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Raiders-Giants preview: How much of a difference does Daniel Jones make?

5 Qs with Big Blue View

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants
Daniel Jones vs Raiders 2021
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This Week 9 matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Giants got a little more interesting with the Raiders’ decision to fire head coach Josh McDaniels on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning. The Raiders also named Antonio Pierce as the team’s interim head coach. Pierce was a linebacker for the Giants from 2005 to 2009 and was a part of their Super Bowl XLII team.

To preview this Sunday’s matchup, Ed Valentine of Big Blue View was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Giants for Raider Nation.

Question: Daniels Jones has been cleared to play, but he’s also only scored a touchdown in one out of the five games he’s played in this season—Week 2 against the Cardinals. So, how much of a difference does Jones really make in the Giants’ offense this season?

Answer: Considering the circumstances, it makes a huge difference. Don’t forget that backup Tyrod Taylor suffered a rib injury (we still don’t know how severe as of now) and had to leave Sunday’s game against the Jets. That left the Giants with undrafted rookie Tommy Devito at quarterback, and completely devoid of a passing attack. They tried one second-half pass, and two in overtime.

Don’t forget that Saquon Barkley missed Weeks 3-5 when Jones was healthy. The last time the two were together, the Giants scored 31 second-half points against the Arizona Cardinals. Offensive line injuries and the Barkley injury had a huge impact on how Jones looked over the first five games. Jones was at fault for some of it, but much of it was not on him.

Q: Building on that, poor play from New York’s offensive line has been a huge factor in the offense’s lack of success. Is it looking like Andrew Thomas will be back in the lineup on Sunday? And how do you think Brian Daboll will gameplan for Maxx Crosby given the unit’s struggles?

A: My answer will also build on the first one. Starting center John Michael Schmitz returned last week after missing three games. Andrew Thomas, an All-Pro caliber left tackle, has not played since Week 1. Starting right tackle Evan Neal has missed the last two games. Justin Pugh wasn’t part of the offensive line until Week 6, after Jones’ injury.

I don’t know at this point whether Thomas and Neal will play. If Thomas plays, Pugh can move inside to guard where he belongs. He’s doing what he can at left tackle, but he shouldn’t be there. Hard to say how they will handle Crosby because I don’t know who is going to play. If Thomas plays, that’s a straight-up 1-on-1 matchup when they line up across from each other.

Q: How’s our old friend Darren Waller doing? I know he left last week’s game with a hamstring injury, so is there a chance he suits up in Vegas?

Washington Commanders v New York Giants
Darren Waller
Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

A: The hamstring injury is the same one that Waller dealt with last year in Las Vegas. He has dealt with lingering issues from that all season and tried to manage them. It just got to be too much vs. the Jets. I would say his status is TBD for Sunday.

[UPDATE 11/3 11:03 a.m.: Waller has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.]

Waller has been good, but maybe not the difference-maker the Giants hoped for. Part of that has been the struggles of the offensive line, which really have limited what the offense has even been able to try and do. He leads the Giants with 36 receptions, a pace that would have him end up with 76.5. Not bad, but I think the Giants were hoping for more.

Q: Dexter Lawrence is having another fantastic season, but the front office just traded away his partner in crime, Leonard Williams. How do you think that will impact Lawrence’s production now that he’s garnering all of the attention?

A: Honestly, Lawrence has been drawing most of the attention, anyway. ESPN’s pass rush win rate stats show Lawrence being double-teamed 67% of the time and Williams 48% of the time. Lawrence is playing at an All-Pro level, regardless. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a slight dip in Lawrence’s production, but he’s a great player. The Giants did the right thing moving on from Williams. They weren’t going to re-sign him, anyway, and they got second- and fifth-round picks. That’s more than Washington got for Chase Young.

Q: These two teams rank third-to-last and last in points per game. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Raiders’ total points set at 19.5 and the Giants’ at 17.5. Which team do you think has the best chance of hitting the over?

A: I would take the Giants, with the caveat that I would only touch that wager if Andrew Thomas plays. If the Giants can keep Jones and Barkley healthy, get Thomas back into the lineup and continue to see growth from young wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and Jalin Hyatt, they have a chance to play much better offense the rest of the season.