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Daniel Jones experiences first taste of growing pains as rookie quarterback

Daniel Jones of the Giants is taken down

Daniel Jones of the Giants is taken down by Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

He already has experienced plenty in his early days as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

There was his spectacular debut in a comeback win in Tampa, where he produced four total touchdowns, including the game-winning TD run late in the fourth quarter.

There was an efficient (albeit unremarkable) performance in an easy win over Washington last week, one that reinvigorated a team that suddenly found itself filled with hope.

And now this: a day of missed opportunities, of relentless pressure from the opposing defense, of no individual heroics and some rookie mistakes in a 28-10 loss to the Vikings at MetLife Stadium.

Welcome to the roller coaster that is the NFL, Daniel Jones.

The rookie passer had a mostly inauspicious game Sunday against a clearly superior Vikings defense, and the early litmus test showed there is plenty of room for improvement moving forward.

He wasn’t horrendous, mind you. He simply didn’t do enough to overcome the loss of running backs Saquon Barkley, who missed a second game with a high ankle sprain, and Wayne Gallman, who left with a concussion early in the game.

Jones didn’t get it done in the red zone, a particular source of consternation in his self-evaluation. And he couldn’t find enough completions to make up for his own team’s injury-depleted defense.

You therefore will not be surprised to know that Jones was critical of his own play. After all, he dwelled more on his mistakes than his successes in the back-to-back wins over Tampa Bay and Washington, so the blame was even more pronounced after he went 21-for-38 for 181 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

“Just not good enough,” Jones said. “I thought the plan was good going in. I thought we created a lot of opportunities for ourselves to make plays, and we didn’t make them. You’re not going to win if you can’t convert those opportunities. I’ve got to be better.”

Jones was off just enough to miss some big plays that might have at least made it more competitive, even if it was unrealistic to expect him to overcome the Giants’ defensive woes.

He overthrew a long pass to a wide-open Sterling Shepard on his first drive. He later threw too high to Shepard in the back of the end zone. He missed nearly half of his attempted passes to tight end Evan Engram.

“When you play a good defense like Minnesota, you need to convert those,” he said. “I’ve got to be better in those situations, and we’ve got to take advantage of those. You can’t afford to miss those against a team like that.”

But it wasn’t all bad for Jones. He did throw a nice 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie Darius Slayton to move within 10-7. Despite weathering a sustained pass rush that resulted in four sacks, he did not fumble. He also earned the respect of his opponents.

“I want to give a shout-out to the rook,” Vikings defensive end Everson Griffin said. “He’s doing really good. He’s shown courage. He’s a good player, so I see good things happening for him in the future.”

There are growing pains for any rookie quarterback, and Jones is no exception. It is a difficult apprenticeship, one that will continue against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots on Thursday night  in Foxborough against a quarterback he grew up admiring.

Jones remains unbowed and is unafraid to go up against Tom Brady. In fact, he rather likes the idea of playing again so soon after defeat.

“We’re looking forward to the quick turnaround, the fact that we get to play four days from now, so I think we’re excited,” he said. “It gives us a chance to get back out there and correct some of the things we need to correct.”

Of Brady, Jones said he “watched everyone growing up and enjoyed everyone, but he’s been one of the best guys for a long time.”

Jones could encounter the same fate that awaits just about everyone who ventures into the home of the longest-lasting dynasty in NFL history. Brady figures to pick apart a defense that is severely undermanned at linebacker, and Jones will be going against a defense that may be Bill Belichick’s best in all his years in New England. He welcomes the opportunity.

“It’s going to be a different week in terms of how we practice and prepare,” he said, “but I’m confident we’ll be able to do it. It’s about making sure we’re efficient and prepared to play.”

There was little margin for error against the Vikings, and there will be even less against the Patriots. As Jones now knows firsthand, the learning curve is steep.

It’s one of the first lessons for a quarterback growing up in the NFL.

It’s now on Jones to emerge from the early trials and be better equipped for the long and sometimes painful journey ahead.

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