Daniel Jones wasn’t awful, but nowhere near perfect in the New York Giants’ opening-season loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A unique night in East Rutherford, to say the least. To begin a new era of New York Giants football, the organization that’s won 12 games in three years entered the 2020 campaign with a matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A fanless matchup at that, given the circumstances surrounding the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
It was also a night to see whether Giants quarterback Daniel Jones would improve from his promising but turnover-filled rookie campaign. A night that included some flashes of potential from Jones, but one that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the 2019 first-round pick.
“I played good at times and bad at times,” Jones said after the game, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “We have to do a better job of being consistent and avoiding the big mistakes, and I’ll certainly work to correct those things.”
Many of the upward-trending flashes occurred in the first half, headlined by a 41-yard pitch-and-catch from Jones to second-year wideout Darius Slayton. It was the first touchdown connection between the two this season after notching five in 2019, with Jones setting his feet, stepping up in a clean pocket, and delivering a perfect ball that Slayton reeled in to give the Giants a 10-3 lead.
Towards the end of the game, with the team down 26-10, Jones hit Slayton again on a slant route in the end zone, further proving how the Auburn product will be Daniel’s favorite target in 2020. A failed two-point conversion and onside kick attempt afterward then killed any chance at a crazy Giants comeback, with the final score ending up at 26-16 in favor of the visiting Steelers.
Jones additionally showed off what he can do with his legs, specifically on a third-down play in the third quarter when he escaped the rush en route to running out of bounds past the marker. It’s a strength Eli Manning never portrayed during his long tenure with the organization and one that gives this team and fanbase further hope that their quarterback could utilize multiple weapons in his arsenal.
But, as was mentioned before, not everything was perfect in the team’s first defeat of the new season. In the second quarter, right after the touchdown toss to Slayton, Jones zipped a ball to the right that was picked off by T.J. Watt in what was an extremely athletic play by the Steelers edge rusher.
There was additionally the second interception off Jones of the night, occurring in the third quarter after the Giants executed a long, 19-play drive that ended up in zero points to show for it. While attempting to throw the ball away near the goal line, Jones’ arm was met with the body of edge rusher Bud Dupree. The ball floated in the air until landing in Cameron Heyward’s grasp in the end zone, with the Steelers taking over thereafter.
It’s not like Jones received a significant amount of assistance though. The offensive line wasn’t great, allowing three sacks and not opening up many holes for running back Saquon Barkley, who conjured up just six yards on 15 carries.
Evan Engram wasn’t effective whatsoever, showing off his weakness (run blocking) under the bright lights of MetLife Stadium while having issues in the passing game, which included a drop along with an offensive pass interference call.
The defense wasn’t completely sensational either, something that was a disadvantage for a young quarterback working towards a victory. Yeah, it looked to be an improved group from last year, a campaign in which the unit ranked 25th in total defense and 28th in pass defense. Nonetheless, the numbers tell much of the story — the Giants allowed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to toss a trio of scores while succumbing to 113 rushing yards from Benny Snell.
But back to the original point: Jones wasn’t awful, but nowhere near perfect on his way to conjuring up 279 yards through the air and 22 on the ground. Mistakes were still made and the turnovers were still an issue, even if fumbling wasn’t the main problem.
Patience must be possessed though. Most quarterbacks won’t have it all figured out in year No. 2, let alone start No. 13. Jones will be fine, but the mistakes must be limited and his supporting cast must come together. It’s the ultimate team sport, but neither that team in blue nor its young quarterback flourished to the fullest extent on Monday night.
Next up: Chicago.