The New York Giants may have cost themselves capital in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they traded it in for arguably the most impressive performance of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones‘ 2019 season. Jones threw for five touchdowns during the Giants’ 41-35 overtime win over the Washington Redskins in Week 16 — the final score coming on an overtime touchdown drive he made look effortless. In the process, Jones joined Fran Tarkenton and Deshaun Watson as the only three quarterbacks in NFL history to finish with four touchdown passes or more in three individual games during their rookie seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
What makes Jones’ feat more impressive is the fact that he did it in 11 games (after missing two with a high-ankle sprain) and that he combined for 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in these three games. Jones finished Week 16 having completed 28 of 42 for 352 yards passing, a very healthy 8.4 yards per attempt, and he took just one sack and did not turn the ball over.
Along the way, Jones became the only rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for 350 passing yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions in a single game, per ESPN Stats and Information.
Jones capped off his impressive performance with a 3-yard touchdown pass to emerging rookie tight end Kaden Smith on third-and goal to cap off an 11-play, 66-yard game-winning overtime drive. Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard used one word to describe Jones’ performance before predicting good things to come.
“Savage. That dude is going to be something special,” Shepard said after the game, per ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
Jones was special in this game and he once again did it without his full complement of weapons at the skill positions after the Giants placed tight end Evan Engram on injured reserve earlier this week. Engram was the breakout skill position player for Jones during his first career start back in Week 3, but Jones didn’t need him in this game. Even with Engram out, Jones had his best grouping of skill position players (with Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Saquon Barkley all healthy and ready to roll). He completed 28 passes to six different receivers.
Jones improvised on a broken down play when he shuffled to his right, reset his feet and found Barkley streaking down the seam for a 33-yard touchdown on a rope. Jones consistently found soft spots in zone coverage, including a perfectly-placed 23-yard touchdown pass to Shepard.
Jones did what he has done best when things have gone right during his rookie season — mental processing both before and after the snap. No matter the down or distance — and Jones has pulled the Giants out of his fair share of third-and-long situations — Jones found the right solution in coverage and his ball placement was consistent.
Jones’ overall ball placement (accuracy), composure, and ability to create plays off-script have been his defining traits for the vast majority of his snaps during his rookie season. These are all traits he can build on and they are all traits that don’t often show up for rookie quarterbacks. After 11 games, Jones has 25 total touchdowns (23 passing, two rushing) and 11 interceptions. The fumbles are certainly a concern, but roughly half of those fumbles can be attributed to left tackle Nate Solder breaking down in pass protection.
The Giants franchise still has plenty of roster holes to fill, but a comparison of Jones’ rookie numbers to the entire collection of rookie quarterbacks in the last decade should lead to optimism for even the most pessimistic fan of the team. If Jones can turn in another five-touchdown passing performance in the Giants’ Week 17 regular-season finale, he will break Baker Mayfield’s all-time rookie passing touchdowns record in two fewer games started.