Being 2-0 appears to be bringing out a softer, gentler side of New York Giants fans — at least temporarily — when it comes to their view of often-scorned quarterback Daniel Jones.
Asked this week if they approved of the way Jones had played during victories over the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers, 68 percent of voters in our weekly ‘SB Nation Reacts’ poll said they approved of Jones’ performance in those games.
There are, of course, two ways to look at Jones’ play during the first two weeks.
The glass half-full approach:
- The Giants have won two games and Jones has led game-winning fourth quarter drives in both of those. He has made key throws, and key decisions, in both. He only led three game-winning drives in his first three seasons.
- Jones is completing 70.9 percent of his passes, well above his 2021 career-best of 64.3 percent.
- Jones’ passer rating of 99.4 is nearly 12 full points above the career-best 87.7 he had as a rookie.
- Jones has three touchdown passes and one (albeit ugly) interception. His 5.5 percent touchdown and 1.8 interception percentages are career bests.
The glass half-empty approach:
- The Giants have yet to throw for 200 yards in a game and their 159.0 yards passing per game average is 31st in the 32-team NFL.
- Jones has two passing plays of 20+ yards. Thirty-one quarterbacks have more.
- The Giants are 30th in the league in yards per completion at 8.2. They are 23rd in yards per passing attempt at 6.6.
- Jones is averaging career lows in yards passing per game (182.0) and yards per completion (9.3).
- Jones’ QBR, ESPN’s 0-100 measure of quarterback value, of 30.4 is the worst of his career. It ranks him 28th among 32 starting quarterbacks thus far.
- Jones is 27th, per ESPN, in Expected Points Added (EPA) for quarterbacks, with 2.8. His 2.4 EPA on pass attempts is also 27th.
How the Giants see Jones
Giants’ coaches and players, as you would expect them to, are taking the glass half-full side.
Head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka both lauded Jones’ decision-making.
“I think he’s made really good decisions. There’s always plays that we can be better at. But his decision-making process – where he’s gone with the football – he’s made the right decision, I’d say, a lot. And that help,” Daboll said. “The job of the quarterback – I’ve been part of teams where we were 35 of 40 for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, and I’ve been part of teams where we’re 17 of 21, whatever it is. His job is to help the offense move the football, whatever that is. It starts with decision-making at quarterback. He touches the ball on every play. And he’s done a good job of that. We’re going to continue to build that. But I’m pleased with where he’s at.”
Here is Kafka when yours truly asked him this week about Jones’ decision-making and the lack of big plays thus far from the passing game:
“I think he’s [Jones] doing a great job with the football,” Kafka said. “There was one turnover in the red zone that I’m sure he would like to have back, as we all would. I think he’s doing a great job with the football. He’s managing the game, he’s playing within the system and I think those big plays that you’re seeing, those are going to happen.
“You never want to go out there and force a whole bunch of things. That’s where the bad decisions happen. That’s where the turnovers happen. I think you continue to play within the system, let the system work for you and the offense work for you and then you’ll see that those things show up.”
Players, too, support the work done by the quarterback thus far.
Wide receiver David Sills said he believes Jones is playing at a “high level.”
“He’s done a really good job making the right decisions and leading our offense, especially in clutch situations when we need points. He’s been able to march us down the field and get us the points,” Sills said. “Obviously, I think if you ask anybody on the offense, I think you’d say that there’s still opportunities out there for us to play better.
“I think these DJ has handled himself very, very well.”
Richie James, the team’s leading receiver with 11 catches in two games, said the Giants are just taking what has been available.
“You can tell he’s [Jones] just taking what the defense gives you. We can’t force something that’s not there. There’s a 5-yard pass that’s right here we’re just trying to get yards, get down the field and score points. That’s all our goal is,” James said. “The yards will come, but we’re just trying to execute our play and our assignment. We’re not worried about what’s out there. Really, we worry about what’s in here and what we need to focus on.”
Winning games with less than 200 passing yards is not sustainable in today’s NFL. The Giants need more yardage, more explosive plays through the air. That much is obvious, and inarguable.
There are, though, a number of things to keep in mind.
The Giants are just two games into this new era. With Wan’Dale Robinson injured, Kadarius Toney not fully healthy and Kenny Golladay not playing or producing the Giants aren’t at full strength at wide receiver. To be honest, they probably don’t have the depth of talent and a full group of the types of receivers they want yet.
Daniel Bellinger has a 16-yard touchdown catch, but the Giants have just three receptions for 38 yards from their tight ends. They don’t appear to have a dynamic player at that spot, at least not yet.
It is obvious that the offensive line is not a finished product. The interior of that line remains a work in progress.
Has Jones missed some opportunities to throw the ball deeper down the field? Maybe. Maybe not. I honestly don’t know.
It’s possible that what fans watching a replay might see as a missed vertical opportunity might never have been a realistic option for Jones. Someone I respect who knows offensive concepts and quarterback play told me much of the Giants’ passing attack is based on “low to high” reads, meaning the quarterback looks short first and deeper down the field only if the short throw isn’t available. Could that be part of what some are seeing? I don’t know, but it is a consideration.
What I do know is that the Giants have won two football games. They are 15th in the league in scoring at 20.0 points per game, not fantastic but an improvement over the past two years. Jones had led two game-winning drives and has contributed to both with his arm, his legs and his brain.
In my view, there are positive signs. The offense, and Jones, still need to do more. There have, though, been steps in the right direction. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Giants as 1-point favorites over the Dallas Cowboys this week, so clearly Vegas is starting to believe too.
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