The premise of Daniel Jones’ prove-it year was that the Giants would give their quarterback a better supporting cast to help them make a cleaner, fairer evaluation of his ability.
“We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up,” co-owner John Mara famously said in January. “Let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not.”
But anyone who watched Monday night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys saw Jones running for his life and losing a game due to no fault of his own.
If Jones plays the whole season against such long odds, it’s unclear exactly how Mara will get the clean and fair evaluation he seeks.
Maybe it ultimately will come down to the bottom lines of points, wins and losses regardless of how Jones plays. It just still seems the deck is stacked against him.
“It’s not really my concern how I’m evaluated by external people,” Jones said on a Zoom call Wednesday. “I’m obviously looking for feedback and criticism from the coaches and from teammates in ways I can improve. But as far as an evaluation, I think that’s dependent on if we win or lose. That’s how this team’s evaluated and we’re thinking about it collectively as a group.”
Jones faced 24 pressures on 42 dropbacks Monday, the most ever for a Giants QB since ESPN Stats & Info began tracking that statistic in 2009. He was hit 12 times and sacked five. The Cowboys pressured Jones 10 times with a four-man rush.
The average NFL QB has been pressured on 26.8% of his dropbacks, per NFL NextGenStats. Jones leads the league at an absurd 46.7%.
Jones also lost top receiver Sterling Shepard for the season to a torn left ACL and other receivers were dropping passes in the clutch during Monday’s fourth quarter.
And yet — and this is the most intriguing part — Jones might have played the most impressive game of his NFL career considering what he was up against.
Saquon Barkley said Jones’ 16-yard completion to Richie James to jumpstart a fourth quarter field goal drive was “one of the best throws I’ve seen” in his five-year career.
Another NFL player told the News “there are about five quarterbacks in the league who can make a throw like that, off their back foot, while backing up as the pocket collapses, on target. Daniel is one of them.”
Most of Jones’ 79 rushing yards were not designed runs, which head coach Brian Daboll confirmed Wednesday. He improvised and in Daboll’s words, “gave us a chance.”
The truth is, there aren’t many starting NFL quarterbacks who have the mobility and instincts and toughness to keep their team in a game like that.
But then on the flip side, it was impossible to ignore when Daboll tried to run the clock down at the end of Monday’s first half rather than attacking with Jones’ offense.
The Giants got the ball back with 2:30 remaining in the second quarter. Jones scrambled and ran out of bounds for a 1-yard gain with 2:22 remaining. And Daboll let the clock run all the way to the two-minute warning despite holding all three timeouts.
Daboll was clearly trying to avoid giving Dallas the ball back, but the lack of urgency that continued after the two-minute warning certainly was different from Daboll’s Week 1 win-or-go-home two-point conversion call in Tennessee.
Dallas actually began calling the timeouts, not the Giants, with 42 seconds left.
Jones still made plays before a fourth-down turnover on downs near midfield. But it was odd seeing the offense managed that way by a coaching staff that has failed to engineer a touchdown in a first half yet this season.
It’s also noteworthy because, as Mara said, he wants GM Joe Schoen and Daboll to make the evaluation of Jones. He hired them to help Jones earn the job and to find Jones’ successor if he fails.
“I want Joe and the new head coach to make that evaluation,” Mara said in January. “We do feel that Daniel can play.”
Schoen opted not to decline Jones’ fifth-year option in the spring and he refused to set expectations for the QB’s big season. The GM wouldn’t set a barometer for the team’s performance. And this regime’s rhetoric on Jones can best be described as lukewarm.
Daboll mentioned Tuesday that Jones’ past is part of the evaluation, too.
“What we try to do each week is just see where we’re at for that week: evaluate the performance,” Daboll said. “Again, we evaluate the performances on past, but I thought he made good strides. Obviously not scoring enough points and we left some plays out there on the field. But … I [think] he’s making improvement.”
Schoen did add three new starting offensive linemen and supporting pieces like James to the skill position rooms. Still, Monday’s performance spoke for itself: Jones needs more help.
This has always felt like it was likely headed one way: toward Schoen drafting a new quarterback next April. And that might end up being what is best for the franchise — although early wins over the Titans and Panthers didn’t improve the Giants’ positioning on the 2023 NFL Draft board.
The question, if Jones keeps playing at this level, is whether he’ll be able to convince Mara, Schoen and Daboll that he’s the guy when their evaluation is still muddied by the absence of a sufficient supporting cast and consistent wins.
INJURIES REQUIRE MOVES
The Giants signed corner Fabian Moreau to their active roster off their practice squad. They re-signed corner Olaijah Griffin to their practice squad. They signed rookie receiver Makai Polk to their practice squad. And they placed receiver Shepard on injured reserve.
Rookie corner Cor’Dale Flott (calf) and edge Jihad Ward (right knee) were additions to Wednesday’s projected injury report after a walkthrough. The “did not participate” group included defensive lineman Leonard Williams (knee), Ward, wide receivers Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) and Kadarius Toney (hammy), and corner Nick McCloud (hammy).
Corners Aaron Robinson (appendix) and Justin Layne (concussion) were limited. The walkthrough practice was closed to the media. Interviews were on Zoom.