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Giants know they'll go as Daniel Jones goes in make-or-break year

Daniel Jones of the New York Giants during

Daniel Jones of the New York Giants during an OTA at Quest Diagnostics Training Center on May 27, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Mike Stobe

There will be plenty of opportunities to measure whatever strides Daniel Jones makes or doesn’t make in this upcoming season, upon which his career with the Giants may pivot.

Some of those ratios will be simple. More touchdowns will be needed, fewer turnovers will be tolerated.

Others are buried below a few more layers of analytical microstats. How will he perform on deep passes now that he has a new long-ball threat in free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay? How effective will he be passing the football while on the move? Will he make better decisions about when to scramble and when to take a sack?

On a weekly (and most likely daily) basis during the coming months, those numbers will be crunched, discussed and evaluated both inside and outside the team’s facility as Jones attempts to live up to the lofty expectations the organization has placed on him.

The Giants have spent most of this offseason erasing nearly every potential hurdle to Jones’ ascent from developing young player to championship-caliber quarterback.

They’ve built him a ladder. It’s up to him to climb it.

Which is why all of those breakdowns and data points that will go into defining Jones’ third NFL season are, essentially, meaningless. At least to the person who serves as the ultimate arbiter of Jones’ progress.

"I don’t measure him by statistics," coach Joe Judge told Newsday as he and his starting quarterback embark on their second year together, with veterans reporting to training camp on Tuesday and the team’s first practice on Wednesday. "Wins and losses are the most important statistic. It’s really the only statistic that matters. And obviously he has a critical role on the team, being the quarterback."

That last line almost qualifies as a confession of sorts from Judge, an admission that, yes, quarterbacks are important in the NFL. A year ago at this time, Judge was barely uttering Jones’ name aloud, so determined was he to keep any added spotlight and pressure off the player he had yet to even see work a practice rep in person. Now? The Giants notched only six wins in the 2020 season, but Judge and the front office became convinced that Jones is capable of leading the team out of its decade-long funk, and Judge is basically saying what everyone else has been thinking for a while:

It will be up to Jones to turn all of the positive vibes surrounding this team — residue from an improved second half last year, in which they were sniffing at postseason possibilities right up to the final game of the league’s regular season, combined with an active offseason — into practical results.

Asked what metric he will use to measure Jones’ season, Judge quickly answered: "The success of the team."

Not all of that will fall on Jones alone.

"Ultimately, the wins and losses are a byproduct of how we all play collectively," Judge said.

That means everything from what is shaping up to be a very diverse and potentially potent secondary to a pass rush that lacks an established sack artist but has several candidates seemingly poised for breakout years. It means Saquon Barkley, returning from ACL surgery, needs to play like Saquon Barkley and not the impostor who could barely get to the line of scrimmage in his game and a half of action last year. It means all of the additions on offense, from Golladay to first-round pick Kadarius Toney to veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph, need to live up to their hype and that all of the returning pieces in that group, from Sterling Shepard to Evan Engram to, yes, coordinator Jason Garrett, need to improve. And of course the offensive line has to function better than it has in recent memory.

For a quarterback, though, unlike those other positions, there is no fading into the background or rising above circumstances. As important as their jobs may be, no one keeps track of the wins and losses that go on the record of a defensive tackle or a long-snapper. No one assesses the career of a linebacker based on how many times he reached the playoffs. Quarterback play is directly linked to a team’s fortunes. As Jones goes, so too will the Giants.

"Your performance has to match up to help the team have success," Judge said of quarterbacks.

It’s an every-week, every-game, every-snap yardstick to which Jones will be held. If he measures up, so, likely, will the Giants. If he can’t, then for yet another season, neither will they.

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