At the field level, it’s easier to see why the Giants chose Daniel Jones as their quarterback. It has the size for the old school demands of the pocket and the athleticism for the new school demands around the rim. Eli Manning only wished he could move through space like his successor can.
The other day in practice, Jones made a long throw to Kenny Golladay that looked like something out of Aaron Rodgers’ playbook. It was a perfect pass down the right sideline, over cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Golladay won the airborne battle for capture and barely descended two feet just past a small gathering of scribes.
Fallen Giants general manager Dave Gettleman had no idea how to build a winning football team. But he was willing to take the heat he took for drafting the No. 6 overall Duke quarterback in 2019 because he saw those tools at work.
As Jones enters his fourth season as a future Giants franchise player, as the 6-foot-5 guy who looks a bit and acts a bit and talks a bit like the 6-5 Eli, but certainly doesn’t win unlike him, he has no excuse not to become a reliable NFL starter. He’s taken thousands of snaps at practices and games, and he’s seen just about everything defensive coordinators have to offer.
Jones is now protected by two tackles taken in the first seven picks of their respective drafts. He is now working with a healthy Saquon Barkley, and with elusive targets on the outside, and with a head coach who has spent quality time around Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Josh Allen, and who has his receivers current ones all excited about his pre-snap movement and post-snap freedom.
Jones also works with Patrick Mahomes’ creative tutor, Mike Kafka, as opposed to Jason Garrett and Freddie Kitchens, who most footballers would consider…ahem…a slight upgrade.
No one is saying the Giants should make the playoffs this year, or that Jones should become another Mahomes or Allen, or that he should even clear a Dak Prescott hurdle to be the best quarterback in the NFC East. But he should at least show enough improvement and – now that his neck is healed – enough durability to give his team a reasonable chance of winning almost every week.
“Or else” would seem the most appropriate words to follow this statement, but they are not necessary. Rookie general manager Joe Schoen has already told his quarterback “either” when refusing to pick his fifth-year option. Jones needs to be playing right away, or he could lose his job before Halloween. The Giants went from one of the worst substitutes in the league (Mike Glennon) to one of the best (Tyrod Taylor) for a reason.
Ahead of the Blue-White scrimmage and Fan Fest at MetLife Stadium on Friday night, Jones said he’s getting more and more comfortable with a new offense every day. Asked if he thinks head coach Brian Daboll has already started to get the best out of him, Jones said: “At the start of my fourth year, I think I’m a more experienced player. . I think I’m a better player than in the past, so I feel more comfortable from that point of view to diagnose what I see and make decisions.
“In terms of that offense and that pattern, I think it gives the quarterback a lot of options and allows a quarterback to use what he knows and distribute the ball based on that. … It was fun working with Coach Daboll and his staff and working in that attack.
On his first practice Friday night, Jones nearly threw a six pick, hit Wan’Dale Robinson in the middle for a big win, held the ball too long and ran for a 27-yard touchdown. In other words, it was the full DJ experience.
We’ll see how it goes from here. Last week, Jones spoke about the liberating impact of a Daboll offense that “puts guys in a lot of different places, disguises things, reveals defenses.” He described the system as useful for a quarterback.
Great. Daboll has an obligation to put his most important player in a position to succeed, which the former Giants coaches failed to do. At the same time, Jones must help himself.
Giants co-owner John Mara said the organization has “done everything possible to screw up this kid since he’s been here.” But too much has been said and written about how the Giants let Jones down, and not enough has been said and written about how Jones let the Giants down.
For starters, he needs to stay healthy and give his team 15 or 16 starts. Daboll said the Giants are doing everything they can to protect Jones, including instructions on when to go down and avoid runaway hits. But Jones must also help Jones and protect himself. Manning showed up every Sunday, his best quality being his availability. It’s time for Jones to be a full-time employee.
More than anything, it’s time for Jones to show why the Giants drafted him in the first place.
He has the size, the arm, the speed, the experience and enough support to be a productive mid-level rookie player in the NFL. Jones has just called himself the best player he has been so far. He has no good excuse this season to be anything but that.