Giants silver lining: Daniel Jones and Kenny Golladay develop late chemistry

By Pat Leonard

Kenny Golladay’s late-game surge undoubtedly was the biggest positive the Giants could take out of Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Broncos.

“I feel like the big plays that we did make, that can show you what this offense can really do,” Golladay said Monday afternoon.

Daniel Jones certainly thought Golladay’s three catches for 47 yards in the second half represented a silver lining, turning what Golladay had described as a “rusty” connection between QB and wide receiver into an exciting one.

“Yeah, I think that was valuable time to get out there and make some plays,” Jones said Sunday night. “He played well and made a number of big plays there at the end. And we’ll continue to try to get him the ball.”

Golladay missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury after an uninspiring on-field start in practices. He predicted a “slow” start for him and the offense, given how few reps they played together this summer.

But the Giants need Golladay to validate the four-year, $72 million contract with $40 million guaranteed they paid him to make a leap as an offense. Thanks to Sunday’s second half, Jones and Golladay may have knocked the rust off.

Golladay made four catches for 64 yards in the game, all against Broncos corner Ronald Darby. His first catch as a Giant, a 17-yard slant, jump-started the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Then Golladay’s three second-half receptions were the eye-openers.

First he made a 17-yard contested catch over the middle on a dig route with Darby draped all over him. Then on the next drive he made a 14-yard grab on a comeback, and he capped it off with a diving 16-yard stab over the middle with Darby in tight end.

Golladay also drew a red zone pass interference penalty on Broncos corner Kyle Fuller.

It wasn’t perfect, obviously. Fuller covered him well and deflected away a fourth-down incompletion in the end zone for a critical fourth-quarter turnover on downs.

But looking ahead to Thursday Night Football at Washington, Jones’ ability to have confidence in Golladay downfield and in traffic is an exciting development that the Giants hope can ignite Jason Garrett’s offense.

“In this league there’s going to be tight coverage,” Golladay said. “And I’m glad I was able to make those plays because everything isn’t gonna be just wide open. And I do want him to have that trust in me. And I know that’s gonna take time.”

BREDESON OVERTAKES LEMIEUX

Shane Lemieux started at left guard but only played three series. Ben Bredeson replaced Lemieux for the fourth series, and Lemieux never went back in. Then Lemieux (knee) was projected as a non-participant on Monday. Lemieux’s partially torn patellar tendon in his knee clearly has him below 100%. It remains to be seen if he’ll continue to try to play through it or will have to undergo surgery.

Bredeson, a second-year pro, was one of the Giants’ three offensive line acquisitions after cutdown day to address their catastrophe on the interior of the line. They sent a fourth-round pick to Baltimore on Aug. 31 in exchange for Bredeson, a 2022 fifth-rounder and a 2023 seventh-rounder. The Michigan product pushed Saquon Barkley and the pile to a first down on third and short in the third quarter, just before Jones’ killer red zone fumble. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts on Thursday night.

PEPPERS’ SNAPS DIALED BACK

Strong safety Jabrill Peppers played 98% of the Giants’ defensive snaps in his 13 healthy games last season, including 100% of the snaps in eight different games. But on Sunday, Peppers was relegated to a rotational player, logging just 30 of 66 defensive snaps (45%).

Coach Joe Judge curiously chalked it up on Monday to managing Peppers’ workload and keeping him fresh for other roles, but Peppers only played three special teams snaps.

Peppers appeared to be on the field when Denver went with two tight ends but off the field when they went three-wide. Xavier McKinney’s presence (63 snaps, 95%) as the deep safety, with Logan Ryan roving, pushed Peppers into a rotation of sorts with slot corner Darnay Holmes (28 snaps, 42%). Some league sources thought Broncos OC Pat Shurmur was clearly targeting Peppers in pass coverage, knowing the Giants’ personnel well as their former head coach. Pat Graham’s defense played more man-to-man than usual, and Peppers was tagged for four completions allowed on four targets for 34 yards, per Pro Football Focus.

He wasn’t the most frequently targeted DB on the Giants, though. James Bradberry was credited with allowing 6-of-7 completions for 65 yards and a short Tim Patrick TD catch. Either way, Peppers’ attitude and playmaking had been signatures on last season’s encouraging defense, so his consistent absence on Sunday raised eyebrows.

STANDOUTS, NUGGETS AND NOTES

The Giants’ Nick Gates finished in a six-way tie for best Week 1 pass block win rate among centers, per ESPN Stats & Information … Entering Monday night’s Raiders and Ravens game, Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater (95.7) led the NFL in ESPN’s quarterback stat “QBR” (Adjusted Total Quarterback Rating). The stat grades QBs 1-to-100 on all plays, adjusted for the strength of the opposing defense. Bridgewater was 28-of-36 for 264 yards and two TDs, and he added three rushes for 19 yards. The Saints’ Jameis Winston (92.5), who demolished the Green Bay Packers, is the only other QB to score 90 or higher so far … The Giants’ inactives were TE Evan Engram (calf), CB Sam Beal, CB Josh Jackson (calf), WR Collin Johnson, LB Justin Hilliard (ankle) and LB Quincy Roche … The Broncos played without edge rusher Bradley Chubb (ankle) … The Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) sit alone in first place atop the NFC East after the Giants, Cowboys and Washington all lost their openers … Washington lost QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury. Taylor Heinicke, who gave the Buccaneers problems in last season’s playoffs, will start against the Giants in Week 2.


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