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When the Bucs face the Giants Sunday, a rookie will lead the G-Men

New York will start Daniel Jones against a Tampa Bay team that hasn’t fared well against first-year signal callers in recent years.
The Giants will start Daniel Jones (8) against the Bucs on Sunday. [MICHAEL AINSWORTH | AP]
Published Sep. 17
Updated Sep. 18

TAMPA — The New York tabloids weren’t all on board with the Giants drafting of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick.

Blue’s Clueless, the headline screamed the New York Post with a picture of general manager Dave Gettlemen. The New York Daily News read New Mann and Blue Who?

In fact, some columnists took to just calling Jones, “Pick Six.”

But after a good preseason by the rookie passer and watching the Giants stumble to a 0-2 start, cries for benching two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning to play Jones grew so loud they couldn’t be ignored.

On Tuesday, the Giants announced that Jones will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.

“Eli and I spoke this morning,” coach Pat Shurmur told “I told him that we are making a change and going with Daniel as the starter. I also talked to Daniel. Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games. Daniel understands the challenge at hand.”

The Bucs understand it as well.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has fared pretty well against rookie quarterbacks. He won all three games against them as the Jets head coach and went 2-0 versus the newbies in Arizona as Bruce Arians’ defensive coordinator.

Conversely, the Bucs are only 3-12 against rookie quarterbacks starting against them since 2011, a list that includes the Panthers’ Cam Newton and the Titans’ Marcus Mariota.

Arians said not much will be different for the Bucs with Jones under center other than they have to be more aware of his mobility.

“Changing quarterbacks doesn’t really change their offense,’’ Arians said. “It does change some things for us. We’ve got to start No. 26 (Saquon Barkley). It all starts and ends with him. Then we’ll try to contain the quarterback because he’s a heck of a lot more mobile than the other guy.

“I think the biggest thing is keep them off-balance. First and foremost is stop the run. Stop the run and try to take the easy bootlegs away and make them play from the pocket.’’

Moving on from Manning after 16 seasons isn’t easy for the Giants. He won two Lombardi trophies and was the MVP of both games with iconic throws to David Tyree and Mario Manningham. His regular-season record is 116-116, but it doesn’t begin to quantify his value. Since the first clumsy attempt to bench Manning in favor of Geno Smith, Manning is 6-16.

Meanwhile, many of those who mocked the drafting of Jones became his biggest advocate after an outstanding preseason in which he went 29-of-34 for 416-yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Arians has been there at the start of the careers for several rookie quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.

“The ones I’ve had, you just took the game plan. They knew it,’’ Arians said. “I go back, Peyton threw a ton of interceptions those first five games and I just go back when we went back through our division, he didn’t throw any. I think Daniel Jones is a very bright guy. He had a heck of a preseason or they wouldn’t be making this call if he didn’t have a great preseason and had them thinking he could do the job.’’

Several Bucs players have competed against Jones when he played at Duke.

Safety Jordan Whitehead faced Jones while at Pittsburgh and had an interception against him in 2017.

“He throws the deep ball, he makes good, confident reads from what I remember from college from playing him,’’ Whitehead said. “Very smart with the ball.’’

M.J. Stewart sacked him, had three passes defensed against Jones in North Carolina’s loss to Jones and the Blue Devils in 2017.

“He’s an athletic quarterback,’’ Stewart said. “He’s a really good athlete who has a really good arm. He’s mobile, so you definitely have to account for him. And he’s up there with Eli, so he’s probably learned a lot from Eli through OTAs and training camp. I know he’s going to be a lot better than he was in college and he was a pretty good athlete in college. So he’s going to be a good test for us.’’

The decision would seem to be a good break for the Bucs. But the Giants 0-2 record isn’t really as much on Manning as is on as it is on the defense. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in points allowed: 31.5 per game.

Quarterbacks making their first NFL start against the Bucs have actually been successful of late, going 4-1 since 2007. The Jags’ Quinn Gray, the Jets’ Smith, the Rams’ Austin Davis and Mariota all won. The Bucs beat the Colts and Curtis Painter in 2011.

No matter what happens Sunday, Arians believes the Giants’ move to Jones is permanent.

After the Giants loss to the Cowboys Sunday, the tabloid headlines were suddenly backing the rookie quarterback. GIVE HIM THE DAMN BALL, said the headline in the Daily News Monday.

“I imagine Daniel Jones is their quarterback for a long time,’’ Arians said. “You can’t go back and once you make that move it’s over.’’

Times wires were used in this report. Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud.

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