EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — School was in session Sunday afternoon for Daniel Jones.
“Not good enough,” Jones said of his typically harsh assessment of himself and the Giants’ offense.
This was to be expected from Jones on occasion this season. He will hit bumps in the road. He’s seeing things he has never seen before each week. He’s facing players better than he has ever faced.
On Sunday, it was a Vikings defense filled with immense talent. Six of Minnesota’s 11 defensive starters have been to a Pro Bowl.
There was a play in the second quarter when Jones tried to hit fellow rookie Darius Slayton deep down the left sideline. Vikings safety Harrison Smith was maybe a step outside the near hash mark when the ball left Jones’ hand. It’s doubtful whether at Duke or even in his limited playing time this season that Jones has played against a safety who could cover the ground that Smith did on that play when he almost intercepted the pass.
Smith is one of the NFL’s best safeties. He has been to Pro Bowls and has been an All-Pro. Chalk this up as a lesson learned for Jones. He can’t be firing that throw freely against a player of Smith’s caliber.
“He’s a good player. Obviously has played in that system for a long time and knows what they are trying to do,” Jones said. “There was a couple instances where I could have done a better job controlling him with my eyes maybe, or seeing it a little bit better. You have to give a lot of credit to their defense. Like I said, we had opportunities but they deserve credit.”
Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, had his chances against the Vikings. He missed a wide-open Sterling Shepard streaking down the field in the first quarter. Sure, there was pressure in his face, but it was a throw Jones admittedly needs to make. He also missed an open Shepard in the back of the end zone in the second half with a throw that sailed and forced the catch to be made out of bounds.
“Two big missed opportunities,” Jones said. “When you play a good defense like Minnesota, you need to convert those. I will certainly look at those, but I have to be better in those situations and we have to take advantage of those.”
Jones didn’t make the plays he did in his first two starts while under duress. This was the difference. Perhaps he was flustered. Or maybe the Vikings forced everything to move too fast. Whatever the cause, it’s important Jones bounces back, beginning Thursday night with perhaps his toughest test yet against the New England Patriots and the league’s No. 1-ranked defense.
Jones hit 1 of 5 passes for 5 yards while under pressure against the Vikings. In his first two starts, he completed 69% of his passes against pressure with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a Total QBR of 88.0, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
That is why there is no substitute for the experience gained from playing in regular-season or postseason games. Guys at this level move faster and read plays better. It’s Jones’ job now to absorb this information and adjust accordingly. That will ultimately dictate how good he becomes.
Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie. Eli Manning had a game in which he threw for 27 yards and was pulled in his first season. Tom Brady barely stepped on the field as a rookie and was asked to be a game manager much of his first season as a starter.
Jones won his first two starts and looked decent in the process, but he still has plenty of room for improvement. Sunday showed just how much.
Still, there were positives to take away from the rough outing, at least in the Giants’ eyes. It reaffirmed what they already believed about their new franchise quarterback.
“He showed me Week 3 [against Tampa Bay] again, his toughness and his poise,” Coach Pat Shurmur said. “He made some good throws under duress at times. Then there were a couple he was just off on. … But there are a lot of things. There are situations where I wish I could’ve given him better plays.
“But I thought he battled, and that’s why he’s going to be a good player for us for a long time.”
Jones seems to be doing some things right despite getting sacked four times Sunday, throwing an interception (and being fortunate there weren’t a few more) and missing some key throws. Three games into his career, he seemingly has won the respect of players around the league.
“I want to give a shout-out to the rook,” said veteran Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen of Jones after the game. “He’s doing really good. He’s shown courage. He’s a good player, so I see good things happening for him in the future.”
Probably only if he learns from the lessons that Griffen and the Vikings dispensed on Sunday.