When Daniel Jones was drafted 6th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, many fans were skeptical about the rookie’s potential. Jones’ college stats were not eye-popping, and his performance at the draft combine was not enough to render Jones as an elite prospect.
This past Sunday, Jones made his first career start against the Buccaneers and shocked the NFL world by pulling off an 18-point comeback for the win. Jones’ debut start will go down as one for the ages. With that being said, here are five takeaways from Daniel Jones’ first start in the NFL.
1. His Preseason Performance wasn't a Fluke
Even after playing well in the preseason, many people still had their doubts on Jones heading into his first start. However, Jones’ performance proved that his success in the preseason wasn’t a fluke.
Jones went 23/36 for 336 yards and four touchdowns including two on the ground.
It is also worth mentioning that this stellar outing came against a Bucs defense that allowed just one passing touchdown through the first two weeks of the season. Although the sample size is minimal, Jones looks like he has what it takes to be a solid starting quarterback in this league.
2. He is Surprisingly Mobile
Along with his success in the passing game, Daniel Jones proved to be a capable runner by scoring two rushing touchdowns. What makes this rather surprising is that Jones does not boast blazing speed (4.81 40-yard dash), and was not projected to be a dual-threat quarterback. In fact, he was picked due in large part to his pro readiness as a prototypical pocket passer, not because of his mobility.
Another knock on Eli Manning was his immobility, which made the New York offense rather predictable and one-dimensional. Jones, on the other hand, has shown flashes of being a legitimately mobile quarterback. If Jones can consistently be a threat with his legs, the Giants could be more versatile than they have been in quite some time.
3. Saquon Barkley is not a Necessity
Unfortunately for the Giants, franchise running back Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 and will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. A player of Barkley’s caliber is borderline irreplaceable, but New York may not need him.
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Although he relied on Barkley in the first half by throwing four passes his way, Jones proved he is capable of winning in Barkley’s absence.
Even without having Barkley as a safety blanket, Jones excelled by making numerous impressive throws downfield. He utilized his talented weapons of Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram frequently and developed solid chemistry with each. Life without Barkley won’t be easy for the Giants, but with Daniel Jones under center, it might not be as bad as many think.
4. Ball Security is an Issue
Like his predecessor, Jones struggles to protect the ball. While he didn’t throw any interceptions, he fumbled twice and made dangerous throws into traffic. These turnovers were some of the only blemishes on Jones’ overall performance but were certainly detrimental to the Giants’ chances of winning.
Needless to say, ball security is something that Jones must focus on in coming weeks. Similarly to any young quarterback, Jones needs to improve in this facet of his game, but it should naturally get better as he matures and over time.
5. He Stepped up when it Mattered Most
At halftime, the Giants were down 28-10 and showed no signs of making a comeback. New York would be without Saquon Barkley for the remainder of the game, and the Tampa Bay offense looked unstoppable.
Jones’ play in the first half was lackluster but that changed after the break. Jones went on to lead the Giants to a miraculous comeback, as he scored four touchdowns in the second half, including a game-winning scramble with a minute left on the clock.
Late game heroics are unteachable in the NFL with only a select few quarterbacks able to consistently pull them off.
Jones will need to do more than completing an 18-point comeback against the Buccaneers to earn himself the title of ‘clutch,' but his Week 3 performance laid the foundation for continued success.
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*preview image credited to CBS Sports
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