By Isabella Troia
From the moment he was drafted in the first round of the 2019 National Football League Draft, Daniel Jones has been faced with never ending comparisons to his teammate Eli Manning, the veteran quarterback he was supposed to be backing up this season.
Whether it was past coaches, grip of the ball, speed, or even physical resemblance, the comparisons were endless. Now, four weeks into the 2019 season, Jones is stepping out of the shadows and proving to be an impressive player on every level.
Aside from drafting the recent Duke grad, I thought the offseason moves made by the New York Giants were less than stellar. With the farewell of Odell Beckham Jr. came the additions of Jabrill Peppers at safety and wide receiver Golden Tate. I was not feeling very optimistic about the impending season.
Then, by the end of week two the Giants were sat at the bottom of the NFC East having been defeated by the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills. Coach Pat Shurmur made the highly criticized decision to bench his two time Super Bowl champion quarterback, Manning, and replace him with the rookie Jones.
Sports analysts called this adjustment an overreaction, Coach Shurmur was jumping the gun, or Jones wasn’t developed enough to take on the job of starter.
“Jones doesn’t have any special arm talent,” stated NFL analyst Lance Zierlein in his scouting report. “He appears to be more of a game manager than ‘franchise’ talent. He’s more of a Day 2 draft pick than Day 1.”
As a college football fan I was familiar with Jones and his success at Duke, and strongly disagreed with the criticism. In three seasons, Jones started all 36 games for the Blue Devils, and showed that he had outstanding accuracy on deep throws and an impeccable football IQ.
The change in roster came at the perfect time for me, since I had tickets for the Giants Week 3 face-off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was happy to go see my team play in Tampa where we had a record of 2-1, but with the announcement of Jones taking over in the line up I was ecstatic to watch Sunday’s game with Jones under center, possibly running the read option with Saquon Barkley and Evan Ingram at tight end. I knew the fans were in for quite the competition.
In his first ever NFL start Jones threw for 336 yards, two touchdowns and ran in an additional two, defeating the Bucs 32-31. He was, however, sacked five times which caused two fumbles.
“Jones’s ability to work quickly through progressions and the resolution to remain in the pocket to make a play despite impending blow,” stated Zierlein.
This was clearly shown as he was still able to hold his ground and established a presence in the pocket. It’s not everyday you get to witness a rookie QB take the reins from a two time Super Bowl MVP and lead the team to their largest come from behind win in 49 years.
The week after his first start Jones was still met with much criticism, because most people didn’t think a one point win over a mediocre team, like Tampa, meant anything. The next week the Bucs put up 56 points and demolished the LA Rams.
For me this is when Jones’s character truly shined because he didn’t give into the hype or clout that became associated with him. He simply continued to operate the same, showing up, making plays, doing his job.
He performed once again in the Giants home opener against the Washington Redskins, with a 24-3 win. He faced fellow rookie quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, but it was Jones who controlled the ball that Sunday.
The newly nicknamed, “Danny Dimes,” finished 23-of-31 for 225 yards and one touchdown pass. He did, however, throw two consecutive interceptions, but was able to bounce back and advance the ball field goal position just before the second half. The change in leadership is in the right direction for the Giants in a time of rebuilding.
The defense, this season, under Manning was unproductive and could not produce a single turnover. Under Jones they have produced 5. Frankly, the entire team has been lifted by the presence of Danny Dimes in the huddle, and that goes beyond the statistics.
The team knows that they have a guy now on the offensive side of the ball that can make plays and wins games, so in turn they feel the need to elevate their own personal game.
As a long time fan of the Big Blue, Manning is a player I have always praised. As a four time pro bowler and seventh overall in passing yards (56,537) he’s led the franchise to two Super Bowl victories and won MVP in both occurrences.
However, in the past few years I have not seen the same Manning that brought down the undefeated Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. With his tough attitude, willingness to compete, and humble mentality, I believe Jones is a sense of hope to the Giants organization and one of the NFL’s newest and greatest additions.
Isabella Troia can be reached at Isabella.firstname.lastname@example.org