Top 5 Storylines to Follow as Giants Clash with Jets in Week 8 of 2023 NFL Season

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The Giants are off to a disappointing 2-5 start but seem to be trending in the right direction after their best two all-round performances of the season. They’re facing a Jets team that was expected to contend with Aaron Rodgers at the helm but has coped better than expected with losing him to a season-ending injury. The Jets have won their past two games to improve to 3-3 on the year.

Here are some of the biggest stories to watch as the Giants look to improve to 3-5 on the year:

How will the Giants’ offensive line cope with the Jets pass rush?

The Giants’ offensive line has been in flux all year, with a different starting combination in every game and all five starters missing time. Their best offensive lineman, left tackle Andrew Thomas, looks set to finally make his return from a lingering hamstring issue, with center John Michael Schmitz and right tackle Evan Neal also potentially returning. Whether or not all three return, it’s clear the Giants are getting closer to being fully healthy again.

The Jets have a deep group of pass rushers, especially with Bryce Huff and Jermaine Johnson having taken their game to another level this season. However, even before the return of all these missing starters, the Giants seemed to have figured some things out on the line over the past few weeks. Veteran Justin Pugh, in particular, seems to have been a settling influence. They’ve still given up seven sacks in the past two games, though, and will be tested again this week.

Can the Giants get off to a good start again?

Both the Jets and Giants have been notoriously slow starters all season, but the Giants led 14-0 at halftime this past Sunday when they put together two second-quarter touchdown drives in an eventual 14-7 win over the Washington Commanders. Even in this game, it was scoreless after one quarter. But at least the Giants scored an offensive touchdown before halftime, for the first time all year.

The flipside to this is that the Giants went scoreless after halftime and are now facing a Jets team whose defense has locked in during the second half of every game to essentially shut down their opponents. The Jets may be overdue a good offensive start of their own, too.

At the time of writing, Jones has not been cleared for contact, but head coach Brian Daboll insists that once ready, “he’s our quarterback” so he could still play on Sunday. Taylor put up modest numbers in two low-scoring and tight games but avoided any crucial errors. Despite the bad results in the previous games, Jones’ stat lines weren’t that bad and the team’s offensive failings seemed to have more to do with the offensive line struggles than any errors Jones was making.

Jones is hoping to return, but if he doesn’t — or gets knocked out of the game again — could another solid Taylor performance have the Giants rethinking their approach over the next few weeks?

After a rough run of results, the Giants almost beat the Buffalo Bills and then were able to hang on to defeat the Washington Commanders, so have they started to figure things out? The improvement seems to have coincided with Saquon Barkley’s return.

Since he’s both a run threat and a good outlet in the passing game, Barkley’s return has helped the offensive line. In addition, he can also pick up the blitz himself as well as breaking tackles to turn short gains into longer ones. He did lose a costly fumble on Sunday though, as an arm injury may have had an effect on his ability to protect the football.

Who will handle kick and punt returns for the Giants?

The Giants just placed their primary return specialist, rookie running back Eric Gray, onto injured reserve.

Sterling Shepard initially replaced Gray, only to then muff a punt for a crucial turnover. The Giants ended up putting Darius Slayton into that role, even though he lacks experience fielding punts. Either Darnay Holmes or Adoree’ Jackson could be another option to return punts, while Gary Brightwell or Matt Breida could return kickoffs. The Giants also added Gunner Olszewski to the practice squad, and there’s a good chance he gets elevated to the active roster and gets a chance to return punts.

Although Pro Bowl punt gunner Justin Hardee is on injured reserve, the Jets do still have some playmakers on special teams, including wide receiver Irvin Charles, so they will be primed to pounce on any mistake.

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