Daniel Jones is having a statistically-impressive rookie season with one notable exception. And he is determined to correct that shortcoming.
The Giants’ first-round draft choice has completed 63% of his passes for just under 2,000 yards and he leads all rookie quarterbacks with 15 touchdown passes. Jones is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with two games with at least 300 passing yards and four touchdown passes. The Giants will resume their season on Sunday in Chicago knowing Jones has been particularly productive in visiting stadiums. In four road starts, he is responsible for 13 touchdowns (11 passing, two rushing) and has a 101.9 passer rating (as opposed to 73.9 at home).
But no discussion of Jones’ debut season is complete without mentioning his giveaways. He has thrown eight interceptions in nine games (eight starts), which is not a terribly high number, particularly for a rookie. But he has lost nine of 13 fumbles, both NFL-high figures. In each of the Giants’ last three games – defeats to Detroit, Dallas and the Jets that extended their losing streak to six games – one of Jones’ fumbles was returned for a touchdown.
Jones is determined to reduce the number of times he loses his grip on the ball in the Giants’ final six games.
“There’s certainly a number of things that I need to work on, but yeah, that’s definitely one of them,” he said today. “And it probably is the most critical thing that I need to correct, so I’ll work on that.”
Although he is well-aware of the statistics, Jones denied he is “thinking maybe a little too much about it,” as a reporter suggested.
“I don’t think so,” Jones said. “I think it’s something that I need to be mindful of constantly. It’s not like a golf swing or something where you – it’s about being mindful of it and being aware in the pocket, protecting it and getting the ball out on time. I think all those things are important for me to stay mindful of.”
Coach Pat Shurmur, who constantly preaches ball protection, said there is “not a common theme on his fumbles.” Jones is ultimately responsible for all of them, but Shurmur said mitigating circumstances contributed to several of the fumbles.
“There were a couple of times where a guy didn’t get blocked properly and he got hit in the pocket where he’s getting ready to throw,” Shurmur said. “There was another one where he was actually in rhythm to make the throw and he got tomahawked from behind. That goes down as a sack fumble. As I look through them, there are a handful of times in there when there are other things happening around him that need to be better. A couple games ago, he’s scrambling, gets the first down and then fumbles at the end of the run. He can’t do that.
“To answer your question, there isn’t a common denominator. It’s not something that can’t be corrected. But much like when you get turnovers on defense, the same thing can be said when you give up the ball on offense. It’s certainly the ultimate responsibility of whoever’s touching the ball to make sure he does the right thing with it. But everyone around him has to do the right things as well.”
One of the basic corrections Jones can make is ensuring he keeps two hands on the ball whenever possible.
“I think that’s part of it, and just getting the ball out on time and not holding it,” Jones said. “I think it is pretty fundamental in that holding the ball with two hands is going to be more secure than not. So, making sure I’m doing that and getting the ball out on time.”
Shurmur isn’t the only one working with Jones on the fumbling issue. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula counsels him daily. Eli Manning, who holds the Giants’ career record with 123 career fumbles, and the team’s other veteran quarterback, Alex Tanney, have also helped.
“We’ve talked about it and those guys say the same thing,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a complex problem to fix. I think it is as simple as keeping two hands on the ball and getting it out on time. So, I’ve talked to all those guys, Coach Shula, Coach Shurmur. I think I definitely need to work on that.”
*The only Giants players who did not participate in today’s practice were the team’s top two tight ends. Evan Engram has a foot injury and Rhett Ellison is in the concussion protocol. The healthy tight ends are rookie Kaden Smith and Scott Simonson, who was re-signed just prior to the bye and hasn’t played in a game this season. In 2018, Simonson played in all 16 games with four starts and caught nine passes for 86 yards.
“Scott’s a very steady performer,” Shurmur said. “He did a lot of good things for us a year ago. With our injuries at the tight end position with Rhett and Evan, obviously, he was a guy that was on our short list. He was healthy, he came back in, looked good running around. Most likely, he’s going to get an opportunity to play this week.”
*Left tackle Nate Solder is in the protocol and did not participate in contact drills. Center Jon Halapio (hamstring) and right tackle Mike Remmers (back), both of whom did not play vs. the Jets on Nov. 10, practiced fully. So did wide receiver Sterling Shepard and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who are also recovering from concussions. They have not yet been cleared to play in Sunday’s game.
“You’re in the protocol until you’re not,” Shurmur said. “A lot of the times, what happens is they get cleared at the end of the week, with the anticipation that they will be cleared. I hope that’s clear.”