It was problem number one during his rookie season.
It was problem number one during the offseason.
It was problem number one during training camp.
And three games into his second regular season as a starting quarterback, turning the ball over remains problem number one for Daniel Jones.
Through three games he is averaging two turnovers a game with four total interceptions and two lost fumbles.
Surprised? Jones is.
"I certainly didn’t expect it going into the season," he said on Wednesday. "It’s never something you expect, and it’s something I’ve worked hard on to improve. I’ll continue to do that."
It’s about the only thing holding him back right now. He threw 12 picks and lost 11 of his 18 fumbles in 12 starts in 2019, then spent the ensuing months focused on cleaning that up. He worked with trainers on drills specific to holding onto the football, keeping two hands on it in precarious moments, and sharpening his decision-making and accuracy in the passing game.
Yet the problem still lingers.
"It’s something I’m mindful of every day in my preparation, and have to continue to work on," he said. "It makes it harder to win when we’re turning the ball over and I can’t afford to do that. I’m certainly disappointed, but I’m not sure what that does to help improve or work towardgetting better. I think it’s something that I have to continue to work toward."
Joe Judge vouched for Jones’ attention to the issue.
"We work with him on a daily basis, obviously, every day," Judge said. "We’re not going to leave anything to chance with that position especially. But look, he’s a guy that works extremely hard. It’s very important to him."
Quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski said Jones’ troubles are not affecting him on "the psychological side." In other words there isn’t a mental block or a tic that is causing him to be careless with the ball. It comes down to physical routines.
"The physical stuff and the fundamentals usually don’t change in terms of the footwork, trying to do our best in the pocket with the ball, taking good care of it, and trying not to turn it over," he said of the week-to-week attention. "We’re just trying to do the right thing on every play and execute each play, that’s what we’re really focused on right now, and I think that’s the best thing to do. Do your job on the play, whatever that happens to be. If the coverage dictates you throw it to the back, you throw it to the back. If the coverage dictates that you could throw it deep, throw it deep, and when we get closer and get in the red zone, we certainly have things designed to hopefully take advantage of some coverage that we’re gonna see down there. Just keep going to the right spot with the ball, I think all that stuff will work itself out."
That’s pretty much the only recourse the Giants have right now. They’re not going to bench Jones for Colt McCoy, the backup quarterback. At least not for a long time. This is something the Giants have to endure and believe that Jones will get past, even if it is contributing to costing them games now.
The Giants are quick to point out that plenty of young quarterbacks have rebounded from slow starts to their careers. This week, as Jones readies for his 16th career start which would be the equivalent of one full season on the job, the team’s website made mention that Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, Fran Tarkenton and Bart Starr, plus Vinny Testaverde and Archie Manning, all had three wins or less in their first 15 starts. Jones is 3-12 in his career, but that includes two wins in his first two starts. He is 1-12 in his last 13 games, including 0-3 with the league’s second-worst offense this season.
There are plenty of reasons why the Giants are last in the league in scoring points this season. They can’t run the ball, their receivers are having a difficult time getting separation from defenders, and they’ve been without two of their best playmakers in Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard since halftime of Week 2. They are also just three weeks into a new system, although Jones does not use that as a crutch.
"I certainly feel comfortable," he said of the scheme.
But the turnovers are also a huge issue. The Giants have seven of them — a Darius Slayton fumble late against the 49ers was the only one not credited to Jones — which is tied for second-most in the NFL. Only the Eagles with eight have more.
This trend might not be so alarming if Jones were covering up for his mistakes as he used to, but he hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the last two games — the only two starts of his career in which he has been blanked — and the Giants have scored just one touchdown in that span.
"We have to do a better job controlling the ball, and turnovers play a big part in that," Jones said. "It’s tough to win when you’re turning over the ball as much as we have. I need to do better with that."
Recognizing that is nothing new.
Solving it? That would be.