Giants' win showcases Daniel Jones-Darren Waller connection

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Daniel Jones looked every bit of the $160 million quarterback in his one possession Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. The New York Giants QB was close to perfect while leading a touchdown drive in a 21-19 victory at MetLife Stadium.

Jones completed 8 of 9 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in what will likely amount to his only action of the preseason. His sole incompletion came on a pass that tight end Darren Waller failed to complete the catch after he was hit hard following a perfect throw.

"I felt good. I thought we all felt pretty good," Jones said. "I thought we executed well. Guys were in the right spots and the guys up front did a good job protecting. Yeah, I thought it was good."

It's an extension to what Jones did last season, when he played the best football of his career and was rewarded with a four-year, $160 million contract. He will make $42 million annually over the first two years of the deal.

With that comes high expectations that -- at least for one summer night -- looked well within his reach given the new talent at his disposal.

The crisp opening drive Jones led included three receptions to the Giants' new No. 1 receiver, Waller and two to fellow offseason acquisition Parris Campbell.

Waller had three catches on four targets for 30 yards and two first downs, including one on a third-and-7. The Pro Bowl tight end looked every bit as unguardable as he has most of the summer. And as a result, the Giants offense looked more formidable than it did most of last year.

"Good series," coach Brian Daboll said. "Darren had some catches. Efficient."

The Giants offense, which later added an explosive play for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, did it all without star running back Saquon Barkley. He was the only non-injured starter the Giants elected to hold out of the contest.

It didn't matter. They flew down the field against a Panthers defense that didn't play most of its top pass-rushers.

With the likelihood that New York's starters don't play in the preseason finale, this is the feeling the Giants are expected to take into the season opener Sept. 10 against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I think it helps our confidence," Jones said. "I think overall we've been pretty confident in what we can do in our level of execution. It certainly helps that. But like I said, there are things we can sharpen up, clean up and we'll look to do that for sure."

Waller and Campbell were productive in their limited playing time; Hyatt, the Biletnikoff winner who was a third-round pick out of the University of Tennessee, blazed behind the defense for a 33-yard touchdown grab from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter.

None of these three receivers were part of New York's 18th-ranked offense which struggled to produce explosive plays last season. The Giants were last in the NFL with 28 pass plays of 20-plus yards.

After a strong summer, the Giants feel good about the potential this new group provides.

"Incredibly balanced for whatever the situation may ask for," Waller said. "There are days when certain elements may impact the game and you have to run the football. Or maybe some days it's like, 'OK, this is a day we may throw more.'

"I feel we have the balance and playmakers that can do a diverse amount of things that ... whichever way the game is trending into, whatever way we have to find a way to win, it's something that we can get done."

Waller is a big reason for that. It was evident right from the start Friday night that he's the team's new No. 1 receiver. Jones looked to Waller on each of the first three pass plays.

"He showed up there for us a good bit. He's been big for us all camp," Jones said. "Yeah, he played well again [Friday night] for sure."