EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge today answered a question about the performance yesterday of the Giants' offensive line with a strong defense of quarterback Daniel Jones.
It was the second time in less than a week the team's head coach staunchly supported Jones. Last Wednesday, Judge forcefully said the second-year pro will remain under center for the Giants in 2021.
"Daniel Jones is our quarterback," the first-year coach said then.
Today, Judge opened a window onto why he believes so ardently in Jones.
The question about the O-line focused on how it fared against a Ravens defense that frequently blitzed, sacked Jones six times – including on three consecutive fourth-quarter plays – and was credited with 11 quarterback hits.
"In terms of the offensive line, look, there were a lot of positives," Judge said. "Obviously, it wasn't perfect. We have to clean up a lot of things, and there's going to be a lot of things that we'll tie over and apply to the Dallas game this week. We saw a lot of moving schemes yesterday. We're going to see movement against Dallas. There were some blitz packages yesterday, we're going to see probably some copycat and similar things against Dallas. The tape is relevant in terms of what Dallas might copycat and what we have to prepare for."
Moments later, Judge brought into the discussion Jones, who he has repeatedly said has shown progress this season.
"We have to make sure we avoid the hits on the quarterback," the coach said. "But there are times you're protecting with just five and they're bringing six or seven, and Daniel did a very good job yesterday of really controlling it and operating it, and getting the ball out. You look at yesterday, there are a lot of situations where Daniel knew there were going to be free runners. You just know it by scheme. That's part of how you design getting the ball out. We had some hot reads, some sight adjustments, and just some plays schemed for a quick gain.
"I really like the way Daniel handled it yesterday. You kind of talk about what level of improvement have we seen throughout the year. I think there are a lot of things that show up on the tape yesterday with number eight. You watch him from the start of the year to through yesterday, and how he handled a lot of the situations with the pressure, the ball security and the decision-making. He did a lot of things that demonstrate a lot of growth. There are a lot of things you guys ask me all the time. What are you really looking at with this team as you go forward? Well, I'll start with a key piece right there with Daniel. You always want to know about is Daniel our guy? Are we going forward with Daniel? The answer is absolutely. What gives us that confidence is even in games like yesterday where it didn't come out perfectly, you can turn the tape on and you can say, 'Hey listen, in games one through whatever, that wasn't the guy we were looking at.' You watch the tape yesterday and you see that guy in there operating, executing, understanding the pressure and not just standing in there with courage like he's done all along and taken a hit, but understanding how to take the hit and deliver an accurate pass and move the sticks down the field.
"These are things that as he grows in this league and develops in his craft, he's going to be able to do. As we get going and we build more into this scheme, he'll be able to handle it different ways as well and take some hits off himself. You see a lot of growth in these guys. I thought Daniel yesterday played well. There are some plays I'm sure he'd like to have back, some plays we'd like to do differently. That's natural in any game. We're going to coach it to eliminate those plays on the frontend. But at the same time, there was a lot of growth that I saw with Daniel that's really showed up in terms of how he had to play the game yesterday and what he's able to do."
Jones has started 13 of the Giants' 15 games. He missed the victory in Seattle on Dec. 6 with a hamstring injury and the loss to Cleveland last week with hamstring and ankle issues.
Jones has completed 263 of 423 passes (62.2%) for 2,714 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 78.9 passer rating. The Giants are 5-10 but will win the NFC East title Sunday if they defeat Dallas at home and Washington loses that night in Philadelphia.
Yesterday in Baltimore, Jones tied his season high with 41 pass attempts. He completed 24 for 252 yards and threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter. Jones did not throw an interception.
Most importantly, he emerged from the game unscathed and his health and mobility will not have to be closely monitored in practice, as it has been the previous three weeks.
"I think this is the first week in a while as far as Daniel goes where we can just turn around and say, 'Hey, we're going to let him go out there and let him play,'" Judge said. "Obviously, we had to see him move around a little bit throughout the week coming up to it. The one good thing about Daniel is our training staff and him have done a really good job of working together and prepping him for game action. We've seen continued improvement health wise with him. He hasn't come out of any game he's played in worse off than when he was beforehand. I'd say the ankle is getting better. I don't think it's anything he really talks about or you see hindering his performance out there, and the hamstring has continued to heal as well. Physically, he's definitely moving in the right direction."
As Judge noted today, Jones is moving there in other areas as well.