Daniel Jones’ splashing whip finally broke on Saturday. The red light has been on all season, but for 19 games, Brian Daboll’s offensive alchemy has kept the New York Giants’ well-oiled machine rolling down the NFL interstate at 40 mph. Their impromptu season came to a dead end in a sobering 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Philadelphia’s pass rush, which recorded the third-most sacks in NFL history, anchored the Giants’ offensive line and put Jones in lawn five times. In the first quarter, James Bradberry jumped on a Jones pass four yards in front of the line of scrimmage. Hurts quickly led the Eagles on their third touchdown drive of the opening frame and at that point it was over.
However, New York’s cowardly shot at 4.-and-6, despite falling behind by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, was the most memorable of the night. That white flag was a long way from Joe Judge putting the season in the compactor and calling the running back sneaking a 3rd-and-long in Week 18 a year ago, but it revealed what Daboll really thinks about Jones.
In 2022, Jones and Saquon Barkley have stayed off IR long enough to show what they can accomplish together, but only the latter should be considered part of their long-term plan. Their ability combined with Daboll’s ingenuity to hide their collective attack warts smoothly as Tesla is masking their faulty autopilot software lead the G-Men into the playoffs.
Daboll has found ways to put the offense on autopilot all season by reducing Jones’ turnovers, using his legs on zone run options and through the short passing game. In six games this season, Jones has run 10 or more times and his interception percentage led the entire league. The Giants head coach’s plans have gotten everything they can out of Jones this season and maxed out his stock.
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New York’s tow truck offense was led by Saquon Barkley and the number of sacks he got from Jones. Keeping the score low and playing low-risk football won New York nine games in a best-case scenario campaign. But Jones has yet to show the ability to win an offensive duel.
So how did they get this far?
After Jones completed 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards in the Giants’ playoff start that upset the Vikings, Daboll avoided hyperbole and reiterated that Jones “played good, winning football.”
Jones defined “game manager” in 2022, and this season he eclipsed 300 yards in New York’s Super Wild Card weekend win over the Vikings, Week 16 against Minnesota, and in Week 11 against Detroit. His season high, aside from those outliers against the league’s worst pass defenses, was 228 yards in a loss to Dallas. Otherwise, Danny Dimes led an empty tank wherever Barkley and the defense pushed him.
The pendulum could only continue its swing for so long before it swung back the other way. The violent reversal of gravity from Minnesota’s 27th-ranked passing defense to Philadelphia was a reminder that regression to the mean is always around the corner.
A forward can only rely on wildcats, screens by one of the best running backs in football and designed eight-yard running backs for so long before he is finally discovered. As exciting as the 2022 season will be for the Giants faithful, the New York metropolitan area’s lowered expectations for 2022 will eventually return to sea level. Jones threw for 15 touchdowns in 17 games and passed for a career-high 3,200 yards. Eventually, that goodwill will disappear during a career year that can best be described as mediocre in a vacuum.
How long can the New York metropolitan area watch Jones drag tacklers on donuts before they’re the envy of luxury quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, and even Jalen Hurts humming his Maserati engines down their playoff tracks overflows?
In Jones’ defense, the receivers room was an outbuilding behind the team’s staff without talent. Darius Slayton and Richie James were arguably the strangest receiving duo in the postseason since Donovan McNabb cruised through the NFC playoffs with Todd Pinston, James Thrash and Freddie Mitchell. The Giants’ lack of talent at least leaves room for Jones to improve.
Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts has blossomed this season following the acquisition of AJ Brown, and he has targeted Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert 21 times. Jones’ top receiver on Sunday was James, a former late-round pick whose pre-2022 career highlight was his 394-yard performance as a San Francisco 49er last season.
The only thing standing between Jones and the backup quarterback outside of New York is fear of the unknown. Questions about whether Jones is New York’s long-term answer at the point guard position ended Saturday. There’s a good chance he can move back under center and try to prove this season wasn’t a fluke, but that’s a long-term road to nowhere.