After weeks and weeks of stressing the importance of ball security to Daniel Jones without much to show for it, it seems the second-year quarterback finally got the message from his coaches on Sunday.
Although he did fumble twice and have a momentary interception off a tipped pass overturned by replay review, Jones played his first game this season – and just the second of his career – without a turnover. It gave the Giants a win over Washington, but more importantly it gave everyone in the organization a reason to sigh with relief.
"I’m really encouraged by the way he played this past Sunday," quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski said on Tuesday. "He’s shown good signs of that throughout the year. We’ve had a couple setbacks, but … I thought he did a really good job for the most part of taking care of it and getting the ball out quick and taking what the defense gave him."
Some of his best plays in the game were throwaways, taking sacks, and hanging onto the football when being hit. There were times when he had opportunities at plays down the field but instead of forcing a pass into risk he made the safe decision.
Which, ironically, brings up an entirely new problem.
The Giants can’t have Jones’ pendulum swing all the way from reckless to timid. There has to be a more centrist reality to his play. So yes, while the coaches were giddy at the lack of turnovers, there is still some fine-tuning to make on Jones’ decision-making.
"The biggest thing that you’re trying to do, and we preach this a lot, is we’re going to try to call the game aggressively," Schuplinski said. "We’re going to try to take those opportunities and shots when they’re there, and when they’re not, his job is to sort of get it out of his hand, throw underneath, let the guys catch and run, and do what they have to do."
It’s almost a derogatory term among NFL quarterbacks to call someone a game manager. Jones was that on Sunday. The Giants don’t want him to be one moving forward.
"There’s a fine line there," Schuplinski said. "He has the ability to make some really good plays with his feet, and throwing on the run, getting away from pressure. But there’s a fine line where, do you limit that and scale that back a bit for him?"
While Jones had a solid game on Sunday, completing 23 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, it was a far cry from the kind of game he had when he visited FedEx Field to face Washington last season… the other time he played without a turnover. In that game he fired five touchdown passes and threw for 352 yards. That’s the ideal Jones that the Giants are looking for, not the one whose team scored three points and whose longest pass was for 12 yards in the second half of an increasingly tight game.
"It’s likely the one Jones is looking for, too. His personality isn’t suited to checkdowns and caution. He wants to make big plays, not simply facilitate them.
"He’s a team-first guy ultimately, and as long as we get the win, I don’t think he really cares how he plays and what he has to do to win," Schuplinski said. "As long as we get the win, that’s all he cares about."
For now, they’ll take the version of Jones that doesn’t cost them games. That’s happened too often this season to be overlooked, and it was a problem that required a drastic solution.
At some point, though, they’ll need the version that can make the plays that win them some games, too.
Notes & quotes: Wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert said on Tuesday that Golden Tate will "probably fit right back where he was before" he was benched last week. Tate has returned to practicing with the team and Judge said he saw no reason why Tate would not be active on Sunday against the Eagles. "You keep preaching to him about the team, the team, the team," Tolbert said of Tate, who voiced displeasure at how he was being used in the offense. "Maybe what it used to be when Golden was at other places he probably got more looks, but, you know, our first and foremost deal here, it’s about the team . . . Whatever’s best for the team, that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what Coach Judge has brought to the New York Giants’ organization" . . . CB Corey Ballentine was waived as the Giants activated WR Dante Pettis whom they claimed on waivers last week and took G Will Hernandez off the reserve/COVID-19 list.