Daniel Jones couldn’t hide the disappointment. Even though the Giants’ medical staff is advising extreme caution in dealing with a sprained ankle, the rookie quarterback desperately wants to keep playing.
“You want to play, everyone wants to play,” Jones said Wednesday. “I certainly won’t play, but I do understand it and it’s my job to get healthy as quick as I can.”
Difficult as it might be not to play, though, there may be some benefit to Jones taking a seat on the bench for at least a game — if not longer.
His desire to continue playing despite his injury certainly is admirable and is indicative of Jones’ toughness and resolve. But a respite might be helpful in the long run, if for no other reason that he gets a chance to sit back, observe and allow the mental process to develop. With 10 games under his belt, he already has a solid body of work from which to draw and watching from the sidelines will give him a chance to see things from a different perspective.
“I guess it’s an opportunity to do that,” Jones said. “Obviously, you want to be playing, and I feel like the best way to learn is to play. But there is an opportunity in learning, watching and yeah, I’ll try to do the best I can to do that.”
Jones need not look far to see an example of how a break in the action was beneficial to another quarterback. Sam Darnold suffered a foot injury last season that kept him out for three games, and at the time of the injury, he was prone to turnovers. In Darnold’s first nine games, he had 11 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions and four fumbles.
But after returning for the final month of the season, Darnold had six touchdown passes, one interception and one fumble in his final four games.
“I think just settling my feet down, that was a big thing,” he said after returning from his injury last season. “Just calming my feet down and understanding where my checkdowns are, understanding what coverages that I can get the ball down to the back, what coverages I can expose the defense and possibly hit a receiver down the field. I think that’s really how I’ve grown the most, and I’m just going to continue to try to do that and continue to grow with that.”
Jones would rather be learning on the job, and the Giants would prefer that he do that. But if the time off does for Jones what it did for Darnold, then it may be worthwhile. Like Darnold, Jones’ big problem is turnovers; he has 18 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and an NFL-high 15 fumbles.
“That’s part of the narrative, when a young guy plays for a while and for whatever reason he doesn’t play and comes back,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think any time you observe it’s always best when you’re playing. But in this case, [Jones] is forced to step back, so I think he’s going to continue to learn.”
Has Shurmur seen it help young quarterbacks to take a break?
“I’ve had quarterbacks that have played the whole year, and then they have realized what happened to them in the offseason when they have a quiet moment,” he said. “Everything is different. Quarterbacks continue to learn all the time, and even though [Jones] has a boot on his foot, he’s in there preparing, just like he would if he was going to play. The learning doesn’t stop just because you’re not taking snaps.”
Fellow rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew of the Jaguars, who initially replaced the injured Nick Foles in Week 1 and is now back in the lineup after Foles was benched, said he believes his break was helpful.
“A lot of times when you’re playing, you have a million different things that you’re having to focus in on and you kind of lose some of the bigger stuff,” Minshew told reporters this week. “When you’re out of that [starting] role, you can kind of step back and see the little details, and it was a really good experience for me.”
We’ll soon find out if it’s a good experience for Jones.
Chances are he’ll be better off taking a seat — even if that’s not his preference.