NFL News & Analysis

Don't count out Daniel Jones as the Giants' starting quarterback just yet

2RYYC0A New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks to the sidelines between plays against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

• A better supporting cast is here: After a disappointing 2023 in which backup quarterbacks outplayed Daniel Jones, the veteran has a new top receiver, as well as other skill-position weapons acquired in the draft.

• Offensive line upgrades weren't season-changing, but they will help: Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor should upgrade starters from last season, with Eluemunor not such a big investment that the Giants couldn’t still find room for Evan Neal if he takes a huge leap forward.

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A year ago, the New York Giants handed Daniel Jones a four-year, $160 million contract rather than take the obvious course of applying the franchise tag to a player coming off his first season under head coach Brian Daboll.

Whether it was motivated by real faith in Jones or simply getting too greedy in terms of salary cap maneuvering that offseason, the team committed to Jones in a way that seemed overconfident at the time. A year later, Jones is breathing a sigh of relief that the team didn’t select his replacement at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft and there are reports that he needs to fight off a camp battle with Drew Lock for the starting position.

There is no hiding the fact that Jones was poor in 2023, even outside of injury. The missed time only served to highlight his struggles because every new quarterback who played managed to make the offense look better than Jones did. That was one thing when an experienced veteran like Tyrod Taylor was able to do it, but it took on a whole new dimension when Tommy DeVito — an undrafted free agent nicknamed “Cutlets” — was also able to.

Jones earned a 54.4 PFF passing grade, by far the worst of the trio on the season, and his flaws as a quarterback seemed to exacerbate the weaknesses in the Giants' offensive personnel. Taylor, in particular, was able to hide the bad offensive line far better than Jones or DeVito could.

But it’s also only reasonable to point out that the situation around all of the Giants quarterbacks was terrible. New York finished 30th in PFF pass-blocking efficiency on the season, allowing 245 total pressures in 17 games.

Wan’Dale Robinson led the team in targets and catches, while Darius Slayton led them in receiving yards, with just 769. No receiver averaged more than a pedestrian 1.38 yards per route run, and running back Saquon Barkley tied for the receiving touchdown lead.

Any quarterback would have been set up to fail in that scenario, and Jones just happened to be a stylistic match that poured gas on the dumpster fire.

But the Giants weren’t completely crazy to believe in him heading into 2023. His 75.8 PFF grade the season before — the first under the new regime — was arguably the best football he has played in the NFL, and he was proving to be one of the most effective rushing quarterbacks in the league. If New York had been able to improve the support structure around him, another year in the system should have theoretically produced quality football.

This offseason, the Giants have made significant strides to fix those areas. Jones could now benefit, albeit a year later than expected.

LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers became the team’s top selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, at No. 6 overall.

Click here to see Malik Nabers' 2024 NFL Draft profile.

Many believed Nabers to be the best receiver in this draft, and even if you placed him behind Marvin Harrison Jr., it’s only because Harrison is one of the best prospects to enter the NFL in years.

Nabers recorded a 92.9 PFF grade last season, averaging an outstanding 3.64 yards per route run with just five drops and 30 broken tackles after the catch.

He is explosive, wins in all areas of the field and is good at everything you want an elite receiver to be good at. He should immediately become the team’s top wideout and completely transform the complexion of the receiving corps.

Tight end Theo Johnson and running back Tyrone Tracy could each contribute early, with Johnson serving as a good hedge against Darren Waller’s possible retirement before the season.

The Giants added skill-position weaponry in the draft, but they had already done work on the offensive line in free agency. Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor should upgrade starters from last season, with Eluemunor not such a big investment that they couldn’t still find room for Evan Neal if he takes a huge leap forward.

Eluemunor has played his best football at right tackle but can also play inside if reshuffling is required. He allowed 28 quarterback pressures last season, eight fewer than Neal despite Neal playing far fewer snaps.

Even now, it’s hard to look at the Giants' line and expect it to be a strength. Outside of Andrew Thomas at left tackle, the four other spots project to varying degrees of average at best. But average is at least firmly within the sweet spot of the range of outcomes for this collection of talent, and they will likely be helped indirectly if the receivers are notably better with the addition of Nabers.

After last season, almost everybody seems to have given up on Daniel Jones as the starter, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he will play his best football in 2024. And his best football would at least give the Giants a decision to make next offseason.


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