Daniel Jones is doing the little things right, but he has to put it all together
It’s the little things that Daniel Jones has done in the past few weeks that have caused Joe Judge to, on several occasions, rave about the quarterback’s development and proclaim him the centerpiece of the franchise moving forward. On Tuesday, quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski joined into that chorus and extolled Jones’ decision-making both before and after the snap. As an example of the growth that Jones has made in this, his second season in the NFL, Schuplinski pointed to a short pass he threw to running back Alfred Morris that turned into a first down.
These Giants coaches seem to admire everything about Jones, from his toughness to his intelligence, from his work ethic to his leadership. And those are all qualities that an NFL quarterback needs to have and project to be successful. They are the behind-the-scenes assets that often go unnoticed.
But what about the front-of-the-scenes stuff? The things that do get noticed and rewarded? Touchdowns and points and wins are important too.
"The rest of it is going to have to come," Schuplinski said on Tuesday.
With the Giants facing the Cowboys on Sunday in a game they need to win to stay alive in the race for the NFC East title — even if it is just for a few extra hours — it certainly would be nice if it could get here quickly.
That’s an urgency everyone is feeling. The Giants are extremely confident they have their quarterback of the future. What they need is a quarterback at the moment who can lead them to victory.
"If we’re ever going to do it," Schuplinski said of Jones putting it all together, "now would be the best time."
So far Jones hasn’t really shown that ability to be a transcendent player, one who can put the offense on his back and carry it. Even when the Giants were on their four-game winning streak that kept them afloat in the NFC East race, Jones was far from dynamic. He threw one touchdown in that stretch (though he also ran for one) before he was injured against the Bengals. He’s thrown just nine touchdown passes all season, the same number Dak Prescott threw in his four-plus games before an ankle injury ended his season.
Last year Jones had 24 touchdown passes.
And it’s not as if the Giants are relying on their running game for touchdowns. They’re not relying on anything, really. The Giants are averaging 17.1 points per game, next-to-last in the NFL. In the five games since their bye they are at 12.4 per game.
There is plenty of blame to go around for those numbers, from controllable elements such as the coordinator and gameplans to uncontrollable ones like Saquon Barkley missing most of this season with a torn ACL. Jones’ own injuries and the way they have limited him as a running threat are part of it, too. He had 403 rushing yards in the 11 games before he strained his hamstring, three rushing yards since.
Jones’ overall level of play factors heavily into the offensive failures, too. Or at least it should. Schuplinski said he doesn’t grade Jones on those big-picture trends.
"The win part of it is a team thing," he said. "I don’t get overly caught up in things like that, in statistics and wins…I know he’s been doing a much better job at taking care of the ball the second half of the season. I know he’s doing a much better job of getting rid of the ball, of playing on time, of seeing the coverage. That’s the areas that I’m responsible for trying to improve with him. That’s what we’ve been working on, and I feel like we have improved that."
Eventually, though, Jones’ play has to translate into points and wins. Otherwise, Jones will never be the true franchise quarterback his coaches think he will become. He’ll just be the tough guy who worked hard and made the right reads in all of the Giants losses for the foreseeable future.