The Giants will probably be without their leading rusher for Sunday’s game against the Rams.
That he also happens to be their starting quarterback is exactly why they find themselves in such a situation.
Daniel Jones, who was the recipient of an unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit while trying to score on a naked keeper around the end in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, is in the league’s concussion protocol. Jones came up from the play stumbling and unable to walk straight and was removed from the rest of the game. He’ll have to go through the NFL’s five-step process for return to action, plus receive an all-clear from an independent neurologist, before he can return to the field.
"We’ll wait patiently and get the other guys ready as we wait on him," Joe Judge said on Monday, referring to backup quarterback Mike Glennon and practice-squadder Brian Lewerke. "We won’t have a definitely answer [on Jones’ availability] until much later in the week."
Jones’ situation is a reminder of the perils of having a quarterback who excels at running the football. Eli Manning, who was never a legitimate threat to take off out of the pocket on long dashes, spent 15 years as the team’s starter and never missed a game due to injury. Jones, who brings a very different dimension to the Giants, will likely miss action for the fourth time in three years due to an infliction suffered while scrambling or on designed runs.
Since the NFL concussion protocol was only introduced in 2011, Jones becomes the first Giants quarterback to officially go through the process.
Jones has 197 rushing yards this season, two more than Saquon Barkley.
"That’s something that’s been a strength for our team and will continue to be a strength for our team," Judge said of having Jones carry the ball.
Eventually, though, the Giants have to decide if it is worth the missed time that such a philosophy can cost a quarterback. More to the point, Jones may have to readjust the risk-reward calculus that goes into his decisions when he is on the move as he was on Sunday.
On the third-and-goal play on which he was concussed, Jones lowered his shoulder and tried to drive through two defenders to get into the end zone. It was a play somewhat similar to the one in which he scored on a two-point conversion against the Falcons two weeks ago, running over 300-pounder Grady Jarrett to reach the end zone. This time, the defense got the better of him.
"There are things you have to calculate as far as the risk as the player on the field at the moment, in what you have to get and gain," Judge said. "Something we talk to Daniel about a lot is when is the time to push for the extra yard, when is the time to go and get down and slide and protect or get out of bounds, things of that nature.
"[On Sunday] Daniel went for the goal line. It was a tough situation. We’ll see how he comes out of this."
Judge refused to second-guess Jones’ split-second call on the play.
"The guy is a competitive guy, he’s a tough dude," Judge said. "I know he’s trying to make every extra yard … We have to give the players confidence to go out there and execute and be aggressive in what they do. We know he’s a guy who is always going to try to gain that extra yard and compete hard for the team."
At the time, though, the Giants had another chance to run a play at the goal line – they did score on a 1-yard run by Devontae Booker on fourth-and-goal a snap later – and they were already without Barkley and receiver Kenny Golladay due to injuries. It might not have been the best time for Jones to pull out his Earl Campbell impersonation and chance adding to the injury list. Then again, knowing the team was without playmakers, perhaps he figured he had to do something himself rather than rely on others.
The Giants got mostly good news on the injury front regarding their top-line players on Monday. Judge said the team seemed to "dodge a couple of bullets" with Barkley and Golladay and noted that the team had a "sigh of relief" regarding Barkley’s diagnosis in particular. Barkley may even be on the field in some capacity during practice this week, though Judge was adamant that he would not be at anything close to full speed. NFL Network reported Monday that Golladay may miss a game or two but an MRI showed no serious structural damage to his knee, which was a fear the Giants were facing.
As for Jones, there is no timeline for the concussion protocol. He may fly through it and be back for Sunday’s game. He may need multiple weeks to recover.
Whenever he does return, the Giants will have to decide just how much of his future playing time they are willing to jeopardize with his aggressive, often head-first running style, and how much they feel they need to rein that in to keep him on the field.