When it comes to Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, don’t pay too much attention to the numbers. His stats lie.
In three starts, Jones is averaging just 190 passing yards per game, with four touchdowns against three interceptions. He has taken nine sacks, and his passer rating is 85.4, which ranks 25th in the NFL. The Giants offense ranks 24th in points (19.4 per game).
Thursday night’s game may well be another blowout win for the Patriots. New York’s offensive line is still a mess, and Jones may not have four of his top weapons — Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Wayne Gallman — who are all questionable with injuries. Add in a tough environment — a road game on short rest, against a Patriots defense that has allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL, and has created the most turnovers — and Jones could be in for a long night.
But the kid can definitely play. Watching Jones’s All-22 tape, it’s easy to see why the Giants fell in love with him and drafted him No. 6 overall this year. All that post-draft criticism that the Giants “reached” for Jones was hot air.
He plays like a rookie at times, but he has impressive accuracy and touch, doesn’t bail on the pocket, and doesn’t look overwhelmed. He took over an 0-2 team, and led the Giants to wins over the Buccaneers and Redskins before coming back to earth in a 28-10 loss to the Vikings last Sunday.
And compared with the slop the Patriots have faced this year — the Dolphins’ QBs, the Jets’ Luke Falk, the Bills’ Josh Allen, and the Redskins’ Colt McCoy — Jones looks like Joe Montana. He will be the best quarterback the Patriots have faced yet — yes, better than an injured and uninterested Ben Roethlisberger in Week 1.
Bill Belichick is certainly impressed.
“I don’t see them holding back anything,” Belichick said. “He’s an accurate thrower at all three levels. He’s shown a lot of poise in the pocket. He’s been hit a few times, but he just stands in there and can keep ripping it. So, he’s been impressive.”
Jones doesn’t have a Patrick Mahomes-type arm, but certainly enough arm strength to make every big throw at the NFL level. Against the Vikings, he did a beautiful job of avoiding the blitz, stepping up into the pocket, and delivering a perfect 17-yard out pass to convert a third and 14.
He completed a 3-yard pass to Golden Tate that was thrown from the left hash all the way to the right sideline. His touchdown pass was a 35-yarder, perfectly in stride, to Darius Slayton in tight one-on-one coverage.
And against the Buccaneers, Jones threaded a 7-yard touchdown to Shepard along the sideline, placing the ball low and away from the two defenders in coverage.
Jones, unlike Allen and many other young quarterbacks, still looks to throw first before taking off running. In his first start, against the Buccaneers, Jones did a great job of moving to his left to avoid the rush, resetting his feet, and delivering a 46-yard bomb to Slayton, putting the ball perfectly out in front of the receiver and away from two defenders.
Jones isn’t afraid to roll to his left and throw against his body, unlike most young quarterbacks, who almost always roll to their right.
Even Jones’s incompletions are impressive. The ball is almost always in the right place, and the receiver usually has a good chance to make a play. Rarely do you see Jones spray the ball wildly, as Allen did against the Patriots in Week 4.
The Vikings’ pesky defense held Jones to 182 passing yards and the Giants to 10 points, and frustrated Jones with the blitz, sacking him four times. But he doesn’t bail on the pocket, and isn’t afraid to take big hits while making his throws. His sacks are usually due to protection breakdowns.
Giants coach Pat Shurmur runs a West Coast-based offense, with zone blocking, the stretch run play, and lots of play-action. Jones throws the majority of his passes out of the shotgun, and it seems like at least half of them have a play-action component. The Giants use run-pass option plays, and Jones is good at manipulating the linebackers and creating big throwing lanes, as on Engram’s 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Buccaneers.
But when the play breaks down or his receivers are covered, Jones is a dangerous runner, with 13 rushes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Against Washington two weeks ago, Jones slipped away from two pass rushers, scrambled 16 yards, and dived head-first to convert a third and 13.
The Giants will put Jones under center for a handful of snaps, and run play-action bootlegs to get him out of the pocket and cut the field in half. Back-side discipline by Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy — not biting on fakes — will be key for the Patriots’ run defense.
“He’s very athletic,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t say he’s just ‘go back and start running.’ But if he needs to run, if the protection breaks down or if there’s an opening there, if he gets outside of the pocket, he can cause a lot of damage with his speed and his ability to extend plays.”
The circumstances certainly stack up against Jones Thursday night. But even if he and the Giants get blown out, the future looks bright in New York. Jones can definitely play, and the Giants should be happy with their investment.