By the end of the 2020 season, New York Giants head coach Joe Judge, who famously refused to mention starting quarterback Daniel Jones by name when he first arrived in East Rutherford, not only became happy to talk about the second-year signal-caller, he also went out of his way on more than one occasion to sing Jones’ praises.
Whether that was simply a confidence-boosting tactic, Jude being sincere, or a combination of both, the Giants head coach affirmed that Jones is going to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2021, no questions asked.
He also expressed his admiration for Jones’s toughness and remarked how the quarterback handled every challenge Judge purposely threw at him with the grit of a seasoned warrior.
But while Judge and Giants quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski kept insisting that Jones improved throughout his second season—yes, even without a consistent offensive line or his top running back or a strong supporting cast—NFL.com writers Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice, and Dan Parr ranked him 24th out of 59 quarterbacks who started a game in 2020 in their Quarterback Index.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 30 | Blair: 25 | Filice: 20 | Parr: 24
2020 stats: 14 games | 62.5 pct | 2,943 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 11 pass TD | 10 INT | 423 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 6 fumbles lost
Bhanpuri: One of the most infuriating players in the entire league, Daniel Jones has proven in his short career that he can make every throw and almost any run. And yet, he turns the ball over (1.4 per game) like he's going toe to toe with Jameis Winston. Can Jones make a Baker Mayfield-like leap in Year 3?
There’s no question that Jones’ turnover problem was incredibly frustrating, especially when the problem spilled over from his rookie campaign to his second season.
Jones, who lost 17 out of 29 fumbles, has struggled to learn when to give up on a play and live to see another down versus trying to eke out an extra yard or two, and that, along with his reverting to the bad habit of taking his second hand off the ball when under duress was maddening.
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But how much of that is really on Jones versus his protection? According to PFF, Jones was tied with the Bengals Joe Burrow as the fifth-most pressured quarterback among those who took at least 50% of their team’s snaps last year.
And with the Giants frequently needing to come from behind, Jones undoubtedly felt the pressure to step up and deliver a big play when there wasn’t a big play to be delivered.
Sound familiar? That’s how Mayfield of the Browns operated in his first two seasons.
Mayfield, in attempts to play the hero, threw 35 of his 43 regular-season interceptions and fumble the ball 13 out of 21 career fumbles, all because he either tried to force a ball into a window that wasn’t there or because he became too fast and loose with the pigskin in his hand in his quest to make a play.
By his third season, Mayfield settled down. He threw just four interceptions when under duress in 2020 after tossing 11 in his first two seasons, and he did a better job securing the ball when he turned into a runner.
As for Jones, a more settled offensive line—the Giants line started to show significant improvement toward the back end of the season—combined with the addition of playmakers in whom he can develop trust will go a long way toward helping him realize that he doesn’t have to do everything by himself and allow him to take that next step forward in his development.
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