Coming into last Sunday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings, Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones had exceeded the expectations of many skeptics—this writer among them—who questioned whether he was worthy of being drafted with the No. 6 overall pick out of Duke University in last April’s NFL Draft.
His debut as the Giants starter in Week 3 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road, replacing Eli Manning after the team lost its opening two games of the season, was superlative. The 22-year-old Jones passed for 336 yards, threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in leading the Giants to a 32-31 victory after they trailed 28-10 at halftime.
Jones followed up that performance with a solid showing against hapless Washington, which at 0-5 and in last place in the NFC East fired their head coach Jay Gruden this past Monday. Despite throwing two interceptions, Jones moved the offense well in the Giants’ 24-3 victory. The Vikings were a completely different beast. They came into MetLife Stadium with one of the best defensive fronts in football and gave Jones fits all day. It was his true “welcome to the NFL son” moment.
The Vikings sacked Jones four times, harassed him in the pocket all afternoon and held the Giants’ offense, which was still without their star running back Saquon Barkley, to 211 total yards. Jones was 21 for 38 for only 182 yards passing with one touchdown and an interception. His education will intensify when the 2-3 Giants face the 5-0 New England Patriots on the road tonight once gain without Barkley, who hasn’t played since sustaining a high ankle sprain against the Buccaneers on Sept. 22.
“It’s the next opportunity,” Jones said in seemingly deemphasizing playing the defending Super Bowl champions, the league’s second ranked defense in yards allowed per game (238.4) and arguably the most dominant franchise in NFL history.
“We are looking forward to the quick turn around and the fact that we get to play four days from now. It’s a short week, so I think we are excited—it gives us a chance to get back out there and correct some of the things we need to correct.”
To make matters more challenging for Jones and the Giants offense, starting tight end Evan Engram, the team’s leader in catches (33) and receiving yards (373), will be sidelined versus the Patriots and several games thereafter with a sprained MCL.
In typical Bill Belichick fashion, the Patriots head coach was at once complimentary and cunning earlier this week in commenting on Jones taking over the reins of the Giants’ offense from Manning.
“Eli is very good at the line of scrimmage of making adjustments and protections and occasionally signaling routes against pressure and things like that,” said Belichick. “He may have done a little more of that on the line than Jones has. Jones is fast, and he’s made plays with his legs outside the pocket.
“The Tampa game comes to mind right off the bat. He’s got the ability to extend plays and also run for yardage to score or pick up critical first downs. He has kind of the sixth receiver element. Both guys are very accurate passers, see the field well, make good decisions. They are at different stages of their career, but both guys are outstanding players.”