Daniel Jones Is Real, and On Sunday, He Was Spectacular

The first main choice the New York Giants made on their roster this offseason was to not put money into quarterback Daniel Jones. Back in April, the Giants had the prospect to lock in Jones for the 2023 season for simply $22 million. But the Giants new mind belief of common supervisor Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll determined they did not need to hitch their wagon to Jones simply but. They declined Jones’ fifth-year choice on his rookie contract. Refusing to increase a quarterback’s first contract is sort of at all times step one to parting methods with a group’s highly-drafted sign caller. But the Giants insisted they weren’t giving up on him.

“We’ve accomplished the whole lot doable to screw this child up since he is been right here,” Giants proprietor John Mara mentioned about Jones final January when he launched Schoen because the GM. “We hold altering coaches, hold altering offensive coordinators, hold altering offensive line coaches. I take a number of duty for that. But let’s usher in the fitting group of coaches now and give him some continuity and attempt to rebuild the offensive line and then be capable to make an clever analysis of whether or not he will be the franchise quarterback or not.”

That analysis is full. Jones delivered his biggest sport on the most important stage of his profession on Sunday, main the Giants to a 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings to advance to the divisional spherical of the NFC playoffs. Jones accomplished 24 of his 35 passes for 301 yards (8.6 yards per throw) with two touchdowns and no turnovers. He additionally ran the ball 17 instances for 78 yards and a landing, selecting up a whopping seven first downs on the bottom (Jones nearly doubled Saquon Barkley’s carries). Jones is the primary quarterback in NFL historical past with 300 or extra passing yards, two or extra passing touchdowns, and 70 or extra dashing yards in a playoff sport, in accordance with NFL Research.

Most importantly, Jones had primarily zero errors (his 11 incompletions had been largely drops or sensible throwaways). The sport was New York’s first playoff victory since profitable the Super Bowl after the 2011 season, greater than a decade in the past—which was applicable since they had been carrying the identical away uniforms they wore in that playoff run. This is the place I ought to in all probability disclose that I grew up rooting for the Giants, and I promise you that is essentially the most enjoyable Giants group there was since that Super Bowl squad. And even when the Giants do not make it again to the Super Bowl, Jones had earned himself some huge cash coming into contract negotiations this offseason, and much more respect within the tri-state space.

The Giants moved the ball on Sunday in addition to they’ve all season. New York had 26 first downs on 68 performs for 431 yards (6.3 yards per play) and went 9-of-15 on third and fourth down mixed. The Giants had 4 landing drives, all of which had been not less than 75 yards. New York’s opening drive was capped by a Barkley run the place he weaved in and out of Vikings defenders like a Ferrari passing Subarus on the freeway.

Barkley, who like Jones is within the ultimate yr of his rookie contract, proved he’s again to his pre-ACL tear type this season with otherworldly explosiveness and feeling. For the primary time since his rookie yr, Saquon managed 1,300 dashing yards and double-digit dashing touchdowns. But similar to Jones has had a night-and-day change going from 2021 offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to Daboll and new play caller Mike Kafka, Saquon has develop into a greater downhill runner. While Barkley had simply 9 carries in opposition to Minnesota, he additionally caught 5 passes and accounted for 109 complete yards and two touchdowns. On New York’s second drive, they wanted simply 4 performs to go 81 yards, with receiver Isaiah Hodgins catching a 14-yard landing over the center.

Hodgins scored this landing by beating veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, a former no. 5 draft choose and three-time first-team All-Pro participant. While Peterson’s greatest days are lengthy behind him, Hodgins beating such a adorned participant to present the Giants the lead embodies the Giants season.

Hodgins was a sixth-round choose within the 2020 draft, who had simply 4 offensive snaps in his NFL profession coming into this season. The Giants scooped him up after he was reduce from Buffalo’s follow squad in November, presumably as a result of Schoen knew him from Buffalo. The Giants misplaced receivers Sterling Shepard, Collin Johnson, and Wan’Dale Robinson to season-ending accidents, traded Kadarius Toney, and benched Kenny Golladay, permitting Hodgins to complete third on the Giants in receiving yards this yr (351). On Sunday, he had eight catches for 105 yards and a landing—plus 4 essential first downs. Hodgins seemingly does all of the little issues nicely. In the second quarter, the Giants confronted a third-and-7 and tossed the ball to Hodgins 6 yards downfield. Hodgins, figuring out the state of affairs, made positive to fall backward to make sure he acquired the primary down.

It’s not an attractive play, nevertheless it’s a savvy one by a participant who embodies the ethos Daboll promised to carry to the Giants: being sensible, powerful, and reliable. This group is constructed on so many extremely unsexy gamers—punt returner turned beginning broad receiver Richie James; proper guard Mark Glowinski; security Jason Pinnock, who was reduce by the Jets only one yr after he was a fifth-round choose; journeyman defensive again Fabian Moreau, who has been moonlighting because the Giants’ no. 1 cornerback for months; and former Cowboys linebacker turned Packers castoff Jaylon Smith, who has develop into a starter in New York. The Giants entered this season spending primarily a 3rd of their price range—about $60 million—on gamers who had been both damage or not enjoying for the group (or in Golladay’s case, borderline exiled from the group).

But no one has come to symbolize that ethos higher than Jones. He has curbed his ghastly turnover downside by enjoying sensible. As a rookie, Jones led the NFL with 18 fumbles. His 2.3 interceptions plus fumbles per sport had been the second-most of any quarterback in any season since 1995. Flash ahead to 2022, and Jones had simply six fumbles and threw an interception on simply 1.1 p.c of his passes, the bottom price amongst all qualifying quarterbacks. That choice making mixed with Jones’s dashing skill—and willingness to decrease his shoulder for yardage and run 4 performs in a row to the purpose of exhaustion—has made the Giants offense legitimately potent. Just the risk that Jones might run opened up extra passing lanes Sunday in opposition to Minnesota, and the Giants had been capable of do no matter they wished on offense for many of the sport.

At the start, it regarded just like the Vikings offense, with a higher-paid quarterback and much more recognizable skill-position gamers, would be capable to hold tempo. Minnesota’s opening-drive landing regarded easy. But then the Vikings started beating themselves. A bizarre lateral from Justin Jefferson to Kirk Cousins ​​that misplaced two yards on third-and-1, a penalty that negated a fourth-and-1 conversion, and finally, a Cousins ​​checkdown on fourth-and-8 on Minnesota’s ultimate offensive play that got here up in need of the sticks.

Many will level to how that embodies the literal shortcomings of each Cousins ​​and the Vikings. But in equity to Cousins, he largely performed nicely. He accomplished 31 of his 39 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns (plus dashing for a 3rd), and didn’t commit a turnover. He’ll be closely criticized for less than getting Jefferson seven catches for 47 yards, together with simply two catches for 10 yards after the primary quarter.

But the Giants keyed in on Jefferson after the primary drive, and the Vikings used this to their benefit. The Giants double-covering Jefferson opened issues up for Minnesota’s second landing, and then the Giants triple-covering Jefferson helped create the Vikings’ third landing. Another Jefferson double-coverage opened up TJ Hockenson to transform a vital fourth down. Jefferson’s field rating was weak, however his presence was a serious cause why the Vikings had been capable of transfer the ball. Blaming this sport, or this season, on Cousins ​​not getting the ball to Jefferson isn’t honest.

We’ve identified the reality about this Vikings group for months. They had been fairly actually the luckiest group in NFL historical past—not less than by way of how they performed versus their file. Minnesota went 13-4 regardless of being outscored by their opponents this yr. They had been the primary group in NFL historical past to go 11-0 in one-score video games. #Nerdmath suggests the Vikings had been about an eight- or nine-win group that fell ass backward right into a 13-win season. The Vikings had been a man at a roulette desk who had put his cash on purple and received 11 instances in a row, and the on line casino was providing to comp their room to get them to remain longer.

The blame shall be laid at Cousins’s toes, however the protection is that this group’s subject, and Jones and the Giants had been prepared to take advantage of it. The Giants had 5 explosive performs over 20 yards, tied for essentially the most the Giants had in a sport all season (matching their output on Christmas Eve in opposition to … the Vikings). Minnesota allowed the second-most passing yards and most passing first downs this season, and their defensive weighted DVOA (which counts more moderen video games heavier) ranked twenty eighth within the NFL. The Vikings punched above their weight profitable the NFC North weeks prematurely, however this was by no means a championship-contending group. Ironically, these Vikings nonetheless want what they’ve at all times wanted: a 3rd broad receiver and higher cornerbacks.

Meanwhile, the Giants head to Philadelphia for the divisional spherical, the place they are going to tackle the Eagles. For all of the parallels to the 2011 Giants’ Super Bowl season, this run really has extra in widespread with 2007: that yr the Giants misplaced twice to Dallas, then beat the NFC East champ Cowboys within the divisional spherical when Dallas was coming off a bye . The Giants get the identical likelihood to try this subsequent week in Philadelphia.

But irrespective of how this season ends, Jones shall be getting paid. A four-year deal for $120 million with about $70 million assured is probably going absolutely the ground. His actual deal will possible be far greater than that. But these particulars can wait. The Giants did not put money into Jones final yr, however they will not hesitate to do it now.

After the win, Jones spoke to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Jones used the time to present his typical, milquetoast solutions: praising the protection and his offensive linemen, however saying there was extra work to do—blah blah blah. Then Jaylon Smith crashed the interview, throwing an arm round Jones and wanting instantly into the digital camera.

“That’s my quarterback!” Smith yelled, turning to look Jones instantly within the eye as an enormous smile got here throughout his face. “That’s my quarterback!”

The Giants weren’t positive about it final yr, however they’re now.

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