If Tom Brady at age 44 can play one series in the Buccaneers’ preseason opener, why the hell can’t Daniel Jones?
If the wondrous Patrick Mahomes can play four snaps in the Chiefs’ first preseason game, what was Daniel Jones doing watching from the sideline when the Giants took the field for their first summer action?
These are questions that bubble up to the surface as the dog days of the NFL summer are on the wane and everyone is anxious for the real thing. This is year No. 3 up ahead for Jones and he cannot ease into anything. The Giants the past three years were lousy out of the chute, going 0-2 (on the way to 1-7), 0-2 (on the way to 2-10) and 0-2 (on the way to 0-5). Much more is expected this season and Jones cannot use as an explanation that a sluggish start for him and his offense is the result of so little work in the preseason.
Brady has already gone out there, briefly. The same with Mahomes. Whither Jones?
Right where he belonged, as it turned out.
“This to me has nothing to do with comparisons to other players in the league or their individual status,’’ head coach Joe Judge said.
This has nothing — repeat, nothing — to do with Judge thinking Jones has already proven all he needs to prove. Or that Jones is so established that he does not need to waste time toiling in one of these tedious summer affairs.
Agree or disagree, but Judge did not play Jones in the first preseason game because the emphasis was on getting Mike Glennon, the backup quarterback, some time with the key offensive linemen — which is why the starting linemen went 18 snaps. Why prioritize Glennon over Jones? Glennon is a newcomer and this is the way Judge wanted to go.
Sunday in Cleveland? Judge admitted he could go either way on using Jones for a quarter, but he was thrilled with the work Jones got in two joint practices with the Browns.
Anyone who witnessed all the meaningful snaps Jones took for two days working against the Browns’ defense would understand. There was an opportunity to choreograph the action to fit specific needs. As a result, Jones was exposed to every situation he could see in a game: third down, red zone, two-minute. It was, unlike most preseason games, all in there.
Plenty of veteran, star quarterbacks have yet to take a snap in the preseason, but Jones cannot be compared at all with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan or even Ryan Tannehill, Matt Stafford or Derek Carr. Younger quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert have also not played thus far in the preseason. Jones is less advanced than any of these players but that does not mean a certain number of snaps in these desultory preseason affairs are mandatory for preparedness.
The more Jones plays in the preseason, the more opportunity there is for him to get hurt. Did you see the vicious and illegal hit a young Bills linebacker named Andre Smith made on Justin Fields, the Bears rookie quarterback? It knocked Fields’ helmet and headband off. Fields came out of the hit fine, but might not have.
Jones was safer on the sideline.
“I would say injury risk has nothing to do with him not playing at this point,’’ Judge said.
This is true but not entirely accurate. Risk/reward is always a consideration.
Plus, there is this: Playing the starting quarterback is not a one-off decision. Jones would never, ever step up to the line of scrimmage operating behind second-teamers. So, if Jones starts, so too do all his healthy starting offensive linemen.
Plus, there’s this: You do not put Jones on the field without weapons. You wonder why Darius Slayton was used in the preseason-opening game with the Jets? Not to get him extra work but because the coaching staff wanted to give Glennon a fighting chance with a reliable target to throw to. If Jones played against the Browns, it would have necessitated also using a few of his legitimate threats. Why have Jones toss the ball to guys who are not going to be on the team in a few weeks? Would anyone associated with the Giants sleep a wink if Sterling Shepard or Evan Engram got busted up in an exhibition game the third week of August?
You have to read the room. Jones is largely unflappable off the field, does not get caught up in play or not-play machinations. He appreciated the joint practices in Cleveland and will no doubt get plenty out of the two joint practices this week with the Patriots, in Foxborough, Mass.
“I’m not getting hit, but the speed of the pass rush and everything’s turned up a little bit when you’re going against another team,’’ Jones said. “I think it definitely does simulate aspects of a preseason game.’’
Judge said Jones and the other starters will play at least the first half — and maybe a bit more into the second half — Sunday against the Patriots in the preseason finale. That one live tuneup is all he gets. It will be enough.
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