Daniel Jones must learn to play it safer after third straight season with injury

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Daniel Jones on cart vs Cowboys
Daniel Jones on cart vs Cowboys

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants were spoiled with Eli Manning and they know it. It was more than just the Super Bowls and all the passing records, too. It was how he showed up and played every single game, including 210 straight, and never missed a single one due to injury.

It’s a different world now for the franchise, because they’re just not going to get that kind of durability from Daniel Jones.

That’s not surprising, since Manning’s Iron Man streak was hardly the NFL norm, but it’s still something the Giants have to be wary of as they move forward with Manning’s heir. The 6-5, 230-pound Jones is starting to show flashes that he might just be good enough to lead the Giants into their next era, whatever that era turns out to be.

But he’s just no good to them if he can’t stay on the field.

Now, so far in his short NFL career he’s only missed four of a possible 35 starts – two with a sprained ankle as a rookie and two more with an ankle and a hamstring injury last season. Of course, there’s a chance he’ll add to that total by missing the game against the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday with the concussion he suffered last Sunday in Dallas against the Cowboys.

Whether he does or not, though, the Giants’ dilemma is still the same. Jones is proving to be more of an injury risk than Manning ever was. For 16 years, they never had to ponder the possibility that their starting quarterback would get hurt. Manning was just always there.

So what do they do now that Jones, too often, isn’t? They could certainly just grin and bear it, but it has to at least give them some pause as they head into next offseason when Jones is eligible for a massive contract extension and the Giants are sitting on two first-round picks that would surely help if they choose to move on and draft someone else.

They could also pull back the reins on him and curtail his ability to run, since that’s where he’s gotten hurt so far and is most likely to get hurt again in the future. But that doesn’t really make much sense either since running is such a big part of Jones’ game. He’s currently third among NFL quarterbacks with 197 rushing yards, behind only Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts. And his 6.6 yards per carry trails only Patrick Mahomes among quarterbacks who have rushed 20 or more times.

Jones’ legs are a huge part of what makes him dangerous and, significantly, helps keep the pressure off the Giants’ weak offensive line. Take that away from him and Jones becomes less effective, less valuable. And the Giants’ offense, as bad as it is, would end up being worse.

What the Giants mostly need is for Jones to learn what Manning learned so well early in his career – how to not get hurt. Granted, it was easier for Manning as a somewhat statuesque pocket passer who rarely roamed too far. But when he did run he learned quickly how to slide and not dive head-first into trouble. He also learned when to throw the ball away before the pass rush could crush him – though that became unavoidable in his later years behind a crumbling line.

Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jabril Cox (14) and defensive end Chauncey Golston (59) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium.
Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jabril Cox (14) and defensive end Chauncey Golston (59) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium.

That may be the key to Jones’ survival in this league – learning that staying healthy, staying in the game, is far more important than picking up that extra yard. The most alarming part about the play that left him with a concussion on Sunday wasn’t the play call or the terrible edge blocking from tight end Kyle Rudolph. It was that Jones didn’t realize he had no shot of getting into the end zone.

Instead of throwing the ball away or sliding, he leaned in, head-first, and put himself at risk in a quixotic attempt to pick up the yard it was clear he couldn’t possibly reach.

In some ways, that’s admirable – the player with no regard for his own safety if he can do something to help his team. But a quarterback, of all players, needs to be much more aware of the big picture. He’s too important to put himself at risk in such an unnecessary fashion. Jones would’ve helped the Giants more if he bailed on that third-down play and stayed in the game the remaining 33 minutes.

Manning always seemed to have that awareness. It’s not coincidence that the hardest hit he ever took in a game came in his very first appearance when he was blindsided by Philadelphia’s Jerome McDougle on one of the least-aware plays Manning had in his 16-year career. He rarely found himself in such a vulnerable position again.

Even Manning got hurt, though -- a separated shoulder in 2007, a foot injury in 2009 -- and no doubt a large part of his Iron Man streak was his toughness and willingness to play through injury and pain. Jones showed he had that in him too when he hobbled through the final month of last season on one leg.

But that didn’t help these Giants, either, just like it won’t help them if they have to face the Rams with Mike Glennon as their quarterback. And even if Jones returns, it won’t help that he’ll barely be able to practice this week.

If Jones really wants to help the Giants, he has to do whatever it takes to make sure he’s out on the field every Sunday, even if that means giving up on a play by sliding or running out of bounds. In many ways, that’s the most important job of an NFL quarterback – to make sure he’s always available to play.

He’s no good to the Giants if he’s standing on the sidelines. And if Jones ends up there too often, they’ll seriously have to think about finding someone else who can at least stay on the field.