Daniel Jones, at least statistically speaking, is a below-average quarterback. In his third NFL season, the New York Giants quarterback’s flaws are evident. His accuracy is inconsistent. He makes head-scratching decisions. More than anything else, he turns the ball over at an alarming rate — so much so that he’s lost a fumble or thrown an interception in 23 of 28 games.
That all seems to change, however, when he faces Washington.
Of Jones’ five outings without a turnover, two of them have come against the Burgundy and Gold. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jones is 4-0 when facing Washington — recording a 100 passer rating with eight touchdowns to three interceptions. Jones has only produced a higher passer rating against the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions.
Considering that the 24-year-old is only 8-19 overall as a starter, those numbers against Washington are puzzling.
“He’s dynamic,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said this week.
As Washington gets ready to host the Giants on “Thursday Night Football,” the team will look to change its luck against Jones. That starts, Rivera says, with keeping Jones in the pocket as the 2019 first-rounder has a history of carving up the team with his legs. Defensive end Chase Young also said coaches have emphasized the need to create turnovers when facing Jones.
Thursday’s game figures to be vital for each team — with both looking to avoid an 0-2 start. Rivera stopped short of calling the matchup a “must-win,” but he stressed the importance of a victory, given that the Giants are not only a divisional foe but that Washington won’t face another NFC East opponent until December.
So far, Washington hasn’t been able to solve Jones.
“Obviously, he struggled holding the ball in the past, and that’s a big emphasis,” Young said. “Going in on Thursday, that’s definitely something that’s on our radar.”
Washington did fare better against the 2019 first-rounder last year. In an October matchup, Jones threw for just 112 yards and Washington picked off one of his passes. A month later, Washington sacked Jones five times and limited him to 212 passing yards.
Still, both games resulted in narrow victories for the Giants — a 20-19 win at MetLife Stadium and a 23-20 win at FedEx Field.
And in each loss, Washington committed far too many mistakes. In the October defeat, Jones ripped off a 49-yard run and finished with 74 yards on seven rushing attempts. Then in the second meeting, Jones completed 67% of his passes, helping manage the game for the Giants. His combined quarterback rating of 87.3 was still the eighth-highest against Washington’s top-rated defense in 2020.
The biggest difference in Jones’ performance when he faces Washington is the lack of turnovers. Specifically, he has yet to lose a fumble against Washington — a rarity considering that Jones has fumbled 30 times through his first 28 games, losing 18 of them.
The Giants are 2-13 in games when Jones loses a fumble, including Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos.
“We just got to force (turnovers), create them,” Rivera said. “First of all, one of the things you gotta be able to just keep him in the pocket because his athleticism and ability to run. He’s dynamic. And again, a guy that can throw on the run is also a guy you got to be concerned with. We know based on some things we saw from last year, keeping them inside the pocket is important.”
This offseason, the Giants tried to add weapons to bolster Jones. New York signed Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal and drafted Florida’s Kadarius Toney in the first round. The offense should also be helped by the return of running back Saquon Barkley, coming back from a torn ACL, though his snaps were limited to just 29 (48%) Sunday.
Linebacker Jon Bostic said the key to stopping Jones is simple: Just execute. The team failed to do that in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers, with Bostic pointing to the team’s problems on third down.
“That’s what it comes down to,” Bostic said. “Everybody doing their job.”