Will Giants Rely More on New Duo to Lead Offense Following Losses of Barkley, Shepard?

Patricia Traina

The New York Giants might be winless and without star running back Saquon Barkley as they head into their Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, but ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky things the Giants are in excellent hands under the leadership of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.

Daniel’s been impressive through the first two weeks. I wanted to see if his arm looked any stronger this year. I thought he was one of the better players on the field during Monday Night Football versus the Steelers,” said Orlovsky, who, along with his colleague Mina Kimes spoke to reporters via a video conference call Thursday.

Jones has thrown two touchdowns three interceptions so far this season. On first blush, the interceptions are a continuation of last year’s turnover problem, which was a significant stain against an otherwise solid rookie campaign. 

But Orlovsky said that the blame for the interceptions could probably extend to the intended receivers, such as tight end Evan Engram, who last week was the target of one interception but who slipped when making his break in his route.

Jones has also been under duress behind an offensive line that seems in a perpetual state of rebuild. Thus far, he’s been sacked seven times and has been under pressure 56, but Orlovsky likes how Jones has kept his cool under pressure and tried to make plays to help his team win games.

“I’ve been impressed with his play, but the biggest thing for me the rest of the way is, do not let your surroundings force you to regress your play and take a step back,” Orlovsky said, referencing Barkley and receiver Sterling Shepard, both of whom were placed on injured reserve this week.

“You can only control what’s around you. You can’t control Shepard and Saquon not being there. A lot of times, these young players try to replace those guys with their own play. You can’t do that right now because the team isn’t good enough around you. So, I want to see it not affect him.”

One significant player who can help Jones and the Giants offense get back on track following the losses of Barkley and Shepard is Engram, whom Orlovsky would like to see deployed similarly as how the Chiefs deploy Travis Kelce.

“I think we have a pretty good understanding of who Evan Engram is and what he does well,” Orlovsky said. “You can play differently though. Kansas City plays like a big 10 (personnel); they don’t play real 11-personnel. 

"Travis Kelce is not playing tight end; he’s just playing big receiver. So, I’d like to see (Giants offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett develop that a little bit. They should play that 10 personnel where they move him around as that piece that plays in a bunch of different locations.”

Orlovsky also would like to see the Giants ask Engram to block inline a lot less.

“I would never put Engram on the line scrimmage past a handful of times per game,” he said. “I know what he can do there, and it doesn’t help my offense or him. We often hear about coaches putting players in positions to be successful. Well, the opposite happens as well. A lot of the times coaches will put players in positions to fail.”

One spot where Engram seems to be thriving so far this year is in the slot, where per PFF, he’s taken 43 snaps so far, the most of any Giants receiver or tight end on the roster. Engram has caught three of seven pass targets from the slot for 35 yards and has one drop from that position.

Engram, who got off to a slow start on what was expected to be a big year for him, seemed to finally have everything click in the second half of last week’s game against the Bears.

After going zero for one in the first half of that game, Engram caught six of seven pass targets for a team-leading 65 yards in the second half.

“You just have to keep banging away,” said Garrett when asked what changed with Engram. 

“He’s done a really good job working hard in practice. He’s playing hard. He had some opportunities as that game wore on and he took advantage of them. He won some one-on-one matchups, he made some runs after the catch that were impressive for us. He’s certainly going to be a big part of our offense going forward.”

(Additional reporting by Pat Ragazzo.)

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.