in the Giants’ three wins and not fumbling in their last two. The Giants accumulated 386 yards of total offense against the Bengals, their highest total of the year and a positive sign for a team that had ranked 30th in the N.F.L. in yardage per game entering Sunday.
It was also a mark of progress for an offensive line that has struggled since Eli Manning was still the franchise’s starter and that is now under new tutelage, since Judge fired Marc Colombo on Nov. 18 amid a reported practice dispute. Dave DeGuglielmo, the new offensive line coach, held the same position with New England Patriots in 2014 and 2015, when Judge was also an assistant there and had been brought to the Giants as a consultant.
“Anybody who’s watched us play has seen the progression with those guys up front blocking much better in the running game, the protection has improved as the year has gone on, and we’ve played better as an offense as a result,” Jason Garrett, the offensive coordinator, said on Friday.
The successful pivot also points to Judge’s hold on the Giants’ helm. In his first year as an N.F.L. head coach, he has made a name for himself as enthusiastic, quirky and quick-witted; someone who is not afraid to pull a viral stunt to keep his team engaged, as he drew clicks for when he was videotaped sliding in the mud for a fumble recovery drill. He also drew laughs by making members of his coaching staff run laps in training camp.
That Joe Judge juice seems to go a long way for the Giants, who have not had a postseason appearance since 2016. In the face of a slow start, narrow wins and losses and coronavirus cases, he has kept Giants players positive by never giving a negative quote to the press, cracking jokes and making sure all players keep their cameras on during the team’s videoconference calls.