3 keys for Giants as Daniel Jones era commences against Buccaneers

Fifteen years ago, a first-year quarterback replaced a future Hall of Famer as the New York Giants’ starter. History repeats itself this weekend.

Back then, Eli Manning had to wait until Week 11 to officially take the reins from Kurt Warner, who had the Giants at 5-4 while playing solid if unspectacular football. But Warner knew the drill when he joined the team that offseason; Manning was the first overall pick in that year’s draft, and the future meant more than a middling single season.

Fast forward to this week, and now Manning sits in Warner’s cleats as a potential future Hall of Famer forced to give up his gig. The young man playing Manning’s former role as the new face of the franchise, Daniel Jones, only had to wait out an 0-2 start for a Week 3 debut as a starting NFL quarterback.

A win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) in Florida on Sunday afternoon would be a great start to the new era. Given Jones’ inexperience, and the massive struggles of the Giants’ defense as a whole, it might be best to temper expectations. Instead of going over the keys to a Giants victory, here are three things to watch for in Tampa when it comes to Jones himself.

Pocket poise

Jones will get his first meaningful taste of an NFL pass rush against the Bucs, who possess several players in the front seven who are capable of rattling the rookie. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett has all four of Tampa Bay’s sacks through two games, placing him second in the league. Up front are Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea, capable of occupying multiple blockers or breaking through to punish indecisive QBs.

Fortunately, the Giants’ offensive line has become one of the team’s strongest position groups. That’s great news for Jones, who has drawn praise for his pocket presence and quick thinking. Whether that translates to this level remains to be seen.

Dwindling options

The Giants’ wide receiver corps is a mess. Golden Tate remains suspended through the first four games. Bennie Fowler, who leads the position with 10 receptions on 15 targets, missed practice Thursday with a hamstring injury. Cody Latimer is in concussion protocol. The only good news is that Sterling Shepard looks to be on his way to a return after missing last Sunday’s 28-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills with a concussion.

At least tight end Evan Engram, the team’s top threat in the passing game thus far, is playing at a high level. Plus, versatile and uber-talented running back Saquon Barkley is a major weapon.

A dearth of options in the passing game isn’t ideal for any quarterback making his first start. It will be interesting to see if Jones is on the same page with the players available.

A new wrinkle

Both Jones and Manning possess ideal size for a professional quarterback. But they differ in one key way: The kid can move.

Jones likely is a better athlete than Manning ever was, but especially now with the latter less than 16 months from his 40th birthday. Whereas Manning has 568 rushing yards on 313 carries in 16 seasons, Jones tallied more attempts (406) in three years at Duke and nearly as many yards (518) as a junior as his predecessor tallied in his entire pro career.

Will Jones be the next Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, racking up more than 100 rushing yards from the quarterback position? Probably not. But the added threat makes him more dangerous and gives defenses more problems to be ready to solve. Expect Jones to top Manning’s career high of six carries in a game several times, perhaps as soon as this week.

Scott’s prediction

Buccaneers 24, Giants 14