The Vikings know Pat Shurmur quite well, so when they see this pairing of Shurmur and Daniel Jones, those who worked with Shurmur in Minnesota can recognize a good match when it is right in front of them.
“[Jones] shows a lot of good characteristics for what Pat likes in his offense,’’ Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards said earlier this week.
Two starts into his NFL career, Jones is 2-0 and showing exactly what Shurmur wants in his quarterback: The athletic ability to get out of the pocket. The patience to stay in the pocket. The composure to go through his progressions without bailing on the play. The moxie to keep his eyes down the field despite a rush arriving on his doorstep. The resiliency to shake off a bad play. The creativity to scan the field for any available target.
With Jones in the drivers’ seat, Shurmur is taking more risks on the coaching road — eschewing punts and not settling for field goals, going for it on fourth down. Some would say the move Shurmur made, benching Eli Manning after just two games for Jones, a rookie, has injected hope into this Giants season.
Shurmur does not view this through that prism.
“Oh, I don’t know about hope,’’ he said. “Hope is not a strategy. I’ve always said that.’’
Whatever you want to call it, the Giants have it, for now, as they face the slightly disappointing but always dangerous Vikings on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Vikings and Giants are both 2-2, but the Vikings are considered a serious NFC playoff contender and the Giants just two weeks ago were a winless laughingstock. Then came Daniel Jones, and it is impossible to ignore the imprint the 22-year old has made on the offense and the franchise.
“In some aspects, it’s completely different,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He moves a lot more, he scrambles, he can get outside the pocket quite a bit more. It looks like — Eli was a great player, so I’m not trying to bash him whatsoever — but Jones just seems like he’s playing very free, he just sees it and lets it loose, and he’s not worried about any ramifications, he’s just going out and playing the game, it looks like to me.’’
The Giants converted 22 percent (5-of-23) of their third downs the first two games with Manning. Jones the past two games has converted 54 percent (14-of-26), keeping drives alive with his legs — he is averaging 6.6 yards on his 10 rushing attempts and has scored two touchdowns.
“Daniel has displayed in his last two outings the ability to either convert a third down or get out of trouble and make a throw,’’ Shurmur said. “Typically, if you have a long scoring drive, the quarterback, somewhere in there, has to do something with his feet to help keep it alive. That’s what you see around the league.’’
For the Giants to have a shot at upsetting the Vikings, Jones will have to make plays of all shapes and sizes, as he once again will not have Saquon Barkley, out with a high ankle sprain, but will have receiver Golden Tate, who makes his Giants debut after sitting out a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“I just know the kid is executing what they’re wanting to get done offensively very well,’’ said Edwards, who was the defensive coordinator with the Vikings in 2016 and 2017 when Shurmur was an offensive assistant on Zimmer’s staff.
Now Shurmur gets to go against one of his former teams with his new quarterback running his system.
“There are a lot of people there that I worked with intimately, a lot of people there that I care about,’’ Shurmur said, “but after a few handshakes we get to the business of playing the game. We’ll just see what happens.’’