For the first time since Daniel Jones was drafted, his annual Big Blue View roster profile will not open with a question.
There’s no longer a debate over whether Jones is the New York Giants’ quarterback of the future. General manager Joe Schoen put the franchise in Jones’ hands this offseason with a four-year, $160 million contract. He’s here for a while.
Now, Jones has to reward the team’s faith in him by improving upon his 2022 campaign.
By the numbers
Contract: Year 1 of four-year, $160 million deal; $82 million fully guaranteed | 2023 cap hit: $21.75 million
Career to date
Former general manager Dave Gettleman (in)famously selected Jones with the No. 6 overall selection of the 2019 draft, bucking consensus opinion and anointing Eli Manning’s successor. Four rocky years later, Jones led the Giants to their first playoff win since 2012 and was rewarded with a massive contract. So how did we get here?
Jones had his moments through his first three seasons, but ultimately did little to live up to his draft status. He was promising in 12 games as a rookie. But in the next two seasons, he never threw for more than 3,000 yards and never had more than 11 touchdown passes (though he missed time both years due to injury). The Giants ranked 31st in points per game both times. Jones also struggled with ball security and seemed to have difficulty processing the field in front of him.
The excuses were just as common as the criticisms. Jones rarely had continuity with his coaching staff, as the team cycled through head coaches and offensive coordinators. The offensive line was continuously dreadful, and the wide receivers weren’t much better. Overall, it was impossible for onlookers to tell what the Giants had in Jones. It was difficult for the Giants brass as well, who declined Jones’ fifth-year option so they could evaluate him further.
This time last year at Big Blue View, we ran an article projecting whether Jones would still be on the Giants entering the 2023 season. All five participating writers predicted that he would be not be.
Instead, Jones turned in his best season yet and led the Giants to a 9-7-1 record. He set career highs in yards (3,205), completion percentage (67.2), and passer rating (92.5), all while improving his decision-making and pocket awareness.
A new system under head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka also allowed Jones to take the next step as a runner. His 708 rushing yards were fifth among all quarterbacks.
Jones also cut down on the turnovers that had plagued his career. As a rookie in 2019, Jones had 12 interceptions and a league-worst 19 fumbles in 12 games. He had just six fumbles and five interceptions last year. It’s possible his interception rate of 1.1% is unsustainable — it led the NFL and was the best ever by a Giants quarterback — but it leaves room to regress towards the mean without issue.
Of course, that low turnover rate came with the caveat of throwing short passes. Jones had an average depth of target of 6.42 yards past the line of scrimmage last year, lower than anyone except Matt Ryan. But Jones was still asked to take more risks under Kafka than with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, and things should only open up more for Jones in 2023 with better receiving options and a second year in the Daboll-Kafka offensive system.
The expectation is that Jones will turn in another career year in 2023. Anything less will likely be met with heavy criticism, fair or not.
Right now, the media consensus is that Jones is an average to slightly above starter who still has more to prove. NBC’s Chris Simms has him ranked as the league’s 11th-best quarterback. Pro Football Focus has him at No. 17. Pro Football Network ranks him No. 14.
The Giants hope new tight end Darren Waller will prove to be the best receiver Jones has played with so far. Successful seasons from second-year right tackle Evan Neal and rookie center John Michael Schmitz would also go a long way towards helping Jones take the next step.
But what Jones needs to truly silence his doubters is more performances like the team’s Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings: games where the Giants win primarily because they have Jones on their team. He also must take the next step as a pure pocket passer; he’s not overly reliant on his legs, but mobility is a factor in his success. New York ranked last in the NFL last year with 28 passes of 20+ yards. That’s not enough for a franchise quarterback, and it’s not enough to keep winning close games.