Instead, Jones and the Giants’ top receiver are struggling to build a prolific rapport. Waller and Jones “looked surprisingly out of sync” during the 30-12 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic.
Duggan broke down how “Waller dropped a slant late in the first half that could have been a big gain, while Jones airmailed a crossing route on third-and-11 early in the fourth quarter.”
The second of those missed connections was highlighted by Sports 24/7.
Incompletions like these are symptoms of the Giants’ ongoing wait for Waller to emerge as “the game-changing presence that was expected after a dominant training camp.”
For that to happen, Jones and the Giants will have to change the way they target the two-time Pro-Bowler.
Giants Not Stretching the Field With Key Receiver
Waller was supposed to be more than just a size mismatch against outside coverage. He was also supposed to help the Giants stretch the field, but as Duggan revealed, the latter’s not happening: “Waller’s longest catch has gained 25 yards, and he hasn’t been targeted on a pass more than 20 yards downfield.”
The Giants were bereft of big plays through the air a season ago. A Jones-led passing attack produced a league-low 28 completions of 20-plus yards.
Waller needs to thrive in the deep areas, something he did during his time with the Las Vegas Raiders. He averaged more than 12 yards per reception in four of his five seasons with the Silver and Black.
Jones isn’t noted for his ability to push the ball vertically, so the Giants need Waller to turn short passes into longer gains. That kind of approach requires timing, but the synchronicity between Big Blue’s QB1 and his presumed go-to target has consistently been off the mark.
Their struggles in the short game against the 49ers were highlighted by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell.
While they are struggling to involve Waller often enough, the Giants have already seen how the tight end can open up the game for others.
Darren Waller Already Helping Other Receivers
The best example of how Waller’s threat can create big plays for others came against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. It happened when Jones found rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt for a game-changing 58-yard gain.
Hyatt was drafted to take the top off of defenses, and his speed is always a weapon. Yet as Bobby Skinner of Talkin’ Giants detailed, Waller drew the eyes of two defensive backs, allowing Hyatt to blow past the last line of defense and sprint beyond his one-on-one matchup.
Waller being a magnet for coverage can expand the offense in interesting ways for coordinator Mike Kafka and head coach Brian Daboll. Ultimately, though, the plan is for No. 12 to be Jones’ favorite option.
While the process is going slowly, it’s not as if Waller has been completely absent from the stat sheet. He still has 12 receptions and 132 yards to his credit.
Those numbers aren’t befitting of the Travis Kelce-like role Waller was supposed to fill for the Giants. Fortunately, it’s still early days for this burgeoning connection, so time is on the side of Jones and his primary target to get things right.