LAS VEGAS (AP) — When the week began, the New York Giants thought they were preparing for a Josh McDaniels-coached team quarterbacked by Jimmy Garoppolo.
Antonio Pierce, who played for the Giants in 2005-09, will be the Raiders' interim coach and rookie Aidan O'Connell the starting QB when the teams meet Sunday.
“I’ve been on the other side of that, too,” New York coach Brian Daboll said. “You have to really focus on your team and getting prepared and watching all the games. You can only do so much.”
The Giants (2-6) get back starting quarterback Daniel Jones and hope his return and a defense that has allowed 34 points over three games can lead the way to a victory over Las Vegas (3-5).
That could be quite a challenge to a Raiders offense that hasn't scored 20 points this season — Las Vegas scored 21 points against the New England Patriots last month because of a fourth-quarter safety.
Maybe O'Connell can get the Raiders going. He has one of the league's top receivers in Davante Adams and the reigning rushing champion Josh Jacobs, though he has yet to gain 100 yards this season.
“We’ve got still one of the best running backs in the game,” Pierce said. “He understands that. He knows his role and what’s going to happen going forward, and that’s what’s going to help the quarterback.”
DANIEL JONES' RETURN
It’s hard to say what the return of Jones will do for the offense. It certainly should expand the playbook for coordinator Mike Kafka. New York relied on halfback Saquon Barkley in the three games Jones missed. Barkley had a career-high 36 carries last week for 128 yards.
New York threw the ball 14 times against the Jets, finishing with minus-9 net yards passing. Receivers Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard and Jalin Hyatt were not targeted.
Shepard interrupted Jones’ session with reporters Wednesday to grab something out of his locker.
Jones laughed when asked if that was “Shep” saying he wanted a pass against the Raiders.
“He usually communicates very directly so I’ll ask him,” said Jones, who has thrown for 884 yards and two TDs and run for 197 yards and another touchdown this season.
O'CONNELL HANDED THE QB JOB
When Pierce was asked about the starting quarterback, he said it was O'Connell and not just on a limited basis.
“It will be Aidan going forward,” Pierce said.
That statement does leave some wiggle room should O'Connell struggle and the Raiders turn back to Garoppolo. But Garoppolo is on the bench for a reason, and the other quarterback, Brian Hoyer, lost to a former Division II quarterback in his one start at Chicago, so it's not as if the club has a lot of great options if O'Connell can't move the offense or if he struggles with turnovers.
So the chances are probably better than not O'Connell will be the starter the final half of the season, and then the organization must determine whether it's his job to keep or whether one of the QBs in next year's draft might be the answer.
O'Connell hopes this start is much better than his first one when he had three turnovers and was sacked seven times by the Los Angeles Chargers. But at least he has that experience to draw on so that taking the field Sunday won't be a completely new experience.
“I think that the experience is super valuable for me,” O'Connell said. “I definitely learned a lot and tried to take from what I learned and apply it in practice. It's also now a different challenge and a different team we're going against.”
GIANTS DEFENSE ADJUSTS AFTER TRADE
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is going to have to come up with a way to replace defensive lineman Leonard Williams. New York traded him to Seattle on Monday for two draft picks, including a second-rounder in 2024.
Williams and tackle Dexter Lawrence have been playing well up front in recent weeks. In the past two games, opponents have been 3 of 30 on third downs.
Expect veterans A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nuñez-Roches to get the majority of snaps for Williams. Rookie Jordon Riley and second-year player D.J. Davidson will back them up.
CHALLENGE UP FRONT
Even with Williams getting traded, the Raiders know they have a formidable task in trying to handle a Giants defense that has had 10 sacks over the past two games and held its past three opponents to an 11.3-point average.
Las Vegas' offensive line has given up at least four sacks four times this season, including six on Monday night at Detroit. Khalil Mack had six in a game when the Chargers played the Raiders last month.
“You've got a really good defensive front,” Raiders center Andre James said of the Giants. “You've got Dexter Lawrence over there, arguably one of the best D-tackles in the game right now. One thing I really see out of them is strength, really strong players, really good finishing, don't give up on plays. We're going to need to work on just staying after it.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.
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