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Rams-Giants preview: 4 Qs, 4 As with Big Blue View

Daniel Jones and the offensive line

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The 2-1 Los Angeles Rams host the 0-3 New York Giants this Sunday at 1 PM Rams time. A team is made up of more than just its record though, so I sent some Qs over to Ed Valentine of the Giants blog Big Blue View and in return he sent me these As, with some extra information added by me.

Q - What’s been the most encouraging aspect of Daniel Jones’ game over his first 16 career games? What’s been the most discouraging?

A - There is a lot to be encouraged about. He’s got toughness. smarts. Mobility. A better arm and accuracy than scouts led everyone to believe. The discouraging part is the turnovers. Way too many of them. If he’s going to be a winning quarterback he has to take better care of the football and be more decisive in the pocket.

Added Author Info: Daniel Jones is the quarterback who the Giants drafted sixth overall last year out of Duke. He had some fans at the time of the draft, some skeptics, as to be expected. Last week, Josh Allen was a quarterback who helped the Bills beat the Rams and Allen was in a similar draft position himself. Jones has not shown as much progress in the early going of season two as Allen did in 2019, however.

In the early going — and with new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett — Jones has seen his completion percentage, Y/A and TD rate dip, while his rate of interceptions go up and all of those areas weren’t great to begin with. His TD rate was encouraging as a rookie but New York has only managed three touchdowns total this season. Jones hasn’t had much support however and the offensive line, running backs and all-around weapons could be among the least successful in the league right now. It’s not hard to find people who see Jones doing things that give as much reason for optimism at the time of the draft.

Q - The Giants are 0-3 now but I won’t count them out of improving as the year goes on, I expect it actually. What are some internal midseason improvement opportunities for the Giants? Whether that’s a player developing, getting healthy, etc?

A - For me, the biggest thing is just that the Giants are at a huge disadvantage because of the lack of an offseason. with a rookie head coach, new coordinators on offense and defense and lots of young players it’s a difficult situation. I like this coaching staff, though, and think that given time we will see improvement. The offensive line, an area where communication has been an issue to this point, is one area where I think improvement needs to, and will, come. Defensively, the secondary is a work in progress.

Author’s note: The Giants have gotten decent marks for run defense already and as I wrote earlier in the week, they aren’t lacking talent on the defensive front. The offensive line consists of rookie Andrew Thomas (4th overall pick), Nick Gates, Cameron Fleming, Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. More on them in question four, but clearly Thomas (who has had the most struggles of any starting rookie tackle in the first three games) represents a player who could be night and day by the end of the season.

Another player who is only getting heated up is receiver Darius Slayton, a personal favorite of mine among a crowded position league-wide. He’s only 23 and a second year player but without many other options, Jones may have to feed Slayton a higher percentage of target shares than most players in the NFL. Seeing him getting better would really change the dynamic of the passing offense.

Valentine mentions the secondary and to expand on that in relation to the question, rookie safety Xavier McKinney broke his foot in August and is on injured reserve, but expected to return midseason. McKinney was the 36th overall pick, so not exactly a nobody. Linebacker David Mayo is also on injured reserve but could return later in the year. Of course, the development and maturation of 2019 first rounder Dexter Lawrence, the health and development of Jabrill Peppers and getting more comfortable in the system for free agents James Bradberry and Blake Martinez could also help the defense as the year goes on.

Q - What’s the talk around Leonard Williams this season as far as his perceived ceiling in the next three years and keeping him long term after the Giants used the franchise tag on Williams? This seems to be the Giants defensive lineman most likely to cause problems for the Rams on Sunday, is that the case?

A - I quite honestly don’t know what will happen with Williams. He’s a better player than many give him credit for, but he’s not a game changer. That’s the difficulty in giving him a big-money, long-term deal. Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence all can be disruptive — I’m just not sure any of them has an all-around skill set that can push them to Pro Bowl/All-Pro level. I love Dexter Lawrence, I just need to see more pass rush impact.

Author’s note: Leonard Williams was the sixth overall pick in 2015 by the Jets, made the Pro Bowl in 2016 with seven sacks, only had seven sacks over the next two seasons total and was traded to the Giants last year. Not wanting to lose on their investment, they tagged Williams and are paying him over $16 million for one season. He played in eight games for New York last year and had .5 sacks but he has two already in three games in 2020. Williams has looked like a player determined for a long-term deal.

Q - I don’t care so much about what PFF grades offensive linemen but I would be interested to know how you feel about Andrew Thomas, Kevin Zeitler, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates and Cam Fleming. Could you give a quick “grade” for each, whatever that word means to you? They all seem to be coming from such different places.

A - Basically, you’re asking how I feel about the offensive line. It hasn’t been good enough yet. I don’t know what the ceiling is, but I expect guys like Thomas and Gates to get better, and for this young line to get better as a group as the season goes along. Grade-wise, I’d go like this:

— Thomas C-

Hernandez D

— Gates D

Zeitler C

Fleming C-

I don’t think any of them has played as well as they can, perhaps aside from Fleming being pretty much what we figured. Or eventually will.

Author’s note: PFF ranked them 31st out of 32 this week.