EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Daniel Jones has 10 starts under his belt, with the 11th expected to come Sunday on the road against Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Redskins (1 p.m. ET, Fox). It’s not enough to know for sure if the New York Giants nailed the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, but history suggests it should be a fairly accurate indicator.
Jones has flashed enough promise on the field that people inside the walls at 1925 Giants Drive are raving about his presence. They’re convinced they made the right decision for their organization by selecting him over Haskins.
“I think he made tremendous progress,” coach Pat Shurmur said of Jones after the rookie sprained his ankle during his most recent start, Dec. 1 against the Green Bay Packers. “He has a very, very bright future. I think that’s something we’ll talk about when the season is over. There are certainly things and areas that he needs to improve. But he displayed an ability to stand in there tough, make good throws. He got us in the end zone.”
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Jones has thrown 18 touchdown passes in his first 10 starts. Only three quarterbacks selected in the first round of the past four NFL drafts have tossed more: Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield. It’s better than Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, New York Jets’ Sam Darnold and even Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.
Jones’ QBR during that stretch is a respectable 51.4. Only Mahomes, Watson and Arizona’s Kyler Murray performed better in their first 10 starts. Murray was the No. 1 pick by the Arizona Cardinals this year.
“You could see all the traits,” Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan said of Jones. “He’s going to be a good quarterback in this league.”
Haskins has a QBR of 20.9 in his first six starts. Jones also has a significantly higher completion percentage (61.6% to 56.9%) to start his career.
“I wasn’t like, ‘Man, this guy is going to be a great player when he comes out,’ so I think the biggest thing that I’ve been impressed with is [Jones’] ability to overcome the stakes. … That is a really big thing,” former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said. “I don’t think that can be overstated. He made some rookie mistakes as any rookie would, but he doesn’t let it affect his game.”
This is what the Giants might admire most about Jones. His calm, low-key demeanor makes him the ideal replacement for Eli Manning in the pressure-cooker market of New York.
Daniel Jones has passed for 2,374 yards with 18 TD passes and 11 interceptions this season. AP Photo/Adam Hunger
Jones threw interceptions on back-to-back possessions in the first meeting against Haskins and the Redskins. He bounced back by throwing two incompletions in the second half of a 24-3 victory.
It’s rare poise for a rookie, but not surprising considering he celebrated a spectacular comeback and game-winning touchdown run in his first career start by doing his own laundry the following day. The positives with Jones seem to outweigh the negatives.
“I feel great about his progress to this point,” Shurmur said. “I think he just needs to continue to progress. That’s all.”
Orlovsky said Jones at this point is better against man coverage than zone. The numbers support that. He’s 11th in the NFL with a QBR of 71.6 against man coverage; he’s 29th with a QBR of 28.5 with one touchdown and eight interceptions against zone.
It’s easier for a young quarterback to pick his target pre-snap and make plays against man coverage. Against zone, it is more difficult to see and decipher the coverage. Jones has made mistakes trying to fire passes into tight windows.
“There is a lot of learning in that. Those are invaluable reps for him,” Orlovsky said.
The mistakes perhaps provide the biggest reason for pause when it comes to Jones’ future. His 21 turnovers in his first 10 starts is tops among quarterbacks drafted since 2016. His 10 fumbles lost is a staggering number that needs to be fixed.
It’s still not enough to temper all the enthusiasm.
“I don’t ever get caught up in turnovers for young quarterbacks,” Orlovsky said. “He’s playing against NFL defenses for the first time. They are going to happen. So the turnovers are a byproduct of learning — NFL offense, NFL defenses, NFL people, NFL speed, NFL windows.
“It’s important for young players to figure out what they are capable of and aren’t capable of. That is an ever-growing thing that doesn’t take training camp to figure out. It takes a long time to figure out. Can I make these throws? Can I fit it into these windows? Do defenders really pay attention to my eyes in these situations? What do defenders do? Linebackers? Safeties? A lot of that is trying to figure out stuff and win football games.”
The Giants (3-11) say what they want to see from Jones is that he can win games. He’s lost his past eight starts.
Haskins is 2-4 as the starter for the Redskins (3-11), and is getting better since his NFL debut against the Giants in Week 4.
“I see a guy that’s improving. He was an outstanding college player, obviously. We did a lot of work on him,” Shurmur said of Haskins, who went 15th overall in April’s draft. “As he plays more and more, he has displayed the ability to get the ball out quickly. They’re embracing some quick concepts so that he can deliver the ball.”
For the time being, both teams can be optimistic about their young quarterbacks. But Sunday could go a long way in determining how the narrative evolves into the offseason. The Giants can get one final confirmation that they made the right choice if they win and Jones outplays Haskins. It will be a lot harder to swallow if they lose and Haskins looks to be the better quarterback. It could further cloud whether the organization is truly headed in the right direction.
Considering the records, there is a lot at stake (particularly draft positioning) on Sunday afternoon in Maryland.