When Tiki Barber’s fumbling issues surfaced yet again in Tom Coughlin’s first season with the Giants in 2004, the coach offered a simple solution to correct the problem. Coughlin instructed Barber to carry a football with him at all times, holding it high and tight to his chest. At practice, after practice, in meetings, at home . . . everywhere.
Can Daniel Jones benefit from a similar suggestion?
The Giants’ rookie quarterback has already fumbled 13 times in his eight starts, losing nine. And while he may not be able to use the “high-and-tight” technique because he plays quarterback, Jones believes he can address the problem in two ways.
The first: Keep two hands on the ball while in the pocket.
“It’s about being mindful of it and being aware in the pocket,” Jones said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think it’s pretty fundamental in that holding the ball with two hands is going to be more secure than not.”
Coach Pat Shurmur hasn’t suggested Jones carry a football with him at all times – although it couldn’t hurt – but Jones does get the message. He knows he’s got to address his ball security problem, because it’s the biggest issue of an otherwise promising individual performance in what has turned into a lost season for the Giants.
But there’s something else he believes will cure the problem, or at least begin to minimize his penchant for putting the ball on the ground. Or, in the case of the Jets, allowing Jamal Adams to swipe the ball right out of his hands and score a touchdown.
“It’s just getting the ball out on time and not holding onto it,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a complex problem, but it’s getting it out on time. I think I definitely need to work on it.”
And there it is. Hold the ball with two hands and get rid of the ball more quickly.
If it were only so easy.
The two-handed technique is something that can certainly be committed to muscle memory. Just ask Sam Darnold, who came to the Jets with a history of fumbling problems at USC but has done a good job of cutting down on them at the pro level. In his first two seasons, Darnold has a combined nine fumbles and has lost just three. The Jets’ second-year quarterback has stressed the importance of remembering to keep two hands on the football whenever possible. (FYI / Jones hasn’t opted to use a glove on either – or both – hands to address the fumbling problem, something that Shurmur seemed willing to consider when it was brought up to him last week.)
The second part is trickier, because it involves reading defenses more quickly in order to pull the trigger on his passes. All rookies struggle to a large degree in making the leap from college to pro defenses, and Jones has certainly shown some promise in delivering accurate passes. With 15 touchdown passes and eight interceptions, that is a respectable ledger. But factor in those 13 fumbles, and the numbers aren’t quite as impressive.
Perhaps a bye week will make the game slow down in his mind. Although it’s not quite as long a break as Darnold had last year, when he missed three games with a foot injury, Darnold’s improvement upon his return may be instructive as it relates to Jones. Darnold had 11 touchdown passes and 14 picks in his first nine games, but after returning from injury, he has six touchdown throws and just one interception. Darnold credited the time away with helping him once he got back.
Does the same hold true for Jones?
“We had some time to look back over the 10 games we’ve played and what we’ve done well, what we haven’t done well,” he said. “I think the bye week gives you a little chance to do that. You get a little more time to see some of that stuff and revisit the mistakes and turnovers and particularly ways I can work on that.”
With the Giants out of playoff contention, the rest of the season is mostly a referendum on Jones’ viability as the long-term starter. There have been plenty of hopeful signs, but some warning signs, too. Jones hopes a week of reflection will go a long way toward cleaning up the mistakes.
Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones tops the NFL fumble leaders this season (all 10 are quarterbacks):
Daniel Jones, Giants: 13 fumbles, 9 lost
Gardner Minshew, Jaguars: 11 fumbles, 7 lost
Jameis Winston, Bucs: 11 fumbles, 4 lost
Josh Allen, Bills: 11 fumbles, 3 lost
Jared Goff, Rams: 9 fumbles, 5 lost
Kirk Cousins, Vikings: 8 fumbles, 3 lost
Joe Flacco, Broncos: 8 fumbles, 3 lost
Kyle Allen, Panthers: 7 fumbles, 5 lost
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers: 7 fumbles, 4 lost
Deshaun Watson, Texans: 7 fumbles, 3 lost