The burden of expectation presented itself in two ways for Daniel Jones: The Super Bowls and the durability.
Eli Manning won two championship rings during his career with the Giants, something Jones has aspired to duplicate since becoming the sixth overall pick in 2019. But as much as bringing home another Vince Lombardi Trophy to 1925 Giants Drive was a motivating factor for Jones, Manning’s incredible ironman record was equally significant.
It’s already too late for Jones to replicate Manning on the latter achievement. During his 16-year career in a Giants uniform, Manning never missed a game to injury, an incredible run that encompassed 234 starts. Jones has already missed four games during his two-plus seasons as the Giants’ starter. And he missed most of the Giants’ loss to the Cowboys in Dallas with a concussion, although he returned the following week.
Now he is dealing with a neck problem that surfaced during the Giants’ 13-7 win over the Eagles last Sunday and worsened in the hours afterward. The Giants were concerned enough about Jones’ situation to sign Jake Fromm off the Bills’ practice squad, and there have been reports that Mike Glennon is the expected starter in Miami on Sunday.
But Jones practiced on Wednesday, and while the team portion of the training session was off limits to reporters, Jones said afterward he felt much improved as the week went on and expressed hope he will be able to play against the Dolphins.
"I felt OK during the game [against Philadelphia], just after the game, [there was] some soreness," he said. "But I’m feeling good. I’m getting myself ready to play, listening to the trainers and doctors. My job is to be ready to play."
He is especially aware of that role because of the quarterback he has succeeded. Manning was one of the NFL’s all-time great ironmen, and the only time he didn’t play was when his coaches took him out of the lineup. The first time was Ben McAdoo’s ill-fated decision to start Geno Smith late in the 2017 season — a move that cost McAdoo his job — and then in 2019, when Pat Shurmur elevated Jones after an 0-2 start.
"I certainly do," Jones said Wednesday when asked if he feels the weight of getting out there week after week like Manning did for so long. "I feel that responsibility to be out there. I never want to miss games. As a quarterback, you never want to miss any time. That’s why my focus is to get back and be ready to play."
Say what you will about Jones’ viability as a big-time quarterback, but you can never question his toughness.
I remain unconvinced that Jones has what it takes to get this team to another championship, but his will to win and his desire to be out there for his teammates is every bit as exemplary as Manning. You won’t find a player or a coach in the Giants’ locker room who doubts his commitment and his preparation. He may not be a good enough player, but he is every bit the consummate teammate and leader.
Jones desperately hopes to be cleared to play, even though he would be going against an aggressive defense that will pay no mind to his physical condition. Coach Brian Flores loves to have his defenders blitz, particularly from the secondary. The Dolphins are 24th in total defense, but they have been much improved over the last month. During their current four-game winning streak, they have allowed an average of 11.5 points per game, which includes a 22-10 win over Lamar Jackson’s Ravens.
"I think they do a good job of bringing a lot of pressure," Jones said. "It’s about having a plan to handle that, get the ball out of your hands and give opportunities to make plays behind that stuff. I know we’ll be ready and prepared for that."
Joe Judge dismissed the notion that his offensive line, which has been marginally better this year than last, will be overmatched against the Dolphins.
"I think our offensive line has done a good job of playing in sync," Judge said. "You talk about their pressures and blitzes. In terms of playing against these guys, it’s just something you have to account for."
But let’s face it. This is a tough defense to play against for a fully healthy quarterback, no less a quarterback with a sore neck. If he does play, Jones will have his work cut out, and he knows it.
He also knows what Manning knew all those years: When you’re the Giants’ quarterback, you’ve got to do everything in your power to show up on game day. Rest assured Jones will do just that.