EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Statistically, Daniel Jones is a middling to below-average quarterback.
Except when he faces the Commanders.
The New York Giants signal-caller again proved to be a problem for Washington in Sunday’s 20-20 tie, notably hurting the Commanders’ defense with his legs. Jones rushed for 71 yards on 12 attempts, in addition to his 200 yards passing.
Figuring out how to stop Jones will likely be the Commanders’ top priority when the two teams meet again in just two weeks. The Commanders (7-5-1) have a bye week next weekend and when they return the following week, they’ll host the Giants on either Dec. 17 or 18. The NFL has not yet determined a date and time, but the decision is expected to come Tuesday.
“He’s got good running skills,” Commanders safety Kam Curl said. “We’ve got to try and contain him however we can. When he breaks the pocket, just get him down.”
The Commanders were well aware of the challenge that the 2019 first-round pick presented, but Jones still averaged 5.9 yards per carry — making him New York’s most effective rusher of the afternoon.
Entering the matchup, Jones had tallied 218 rushing yards on 30 carries in just seven meetings against the Commanders in his four-year career. Washington has routinely failed to contain the Duke product — leading to gains of 49 and 46 yards (in 2021 and 2020 respectively).
On Sunday, Washington was better at preventing complete breakdowns as Jones’ longest rush went for 21 yards. The Commanders also forced an early turnover on a Jones rush with defensive tackle Jonathan Allen stripping the ball from the quarterback. The fumble, recovered by Jamin Davis, led to Washington’s first points of the day as kicker Joey Slye made a 21-yard field goal.
But generally, the quarterback was still able to escape the pocket and keep plays alive. Numerous times, Jones converted pivotal third downs with his legs — such as when he rushed for 10 yards on third-and-7 in the second quarter and for seven yards on third-and-4 in the third.
The Giants scored touchdowns on both of those possessions, the latter of which helped New York take a 20-13 lead. If the Commanders had made the stop, New York likely kicks a field goal instead.
“We’ve got to be disciplined, got to stay where we’re supposed to be, and limit his impact,” coach Ron Rivera said. “The young man makes that kind of impact that way.”
Jones, though, also made plays with his arm — so much so that Washington benched seventh-rounder Christian Holmes and turned to veteran Danny Johnson. Jones’ best throw of the contest was a 55-yard bomb to Darius Slayton in the second quarter that led to New York’s first touchdown.
The Giants, though, hardly seemed to ask Jones to push the ball down the field. The 25-year-old had 31 passing attempts — many of which were short throws and check downs.
That strategy was effective, however. Excluding spikes, Jones (25 of 31) didn’t throw his first incompletion until there was 1:45 left in regulation. But the Commanders buckled down when they had to — forcing incompletions on his next two throws to bring on the Giants’ punter.
In overtime, Jones was back to being precise. He completed eight of 10 passes for 64 yards, though two of New York’s three drives resulted in a punt while the other ended with a missed 58-yard field goal.
Still, Jones finished with a quarterback rating of 104.3 — the 10th highest of his career. The lone bright spot for the Commanders was the defense had four sacks on the signal-caller.
“We’ve just got to look at the tape, see why he was completing all those passes and make the correction,” Curl said.