East Rutherford, New Jersey. The same answer every time the New York Giants ask about quarterback Daniel Jones’ performance this season. This is primarily a reassuring endorsement with a noteworthy disclaimer.
“Daniel did a good job on our offensive end,” coach Brian Daball recently said, “and did what we asked him to do.”
What they asked him to do raises questions about how much trust there is between Daball, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and Jones. The Giants have the five worst pass attempts and the fifth-fewest pass attempts in the NFL this season. They rarely, if ever, trust their quarterback to play and ask him to bring home the win.
Late in the first half of last week’s 20-20 game against the Washington Commanders, they oddly called a running game instead of trusting Jones with two passes to try to get into the end zone. The Giants agreed to a short field goal after Jones was potted in a scheduled run. They then took the ball out of his hands with less than two minutes remaining in overtime, and decided to strike with fourth and third from Washington’s 45-yard line.
These aren’t calls that scream, “That’s our quarterback!”
Does anyone believe Daball would have done the same to quarterback Josh Allen when he was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills? Or that Kafka, with Patrick Mahomes as quarterback, would have liked to do the same with the Kansas City Chiefs when he was quarterback coach? Hardly.
Of course, Jones is not Allen or Mahomes. But in Daball’s first year as head coach and Jones’ year under contract, those decisions are being put under the microscope.
New York’s new regime loves that Jones did what he was asked to do – take care of the football, make the right decisions and use his legs to play. Jones has just four interceptions (fewer than only Tom Brady and this week’s opponent Jalen Hurts) and has already set a career high with 522 yards.
As a result, the Giants (7-4-1) are still in the lead and in first place in the playoffs since 2016.
Everyone is trying to determine if the Giants’ reluctance to open a passing game is due to Jones or the people around him. Their offensive line is struggling to keep up with pass defense (23rd in pass blocking wins), and they don’t have enough weapons to catch the pass. New York’s wide receivers and tight ends are the fifth-lowest receiving yards in the NFL, with only 2,034 yards combined. They also rank last in percentage of field passes thrown 20+ yards downfield at 5.7%, with Darius Slayton being their only real deep threat.
“I trust the attack and I trust the supporting cast,” Daball insisted on Monday.
Daball did not specifically state full confidence in his quarterback, which added to doubts about whether he trusted Jones. But that’s at least something to keep an eye on as the decision on Jones’ future draws closer.
The Giants did not come to Jones during the farewell week to discuss a new deal. However, they had negotiations with Sakwon Barkley, who was running back.
Jones still believes the coaching staff has full confidence in him and the offense, which hasn’t scored more than 27 points in a game this season.
“Yes, I know,” he said. “I think at some point this year we relied on it and will continue to work on improving it.”
This offensive approach by the Giants contrasts sharply with what Daball did in Buffalo. He had one of the highest scoring offenses in the league in years. The Bills finished fifth in passing last year. They also allowed significantly less pressure (28.8% compared to 37.2%) and had a better receiving body.
Personnel is definitely a factor. Buffalo didn’t become an assisting team under Duball until Allen developed into one of the league’s top quarterbacks and they added Stephon Diggs as the No. 1 wide receiver ahead of the 2020 season. The notes were the 24th most transfer attempted in 2019 before being traded for Diggs.
The more run-oriented approach in New York may have more to do with the fact that the Giants’ best offensive player is Barkley than anything else. This gives them the best chance of winning as Jones throws to Slayton, Richie James or Isaiah Hodgins for an often unreliable offensive line.
“While every receiver wants to go out and throw 40 times, at the end of the day, you want to win the game,” Slayton said. “If you roll 40 and you win, if you win 40, you sort of have to go with the flow of the game.”
Jones follows the same philosophy.
“We’re always learning what the defense is doing and how we can attack it in the passing game as well as in the running game,” Jones said. many of these decisions are definitely over my head. But we also managed the ball efficiently throughout the year. I understand it. We’re doing well with that.”