If there is any case study out there that the development of an NFL quarterback isn’t necessarily linear, it’s the case of Daniel Jones: Since being chosen by the New York Giants with the No. 6-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jones has been a hero, a zero, and almost everything in-between all at once.
Entering his fourth NFL season — a contract year after the Giants declined to pick up his fifth-year option — Jones has remained one of the most polarizing quarterbacks in football, with just as many advocates who point to his highest moments as Giants quarterback as detractors who have giddily taken the I told you so route on his and the Giants’ lack of results. One of those advocates is former Giants wide receiver Golden Tate, who believes that Jones has not been allowed to show what he can do to elevate a team and an offense over the last two seasons.
Speaking on NFL Total Access, Tate took an impassioned stance on Jones, stating that he believed the Giants have held him back over the early portion of his career instead of letting him play to his strengths as a quarterback and a playmaker.
“I adore DJ, and I think he has all the tools to be successful for a long time,” Tate said. “He’s tough as nails, he can make every throw, he can run. He’s very, very smart as we know. I think they just need to let him loose, man. I feel like when I was there, we got caught up trying to tell him what decisions to make instead of letting him play ball.”
As a rookie in 2019, Jones excited many in New York, as he threw 24 touchdowns, led a heroic comeback victory in his very first start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to have three games with four passing touchdowns and no interceptions. However, turnovers quickly became his bugaboo, as he threw 12 interceptions and fumbled a total of 18 times with 11 lost — partially due to terrible offensive line play, a trend that has been a constant through the last decade of Giants football.
In 2020 and 2021, the Giants’ offensive coaching staff seemed to emphasize cutting down on Jones’ turnovers and having him protect the ball more. It worked in cutting down Jones’ turnovers — his interceptions and fumbles have gone down in each of his three seasons — but it came at the cost of his playmaking ability. Jones has thrown just 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons combined, with bad offensive line play, an unimaginative and easily-read offensive scheme, and injuries to skill players being major factors.
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With the Giants now on their fourth head coach since Tom Coughlin’s exit and in their third “rebuilding” year since 2018, many are down on the Giants’ chances of contending in 2022. Tate, however, believes the Giants are very capable of being a force with Jones as their quarterback, particularly if they can keep some of their skill talent — particularly Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney — healthy after the team was depleted by injuries in 2021.
“If you can get all these guys on the field at one time — Oh my goodness, they could be special,” Tate said. “I’m excited to see what they’ve got going this year. New scenery with the head coach and staff, but I like them. I like them, so let’s see. I think they’re gonna be competitive in that division for sure.”
With the introduction of head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, the Giants are introducing a new offense for 2022 derived from the schemes used by the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic and others, the Giants’ OTA and minicamp practices featured a far more dynamic look, with an emphasis on pre-snap motion, empty sets, and RPOs.
Jones — who has been lauded for his intelligence and work ethic — spoke positively of the opportunities to make plays that the new offense’s concepts create.
“I think it gives us the ability to put a lot of different guys in different spots that kind of cater to their skillsets and allow them to do what they’re best at,” Jones said earlier this week. “So I think it’s pretty versatile that way, and there’s tons of different concepts, there are a lot of moving parts trying to keep defense on their heels. So yeah, I think all that stuff is great.”