Sam Howell and Daniel Jones have a pretty painful trait in common: They’re the two most-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL this season.
Howell will try to take the Washington Commanders above .500, while Jones just hopes to get back on the field for the New York Giants when the NFC East rivals meet on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Commanders (3-3) ended a three-game losing streak last week when Howell threw three touchdown passes in a 24-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
But Howell was sacked five times for the third straight game after the Buffalo Bills tortured him with nine sacks on Sept. 24. The second-year pro has taken care of the ball in most games, but he’s taken 34 sacks in all, leading the league by six.
“I just got to continue to grow and get better and continue to try to limit the sacks,” Howell said. “Avoiding those negative plays, just because when you have a sack on a drive, most of the time it’ll kill the drive. … Always trying to clean up the sacks and do my job to limit that number. Obviously it’s gotten up there so far this year.”
Jones is second in the NFL with 28 sacks over just five games. He took 10 in one outing when New York (1-5) lost to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month.
The Giants’ battered offensive line could not keep the $160 million quarterback healthy for very long. Jones injured his neck in Week 5 and missed last week’s 14-9 loss to the Bills.
Jones was cleared to throw and returned to practice Wednesday, where he participated in individual drills. Giants coach Brian Daboll said the injury was not going to keep Jones out the rest of the year.
“I’ll just say when the doctors and the trainers tell me that he’s ready to go, that’s when he’ll be ready to go,” Daboll said.
As second-team All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas missed his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury, the Giants also lost backup Joshua Ezeudu (toe) to injured reserve. Veteran Justin Pugh, who joined the practice squad Oct. 3 and plugged in at guard Sunday, finished the Bills game at left tackle. He was signed to the active roster Wednesday.
Pugh, a former Giants first-round pick, made light of his personal situation in his “Sunday Night Football” player intro. Instead of naming his college, he said, “Justin Pugh: Straight off the couch.”
But he’s taking New York’s offensive woes seriously. The Giants failed to score an offensive touchdown for the third straight game and could not convert from Buffalo’s 1-yard line at the end of each half.
“Everyone on this team is willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Pugh said postgame. “I’ve been here for two weeks now, but seeing the character of the men in this building, we’re going to win games.”
Whereas the offenses are similarly sack-prone, the defenses diverge. New York has generated five sacks all year, last in the league. Washington has piled up 19 with its fearsome front featuring Montez Sweat (4.5 sacks), Chase Young (three) and Jonathan Allen (three).
After injuries interrupted Young’s early-career progress, he has played like the former Defensive Rookie of the Year that he is this season.
“He’s done exactly what we’ve asked,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said of Young. “He’s done some good things. Very dynamic. He has some explosion to his game.”
Along with Thomas, tackles Evan Neal (ankle) and Matt Peart (shoulder), center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) missed practice on Wednesday for the Giants. Running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) joined Jones and five others as limited participants.
Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller (knee) was out Wednesday. Sweat (finger) and Allen (knee) were among six Commanders to be limited.