Assuming the news regarding Daniel Jones’ neck injury remains as “optimistic” as Brian Daboll expressed on Monday afternoon, the Giants should have their starting quarterback on the field when they face the Bills on Sunday night.
That’s the kind of update that generally brings joy to an entire organization. It's one that releases the collective lump that had been in the throats of everyone in the building since Jones walked off the field in Miami on Sunday after auditioning for a job as a crash test dummy. He was rammed from behind and his head whiplashed back like a Pez dispenser.
For most teams, the prospect of losing a franchise quarterback to injury for any length of time (which doesn’t seem to be the case here) is daunting and even season-crumbling.
“Just having talked to him, he said he’s feeling probably better than maybe he thought he’d feel,” Daboll said.
It’s fair and cautious to mention that when Jones missed the final six weeks of the 2021 season with a neck injury, he also was feeling fine. He reported no limits in his range of movement, no pain, and even was able to toss footballs around on the practice fields. It was the tests, MRIs of the internal structure of his neck, that prevented the team’s medical staff from clearing him for contact. When he spoke to the media on Monday, Daboll had yet to meet with those doctors and decision-makers or be briefed on the verdict of Jones’ latest scans.
But assuming Daboll’s dialogue-based diagnosis is spot on and Jones can play, the Giants face much bigger and more sobering questions.
Even with his health unquestioned, Jones hasn’t been able to infuse this mess of a Giants offense with any life at all. Is it really cause to pump fists and exhale in relief that he appears on track to return?
What difference does it really make?
The Giants should celebrate if Jones is in fact relatively unscathed and able to continue playing because no one is rooting for a serious injury to anyone, especially when it comes to the fragile life-affecting area of the neck. And center Ben Bredeson received the positive news regarding Jones, potentially premature as it was, as if the Giants were welcoming back an MVP-caliber player.
“Daniel is the leader of the offense, Daniel is who we all turn to,” Bredeson said on Monday. “We obviously want him out there for every single snap, and Daniel is a highly motivated, high-energy player who everyone here respects and loves. He’s a key part of our offense.”
But this is not Joe Burrow coming back from his calf strain or Justin Herbert shaking off an ugly hand injury. It’s not Kenny Pickett avoiding a serious knee injury without missing a start for the Steelers. It’s not even Aaron Rodgers hobbling around the sideline on crutches to inspire his Jets two weeks ago or, as he continues to insist, coming back to actually play for them at some point this season.
And it’s certainly not Playoff Dimes who was lights out last December and January and earned himself that big, often-cited contract from the Giants.
All Jones’ return on Sunday will do is plop him back into the ragged reality of what this season has become.
This is a team that hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the last two games and has been held out of the end zone in three of their five contests. The Giants have yet to score an offensive touchdown in the first half of any game and are the only team in the NFL that has yet to play a snap with a lead this season (the Jets had been right there with them but broke their streak in the second half of their game on Sunday).
The Giants' game against the Dolphins was the first time in five years that an NFL team won the turnover battle by at least three and still lost by at least two touchdowns. The Giants became the first team this season to hold such an edge and lose by any margin.
Not all of it is Jones’ fault. The Giants have been without Saquon Barkley for three games and Andrew Thomas for four. Jones has been left to take the brunt of their absence, quite literally.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Jones has been pressured 81 times, or on 44% of his dropbacks, which is the third most faced by any player through five games since that stat began to be tracked in 2009. The Giants have allowed 18 sacks in the last two games, the most by any team since the 1986 Eagles.
It’s worth wondering if there is a clinical difference between a player being cleared for contact and a quarterback being cleared for contact behind this particular offensive line.
“I think he made some good throws under a good amount of pressure,” Daboll said of Jones’ performance against the Dolphins, citing passes to Darren Waller and Darius Slayton in which he was decked while in the process of delivering the throw. “He threw some balls under pressure and escaped and made some plays . . . He took some shots and I’d say he is a tough competitor.”
No one is doubting that.
Jones undoubtedly will want to play on Sunday if he can. That’s admirable and uplifting.
Just don’t expect his presence alone to change anything.