Daniel Jones took a positive step in his recovery Friday, practicing fully for the first time since straining his hamstring and could conceivably play Sunday against the Cardinals if he recovers well, coach Joe Judge said.
Jones, who still is listed as questionable, injured himself in Week 12 after one of the most successful stretches in his career: three straight wins and two games without an interception. Colt McCoy played in his stead last week. Judge, who spoke before practice, said they would continue to be cautious with Jones, but said he was "fairly optimistic" the quarterback could play this weekend.
"We ramped him up a little bit [Thursday] and put him through a series of drills," he said. "He’s getting better and better every day. He’s working very hard with the trainers. Coming out of practice yesterday, there was some progress made."
That said, "there’s a ways to go," Judge said. "We have to be fair to him. I’m going to talk to the trainers and make sure the medical team and the coaching staff are on the same page and we do the right thing by this guy."
Ideally, Judge said, a final decision will be made before game day, and preferably by Friday evening. The biggest indicator would be how his hamstring responds to the extra stress that’s been put on it during the last few days of practice. You want to "make sure this isn’t going to go ahead and roll over, that one day [on top of] another is going to stack up and be something negative on Sunday," Judge said. "I don’t necessarily think [the hamstring] needs to be better [than it was on Thursday]. I just want to make sure that it’s functional and he can protect himself."
Though Judge and company are eager to have Jones back, they also have the luxury of being as conservative as they feel necessary. With their win against the Seahawks last week, the Giants have proved they can at least survive, primarily thanks to their running game — buoyed by stacking three tight ends — and defense.
"You talk about Evan [Engram], you talk about Kaden [Smith] and Levine [Toilolo], those guys are really good football players," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said of the tight end unit. "They’re good blockers . . . The game the other day was about running the football. We tried to attack them a few different ways from those big personnel groups."
The result was one of the Giants' best ground efforts of the year, with Wayne Gallman carrying the ball 16 times for 135 yards. Engram, who’s often been criticized for his blocking game, was especially visible in that capacity.
"It’s one thing to try to put a player or a unit into a position where they can have some success [and] it’s a whole other thing to go block those guys like those guys did," Garret said. "Really throughout the ballgame, I thought they did a really good job capturing the edge for us, coming off the ball, hitting them in the mouth, and then sustaining those blocks that allowed us to drive the ball as well as we did running it."
Toilolo said they’ve worked specifically on becoming a more aggressive offense — a necessity as they continue to learn how to live without Saquon Barkley.
"Honestly, identity wise, I think really just attacking and [being] physical is something that we try to put on tape," he said. "Scheme-wise, we leave that to the coaches, and they do a great job of having us ready each and every week with different game plans."