clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
New York Giants Mandatory Minicamp
Daniel Jones
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Filed under:

For QB Daniel Jones, it’s now or never to show Giants he is their franchise guy

Jones enters final year of rookie deal with new coaching staff, familiar questions, and one more chance in New York to answer them

Daniel Jones.

We have reached time to discuss Jones as we continue profiling each of the players on the New York Giants’ 90-man roster, and we are basically in the same place we were a year ago when we published Jones’ 2021 90-man roster profile.

Here is the question I posed a year ago:

“When the 2021 season is over will Jones have justified the Giants’ faith in him, or put them back in the market for a new quarterback?”

We didn’t really get an answer. Instead, we got more questions.

  • How much of Jones’ inability to produce like a No. 6 overall pick should be expected to was Dave Gettleman’s fault for not putting a better product around him?
  • How much was Joe Judge’s fault? Did Judge, in the process of getting Jones to cut down on his 2019 turnovers, turn him into a risk-averse quarterback unwilling or unable to take the chances sometimes necessary to create big plays?
  • How much was former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s fault for simply not being good at the job and not giving Jones the best chance to succeed?
  • How much was John Mara’s fault? He, after all, is the co-owner and the man primarily responsible for putting together the Giants’ decision-making group.
  • How much did injuries (Saquon Barkley, a plethora of wide receivers and offensive linemen, Jones himself) over the last two seasons derail any real opportunity to accurately evaluate Jones?

Mara himself summarized where things are with the 25-year-old Jones when he said this after Joe Schoen was introduced as the Giants’ new general manager:

“We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up since he’s been here. We keep changing coaches, keep changing offensive coordinators, keep changing offensive line coaches. I take a lot of responsibility for that, but 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.”

Brian Daboll is now the head coach after a highly-successful tenure as Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator. Mike Kafka is offensive coordinator after having helped implement the dynamic Kansas City Chiefs’ offense. Bobby Johnson is the coach of a revamped offensive line that should include No. 7 overall pick Evan Neal and at least two free-agent starters, Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski.

In regards to Jones, the question heading into his fourth NFL season is largely the same as it was entering his third:

“When the 2022 season is over, will Jones have shown the Giants new regime he can be their quarterback going forward, or put the franchise back in the market for a new quarterback?”

Jones will have to answer that question without the safety net he has had in recent years. The GM who drafted him is gone. Schoen has no emotional or professional investment in him. Same with the coaching staff, the third of Jones’ career. Jones’ contract also has no safety net, with this being his fourth and final year and the Giants having decided against picking up his fifth-year option.

If the Giants don’t like what they see, they can simply move on. They can cast him adrift, into the land of failed high picks who end up becoming backups in hopes of resuscitating their careers.

What will happen? Let’s discuss.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 230
Age: 25
Position: Quarterback
Experience: 3
Contract: Final year of four-year, $25.664 million rookie deal | 2022 cap hit: $8.365 million

Career to date

Not good enough. Whatever the reason and however you dissect it, that’s the reality. Jones’ first three seasons have not been what the organization was looking for when they went out on a limb and made the No. 6 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Let’s look at this a few different ways.

The turnovers

Every discussion of Jones talks about Jones’ propensity to turn the ball over. Is that, though, really fair? Jones had 19 fumbles and 12 interceptions (2.6 percent of his throws) in 816 total snaps as a rookie, an average of a potential 2.38 turnovers per game.

Since then? Not nearly the same.

In 868 snaps in 2020, Jones had 10 interceptions (2.2 percent) and 10 fumbles, 1.43 potential turnovers per game. In 2021, Jones played 673 snaps, had 7 interceptions (just 1.9 percent) and 7 fumbles, an average of just 1.27 potential turnovers per game.

So, there has undoubtedly been year over year improvement.

The injuries

Jones has yet to have a fully healthy season, and that is problematic when it comes to thinking about the wisdom of making a massive long-term financial commitment.

Jones missed two games in 2019 with a high ankle sprain, two games in 2021 (and played in some he shouldn’t have) with hamstring and ankle injuries, and suffered a neck injury that cost him six games last season.

The overall production

We can dissect all of the reasons. We have done it countless times before, and we are discussing those reasons again here. As I wrote above, though, the production to this point simply hasn’t justified being the sixth overall pick or being given a rich long-term second contract.

  • The Giants have finished 18th, 31st and 31st in points per game in Jones’ three seasons.
  • In yards per game, the Giants have finished 23rd, 31st and 31st.
  • The Giants are 12-25 in Jones’ 37 starts.
  • Jones has 45 touchdown passes in 38 games and 37 starts. Just 21 of those came in the past two seasons. Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round pick, has 41 touchdown passes in 27 games, 22 starts.
  • Jones’ yards passing per game is 221.0. Minshew averages 221.1.
  • Jones’ career passer rating is 84.3. Minshew’s is 93.9.

There is plenty more, but the point is that the Giants have been bad offensively and Jones’ individual production has roughly been equaled by a sixth-round selection who has played for two teams already.

2022 outlook

First and foremost, Jones will be the starting quarterback. There is zero question about that. Here is Daboll at the owners’ meeting in March:

“Yeah, [Taylor] came in as the backup ... I think going into it right now and [the start of the offseason program], we kind of got it set the way we want it set.”

Jones will play unless an injury means he can’t. Or, until the Giants’ new braintrust becomes convinced the former Duke Blue Devil isn’t the answer at quarterback. If that decision ever comes it seems unlikely that it would be until the latter stages of the season.

Jones was asked this spring if he thinks about his future.

“I think it’s natural to think about a little bit, but I think you’re better off focusing on what you’re doing now and preparing as well as you can now,” he said.

Does Jones also think about what it will take to prove to the organization that he should be a long-term Giant?

“I don’t think that’s really the mindset or the focus. I think it’s more about winning games and knowing that if we win games and we have a good season, then that should take care of a lot of things for everyone,” Jones said.

“That’s the focus I think we have as a group, as a team throughout the locker room, coaching staff. I think it’s to play well and win games. That’s what it’s about. Everything we do is about that goal, pushing to that, and that’s certainly my focus.”

As we try to gauge what Jones might be in 2022, we’re really back to Mara’s “we’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up” statement. Have the Giants finally surrounded Jones with a supporting cast that will give him a chance to succeed — or fail — on his own merits?

The coaching staff, and by extension the offensive philosophy, should be advantageous for Jones. Head coach Brian Daboll is a multi-time offensive coordinator and architect of the highly-successful Buffalo Bills’ offense, Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka learned at the feet of Andy Reid and was part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ creative, big-play offense.

The offensive line should be improved.

The Andrew Thomas-Evan Neal tackle combo, even accounting for an anticipated rookie learning curve for Neal, should be the duo the Giants have fielded in many years.

Is Jon Feliciano a better center than Billy Price? That’s debatable, especially since it’s a job Feliciano has never done on a full-time basis. Feliciano’s toughness, the faith Daboll and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson have in him, and the fact that he is the kind of hard-nosed, competent, player the Giants seem to want to build the interior of the line with, are not up for debate.

At guard, is the tandem of Mark Glowinski and Shane Lemieux, or maybe rookie third-round pick Joshua Ezeudu better than Will Hernandez and Matt Skura? Probably.

Is the depth better with players like Ezeudu, Marcus McKethan, Matt Gono and Jamil Douglas added to the roster? Probably.

The playmakers Jones is getting the ball to should be better, provided they are healthier. The Giants subtracted Evan Engram, but added wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and tight end Daniel Bellinger. Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard are talented players. The Giants just need to hope they can get, and keep, them on the field.

With all of that, Jones should be in a better position to succeed.

Daboll and Kafka have spent time trying to build an offense that maximizes what Jones does well.

“We’re going to find out what he does well,” Daboll said at his introductory press conference. “We’re going to try to implement a system that suits him and then it’s our job to bring pieces in that help him to be the best version of himself and the best quarterback for us.”

What the Giants appear to be doing is building an offense that will rely RPOs and play action with a lot of short and even horizontal throws designed to let playmakers work in space. Throughout the spring the Giants also appeared willing to use Jones’ legs in designed quarterback runs.

Jones doesn’t have the arm of Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, but he has been an excellent deep ball thrower during his career. This is his passing chart from 2021, per Pro Football Focus:

The Giants also can’t forget to use that. Kafka came from an offense in Kansas City that famously seeks big plays down the field. He was asked this spring about generating explosive plays.

“Putting your players in the right spot and understanding that if we can find ‘tells’ with the defense that they’re going to be in a certain coverage or in a certain look, we can get a certain matchup,” Kafka said. “I’ve always believed it’s a players’ game, so giving our guys an opportunity to make plays down the field is a part of that, too.

“I think Daniel is a smart guy. He’s going to work at it. You tell him one thing he’s going to spend all day thinking about it and working at it, and that’s what I appreciate. And that is what all the coaching staff has appreciated.”

One thing the Giants are asking Jones to do is play freely. The Giants were successful the past two seasons in getting Jones to limit his turnovers. But, does the 21 total touchdown throws in two seasons after throwing 24 as a rookie indicate that Jones was so risk-averse that he missed opportunities to make big plays?

“Look, we want to make sure we protect the ball. But again, you can’t go out there and play afraid. Be smart, not reckless, if you will. If he’s got a shot on the right read, let it go,” Daboll said.

“There’s going to be things that happen in every game. The defense is going to make a good play, there might be a tipped ball. We’re going to have to do a good job of taking care of the football, but I want him to turn it loose.”

Daboll emphasized that all spring, encouraging Jones to throw the ball into tight windows as both he and the quarterback tried to learn what was — and was not — possible.

Jones understands what he is being asked to do.

“I mean, you never want to throw interceptions, but I think just the idea to be aggressive and take your shots and see if you can make something happen, kind of let the receivers know that we’re going to do that, we’re going to give you all opportunities to make plays and we’re counting on you to make plays in situations,” Jones said.

“I think that’s kind of a mindset he has to attack a defense, attack downfield and as a quarterback, a decision maker, you’re a big part of that. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot and something he wants to see in practice.”

Where will it all lead?

That is the multi-million dollar, franchise-altering question. Truthfully, no one has the answer.

It is worth remembering that Eli Manning didn’t become Eli Manning until the playoffs in his fourth NFL season. Drew Brees didn’t become Drew Brees until the fourth year of his career. So, there is precedent for what the Giants are hoping for. Not a lot of precedent, but it does exist.

There are three basic, oft-discussed scenarios for Jones.

  • He is outstanding in 2022 and his play convinces the Giants to make an expensive, long-term commitment to him.
  • He shows enough that Schoen and Daboll want to see more before making their ultimate decision, leading to Jones returning to the Giants in 2023 on the franchise tag.
  • Jones just isn’t good enough in 2022, leading the Giants to decide they need to go back to the drawing board and start over in their search for a franchise quarterback.

Which one will play out? I have been on record as saying odds are against Jones being Giants’ quarterback beyond this season. Still, the ball is in his court.

Let’s see what he does with it.

Poll

When the 2022 season is over, will Daniel Jones have shown the Giants new regime he can be their quarterback going forward, or put the franchise back in the market for a new quarterback?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Jones will prove he’s the guy
    (304 votes)
  • 35%
    The Giants will be back in the market
    (335 votes)
  • 33%
    He will get the franchise tag and the Giants will punt that decision for a year
    (318 votes)
957 votes total Vote Now
NFL | From SBNation.com

The art of the forced fumble, explained by the NFL Draft class of 2020

NFL | From SBNation.com

The gore, guts and horror of an NFL fumble pile

NFL | From SBNation.com

I understand why Andrew Luck retired, because I’ve been in his shoes

View all stories in NFL