EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The 2019 season isn’t ending the way Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores or New York Giants counterpart Pat Shurmur had hoped months ago.
Both knew they were taking young teams into the season, and they were hoping to find a way to contend for a playoff spot in December.
So much for that idea. The Dolphins dropped their first seven games, and the Giants headed south after a 2-2 start highlighted by rookie Daniel Jones replacing 38-year-old Eli Manning as the starting quarterback.
When the Dolphins (3-10) visit the Giants (2-11) on Sunday the outcome only will help decide the selection order in the draft next spring and give one team a rare chance to celebrate.
The Giants are trying to stop a nine-game slide, matching a franchise record, that has put Shurmur’s job in jeopardy. New York has won seven of 29 games in his tenure.
Shurmur insists he sees improvement. It might not help his future.
“I understand the numbers. I get it. I get all that,” he said. “But you just try to keep inspiring the players to play.”
The Dolphins will be playing their second straight game at MetLife Stadium. They were a little upset last weekend after the Jets posted a 22-21 win on a last-second field goal set up by a video replay that overturned a non-call and awarded a pass interference penalty.
“It was a tough one last week, but in this league you have to deal with adversity, move on and move onto the next challenge, which we’ve got a big one this week,” Flores said. “I don’t necessarily think about going back to MetLife as – whatever stadium it is – to me, it’s the idea and the goal is always to try and get a win.”
Here’s five things to watch Sunday:
NON CENTURY MARK
Giants running back Saquon Barkley has struggled since returning from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games. The No. 2 pick overall in the 2018 draft has gone seven straight games without running for 100 yards.
In his rookie season, Barkley had seven 100-yard games, including five in the final seven games. He had 100-yard games in the opening two games of the season and then got hurt just before halftime in the third game.
The streak has a shot at ending. The Dolphins are tied for 30th in run defense, allowing an average of 141.1 yards.
IN WAKE OF DEMOTIONS
Dolphins defensive end Taco Charlton and rookie guard Michael Deiter are eager to bounce back from recent demotions.
Charlton leads Miami with five sacks, twice the total of any teammate, but was inactive last week.
“It made me hungrier,” Charlton said. “I want to be a player that no matter what, the game plan is you can’t sit me.”
Deiter had started every game until last week, when he played briefly off the bench.
“I just need to play better,” Deiter said. “I’m confident that I can go out there and help us win, but I need to do it more consistently.”
GO TO GUY
Despite having Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate III on the roster, Jones and Manning have a new go-to guy for their passes.
Rookie Darius Slayton is putting up unexpected numbers this season for the Giants. The fifth-round draft pick from Auburn is second on the team with 42 receptions, two behind tight end Evan Engram. His 659 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches lead the team, along with his 15.7 yard average. He had two TD catches Monday night against the Eagles.
What makes the performance more surprising is Slayton was hampered by a hamstring problem in training camp and was inactive for the first two regular-season games.
The Dolphins rookie known as the intern may get a heavier workload after playing well in his first NFL start last week.
Patrick Laird contributed 48 yards rushing and 38 receiving. He has climbed from the bottom of the depth chart to become Miami’s fourth starter at running back this year.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Laird tends to get overlooked. He was a walk-on at California and went undrafted out of college.
Shortly after joining the Dolphins as a free agent, Laird had lunch with team interns who assumed he was part of their group rather than a player. That earned him a nickname that stuck: the intern.
Because of injuries, the Dolphins’ secondary is a work in progress.
The nine defensive backs on the roster have a combined total of nine career interceptions. They’re in a scramble to become part of rebuilding Miami’s long-term plans.
“You’ve got to take full advantage,” cornerback Nik Needham said. “We’re all trying to do that.”