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NFL Draft

Daniel Jones Complicates His Evaluation Yet Again

  • The Draft Network
  • September 17, 2021
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Wow. That was certainly… entertaining.

There are myriad things I could dive into as far as analyzing that game from the New York Giants’ side of things. Allowing that Washington 75-yard touchdown drive to happen in two plays, the “hold” by C.J. Board, the drop by Darius Slayton, the end of game play-calling and clock management, all of the penalties before the penalty.

What I’m going to do instead is open up a discussion on Daniel Jones. Specifically, why a game like what we witnessed on Thursday Night Football makes the Giants’ quarterback such a difficult player to evaluate.

Look at it this way: there are still ongoing debates of whether Jones is—or has the potential to become—a good quarterback. Now, you or I or anyone else who is involved with online football discourse has seen tons of takes making fun of the third-year starter. He’s had some hilarious lowlights, and the Giants haven’t done much besides lose since he took over the starting quarterback helm after 232 (not quite consecutive) Eli Manning starts.

Some of that losing is Jones’ fault. The fumble problem, the interceptions, and the lack of pocket awareness resulting in a high sack count all reflect poorly on the young quarterback. If his oft-mediocre play wasn’t enough, a market like New York shines an extra bright spotlight on Jones.

The flip side, the devil’s advocate to any anti-Jones sentiment, is that sometimes, on nights like Thursday, the blame for a loss can’t fall on him. Sometimes, Jones has games where he looks like he very well could be the long-term answer in New York. A performance like what we saw on Thursday Night Football is exactly the glimmer of hope that the Giants front office, led by general manager Dave Gettleman, love to see out of Jones. Gettleman has never let up on his belief that the Duke product was the right choice for New York, but often it can be hard to see why.

On Thursday though, we saw flashes of perhaps exactly what Gettleman sees in him. Jones put on one of the best performances of his young career behind an offensive line that gave him plenty of time to throw, even against a formidable Washington defensive front. And with a group of receivers that finally has the dynamic WR1 it’s been missing since Odell Beckham Jr.’s departure, he got more looks with his favorite targets—receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton—open downfield.

Let’s start with the stat line for Jones against the Football Team: 22-of-32 (68.8%) for 249 yards and a touchdown in the air, plus nine rushes for 95 yards—including a 46-yard run—and another touchdown on the ground. Sure, he still took some bad sacks, holding onto the ball too long, but he didn’t fumble. Jones finished with a passer rating of 102.2, with the improved completion percentage and the lack of any turnovers after a difficult Week 1 matchup with the Denver Broncos being big factors.

Jones’ numbers in Washington could have been even better, too. That 46-yard run? He actually ran for 58 yards and a touchdown, but it was called back for holding 12 yards short of the end zone. On the passing side, he could have added another completion for 43 yards and a touchdown if not for Slayton’s drop in the end zone behind blown coverage. With those stats, the two highlight plays that were wiped out, and Dexter Lawrence’s jump offsides to give Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins another crack at a game-winning kick, it’s impossible to pin the Thursday night loss on the Giants’ quarterback.

Was Thursday night a sign of what’s to come from Jones going forward or was it just a flash in the pan? We don’t know yet. If he continues to have the occasional performance like Thursday’s, we’ll continue to struggle to evaluate the third-year quarterback. What we do know is that Giants fans are tired of losing, and now that New York has started the season 0-2 for the eighth time in the last nine years, Gettleman—and Jones, by association—are walking a razor-thin tightrope. We’ll have a better sense of whether they manage to hang on later this season.

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