NEW YORK — Daniel Jones is out, and Colt McCoy is back in.
McCoy will make his second start at quarterback in three weeks on Sunday night in place of the injured Jones when the Giants (5-8) host the Cleveland Browns (9-4) at MetLife Stadium.
McCoy, 34, will be appearing in a fourth straight game due to Jones’ injuries, this time against the organization that drafted him in 2010.
But on Friday, McCoy was much more concerned about Cleveland pass rushers Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon than he was about his own history with the Browns.
“One thing I know is that these guys are really good. They rush the passer,” McCoy said. “I can’t hold onto the ball.”
Jones will miss his second game in three weeks with a left ankle sprain and a right hamstring strain. He was listed as questionable coming off Friday’s limited practice participation, and he wasn’t able to convince coach Joe Judge and the training staff that he was ready on Saturday.
McCoy was the starter two games ago for the Giants’ biggest win in four years, a 17-12 road victory at Seattle in Week 13. Jones missed that game with the hamstring injury he had sustained in a Week 12 win in Cincinnati.
Jones returned as the starter last Sunday against Arizona, but the decision to play him backfired.
The Giants were nearly shut out in a 26-7 loss. The Cardinals defense racked up eight sacks. And an immobile Jones fumbled three times and sprained his ankle on one of those sacks in the fourth quarter, leading McCoy to come in late in that game, too.
Jones hopped in obvious discomfort during the early portions of Wednesday’s and Friday’s practices this week when he put weight on his left foot while throwing. The Giants did not have practice Thursday because of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s positive COVID-19 test.
McCoy now will have played in all four Giants games since their Week 11 bye.
He replaced Jones in the second half against the Bengals. He started and won the game in Seattle, his first victory as an NFL starter since October 2014 with Washington.
He replaced Jones late in the Cardinals loss last Sunday. And now he’s making a second start.
Clayton Thorson is expected to back up McCoy on Sunday, just as he did against the Seahawks. And veteran Joe Webb, a quarterback who also plays special teams and receiver, could be available as an emergency option if needed.
First place Washington (6-7), meanwhile, is starting backup Dwayne Haskins this Sunday against Seattle in place of the injured Alex Smith. So all four NFC East teams are starting second or third string QBs: Washington’s Haskins, the Giants’ McCoy, Jalen Hurts for the Eagles (4-8-1) and Andy Dalton for the Cowboys (4-9).
The Giants obviously prefer to have a healthy Jones at quarterback, but in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals, Jones’ injury and uncertainty impacted the entire game plan.
With McCoy, at least the Giants maybe can commit to a defined strategy of ball security and control and do a better job of sticking to it — even if Freddie Kitchens calling the plays certainly throws another new wrinkle into the mix.
McCoy frankly sounded concerned on Friday about how Thursday’s practice cancellation was impacting the team’s preparation and acclimation.
“Hopefully we can get a little more work in (Saturday) before the game,” McCoy said twice in his first two answers when discussing how ready he’d be.
Judge said he thought McCoy “did a lot of things well” in the Seattle win, though, including getting the offense into the correct run calls. The Giants racked up a season-high 190 rush yards in that win.
“First off, I love the way he just controlled the flow of the game, the tempo of the game,” Judge said. “Colt was on the line of scrimmage, identifying what the defense was in, putting us in the right place, made some big plays for us down the stretch with some key completions to continue drives.”
“He did a good job when he had to go ahead and check from a run to a pass or vice versa,” Judge continued. “I thought just his experience really showed up in that game. The biggest thing he’s very good at is Colt’s a very positive guy. He’s a competitor and he’s a very positive guy. He understands the flow of we’re always getting ready for a 60-minute game.”
Judge said if things aren’t going well initially, “you’re never going to hear (McCoy) complain or tap out. He’s very committed to the process. Any adjustments you have to make, Colt’s a smart dude. He’s always in tune to talking on the sideline … Colt’s very, very mentally into the game. That carries over and really gets the rest of the guys involved as well.”
McCoy said “the game plan kind of evolved in the Seattle game. I didn’t really know where it was going to go. Then it ended up being a lot of big personnel, so that’s just kind of how the game evolved. Obviously, we like to take shots, we like to push the ball down the field. But I think in that game, it just didn’t present itself. We were doing a lot of things on the ball and with big people. That’s what was kind of working.”
Now he’s back under center facing off against Baker Mayfield and the Browns with the Giants’ narrow playoff hopes fading unless he pulls off another shocking result.