Sterling Shepard of the Giants catches a touchdown pass during the...

Sterling Shepard of the Giants catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.  Credit: Getty Images/Ron Jenkins

Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton know how it looked.

Two teammates, basically nose-to-nose, bickering. 

That it was two wide receivers sealed the deal. Divas.

Except  it wasn’t like that.

In the third quarter of last week's game in Dallas, there was frustration and emotion. Mostly because this season went haywire in Week 1 and the Giants have barely been able to come up for air since.

Yes, Slayton and Shepard believe that they could help to save this Giants season.

They are competitors. And, truth be told, they almost certainly thought this season would bring a fair share of joy and jubilation.

And it has not.

But they both dispelled the notion  that their interaction last week was anything significant. As both players told Newsday, Slayton has spent the last few Thanksgivings with the Shepard family. They consider themselves brothers.

So there’s that.

And there’s this.

The Giants will arrive at FedEx Field to play the Commanders on Sunday morning as underdogs. Decided underdogs.

They have two wins in 10 games this season, are on their third quarterback and rank fourth in a four-team division.

Yikes!

Saquon Barkley said he doesn’t blame the media for misreading any of the body language that players exhibited in Dallas. Barkley said even he initially did not know how to interpret the communication between Slayton and Shepard.

At another point, Barkley said he was frustrated as he approached coach Brian Daboll after not converting on a fourth-down play.

“In a good way, it doesn’t feel like we’re 2-8, to be completely honest,” Barkley said. “The way we’re out there, the way we’re practicing, it’s fast, [there’s] still joy. It’s not like you walk in the building like, ‘I’m 2-8 and my life is miserable.’ You don’t get that feel from the players or the coaches.”

Left tackle Andrew Thomas left the Cowboys game with an injury, was carted to the locker room and ultimately – and perhaps surprisingly – returned to the game.

Why did he do that?

“Competitive nature,” Thomas told Newsday as he left the locker room on Friday. “You want to be out there and compete no matter what is going on around you. And I think also, just understanding the gift it is to play this game. The average career is three, three years, three and a half years. When I have the opportunity to play, I’m going to go out there and play because it’s something I’ve done since I was young. And lastly, it’s an opportunity to get better. Any time you’re going against NFL competition, you have the opportunity to sharpen your tools. That’s how I approach it.”

The season is not what any Giant anticipated.

“Honestly, it’s just adversity,” Thomas said. “Every team has to deal with it. You could say we’ve had a little bit more this year, but that’s something we have to learn to overcome. Every team has injuries and things that don’t go their way. We have to learn how to pull ourselves out of that rut.”

There is, Thomas said, no quit.

“Especially from an offensive line standpoint because that’s the room I’m in every day, I just know the guys that are in there – the whole team as well – are going to fight hard,” he said.

When Justin Pugh famously came “straight off the couch” a month ago in time to suit up for the Bills game, he made a splash. Since then, he’s become a valuable part of the offensive line. He sees progress.

Pugh said he’s never been part of an offensive line with so many moving parts in a season. He also said he’s happy to be of help to younger players on the line who are still learning.

“Those guys are the future of this team,” he said. “For me, as a veteran, you’re helping to set the foundation of how we want to be going forward. That’s kind of been my goal the whole time. I signed on here with the team after [the Seattle] game when we were 1-4. It’s not like it was all rainbows and butterflies at the time. We knew there was going to be adversity. We knew it was going to be tough sledding. Obviously, it’s been tougher than anyone could imagine. That’s the NFL and that’s life. We have to continue to find ways to dig ourselves out of this next stretch of games. We have two [games] and then the bye week. Let’s go be competitive and win a game this week.”

Sunday’s Game

GIANTS (2-8) at COMMANDERS (4-6)

FedEx Field, 1 p.m.

VITALS

Line: Commanders by xx; O/U xx

TV: FOX (Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma).

Radio: WFAN-660 AM (Bob Papa, Carl Banks, Howard Cross); Sirius XM 98 or 387.

All-time series: Giants lead, 106-70-5 (Giants have won last 2).

Last meeting:: Oct. 22, 2023, (at) Giants 14, Commanders 7.

KEY INJURIES

Giants: OUT: CB Adoree Jackson (concussion), OT Evan Neal (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: OT Andrew Thomas (knee).

Commanders: OUT: FB Alex Amah (hamstring), DE James Smith-Williams (hamstring). DOUBTFUL: RB Antonio Gibson (toe).

BARKLEY: IT’S BUSINESS

Saquon Barkley talks a lot but doesn’t often make waves. That changed this week. Barkley, playing on a one-year deal, said this on Thursday: “Loyalty means nothing. No matter how loyal, no matter how committed you are, it’s a business at the end of the day. That is something that I have learned.” Barkley has said that he wants to be a Giant for life.

PROTECTING SAM

Washington has allowed a league-high 47 sacks, but the protection has been better lately, and QB Sam Howell has eight TDs, two INTs and a 102.4 passer rating in his last three games.

INTANGIBLES

For the first time this season, the Giants expect to have the same o-line configuration in back-to-back weeks. Obviously, that’s a plus and a confidence-builder for a group that has been able to get healthy in recent weeks.

QUOTABLE

“Kind of like everybody’s. Nobody’s happy.”

– Coach Brian Daboll, when asked the reaction of ownership to the lopsided losses to the Raiders and Cowboys by a combined score of 79-23.

NUMBER, PLEASE

11.6: Points the Giants are averaging per game — lowest in the NFL. Ouch!

More Giants

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