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Giants expect Daniel Jones to be starter when healthy

DANIEL-JONES

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants expect Daniel Jones to be their starting quarterback in 2024.

The Giants must acquire a quarterback in the offseason.

No, those statements are not contradictory.

General manager Joe Schoen spoke publicly for the first time since training camp – and for the first time since Jones suffered a torn ACL that ended his season on Nov. 5 and required surgery last week. Schoen is working under the assumption that Jones will start next year, the quarterback's sixth with the team.

"He's five days off of surgery," Schoen said. "He's in there rehabbing right now. He's going to attack it. You guys all know Daniel and his work ethic; probably a guy we're going to have to pull back. But the expectation is when Daniel's healthy that he will be our starting quarterback."

But ACL surgeries do not come with guarantees, written or otherwise. Neither Schoen nor Jones nor anyone else know when he will be fit to practice or play. Jones said last week his recovery should take "8-10 months." The former time frame would put him on the field for the start of training camp, though his frequency and level of participation is unknown. A 10-month recuperation would force him to miss part of the 2024 season.

"We don't have a crystal ball in terms of how the rehab's going to go," Schoen said. "Different patients respond differently to these surgeries, and then whether there's going to be swelling in the knee or any setbacks. Nobody has a crystal ball on this, but that's the expectation moving forward."

Schoen can't sit back and wait for Jones to be ready. Rookie Tommy DeVito, who has started the Giants' victories the last two weeks, is the only other quarterback under contract for next season. Veteran backup Tyrod Taylor will be a free agent. Which means…

"I think we're going to have to do something on the quarterback, whether it's free agency or the draft," Schoen said. "Just where we are, Tyrod's contract is up, DeVito is obviously under contract, and Daniel, we don't know when he's going to be ready. So, just from an offseason program standpoint, I think that'll be a position that we'll have to look at. There're different avenues – free agency or the draft – but we'll have to address it at some point.

"Those will be offseason decisions. As we go through the offseason, we'll have a little bit better idea of his return to play as he continues the rehab."

The Giants are 4-8 and currently own the sixth overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. Schoen stuck to the customary general manager's refrain when asked if he might take a quarterback.

"We'll take the best player available," Schoen said. "If the best player available for our team is at a certain position, we'll take it. I mean, we won't shy away from it. That's a ways away; the draft is in April. We're still working through all that and the offseason progress. We have to come up with a plan, like I said, just for the offseason right now. Tommy's the only one – I almost said Danny DeVito – that's under contract. So, we'll look at all different avenues there."

Schoen remains confident that Jones is the Giants' long-term answer at quarterback. In 2022, the first season with Schoen as G.M. and Brian Daboll as coach, Jones led the Giants to nine regular-season victories, plus a triumph in the NFC Wild Card Game in Minnesota. He completed a franchise-record 67.2% of his passes and led the NFL by throwing an interception on just 1.1% of his passes (five in 472 throws).

"I've seen it," Schoen said. "You guys all saw last season. The guy won 10 games. He won a road playoff game for the Giants. You guys saw the preseason. I just think we got punched in the nose early on (this season) and we dug ourselves a hole and we weren't able to get out of it. We're trying to right now, but I still believe in Daniel and the person."

Jones was 1-5 as a starter this season, including the game in which he got hurt in Las Vegas. Prior to that, he missed three games with a neck injury. Jones threw just two touchdown passes – both against Arizona on Sept. 17 – and six interceptions and was sacked 30 times.

"We got off to that rough start," Schoen said. "We had three games in 11 days, there were some injuries after Week 2. On a short week, you're going to play San Francisco without your starting left tackle (Andrew Thomas), starting guard (Ben Bredeson) and Saquon (Barkley). That's a tough task for anybody. You guys have probably seen San Francisco enough this season to know that's a really good defense.

"I think does Daniel wish he could have some throws back or some games back or do some things differently. Probably, but it's a team game. There are 11 guys out there and everybody's got to be on the same page and do their job. So, we've got to continue to build the team. The quarterback position is important, but it's ultimately a team game and it's not all on Daniel by any means."

Schoen said Jones' surgery "went well," but no ACL recovery is an uninterrupted ascent.

"I've seen guys come back in eight months," Schoen said. "I've seen guys – we've got some that still aren't back that had them a year ago. We're probably going to have to pull this kid back. He's a hard worker. He's already in there. I saw him walking across the parking lot this morning holding his crutches in his hands rather than using them. That's the type of kid he is. He's going to work very hard. We've just got to protect him from himself and make sure he's doing things the right way and not overtraining. It's really hard to say (when he'll return), to be honest with you, being in this for as long as I've been in it."

Because of that, the Giants will look closely at all possibilities for next season, including veterans and players coming out of college. Which assures them of…nothing.

"There's always risk," Schoen said. "Look at the past however many years of top 10 quarterbacks. I just went through the 2018 draft and how many of those guys are starters, how many are with different teams. Some are out of the league that were taken in the first round from that draft. It's not a position you can just evaluate on film, I don't believe. You've got to get with these kids, you've got to meet with them, you've got to get around them, you've got to put them on the board. Can they learn? Can they process information? You've got to talk to the people, especially in this market. Bringing a quarterback into this market, I mean, it's not for everybody. Not everybody can handle it.

"But again, it could be a free agent, whatever, we're going to have to address it at some point. We have a UFA here that we could always sign back. There are different ways that we could address the position, but there's no guarantees, as of right now, that Daniel will be ready Week 1. So, that's how you've got to approach it. Who can we bring in that can maybe help us win a couple of games while Daniel gets healthy, or maybe Daniel will be ready Week 1. There're just some unknowns right now, and we'll know as we get closer to free agency where he is in his rehab and how we need to approach the offseason."

Schoen discussed a variety of Giants subjects. Below is a sampling of his remarks.

*On the Giants' season thus far.

"We had a difficult schedule right off the bat," Schoen said. "Three games in 11 days, and two of those teams (Dallas and San Francisco) being atop of the NFC right now, or near the top of the NFC. We started off, very good drive against Dallas there to open the season, we get a false start, a bad snap, a blocked field goal for a touchdown, and it kind of snowballed from there.

"Don't want to make any excuses. We've had some injuries. We've just got to continue to build the depth and we've got to continue to build the team all around so when injuries do occur, we can overcome those and still be competitive when injuries happen. It's going to happen every year. It happens. It's football; it's a contact sport. There's going to be injuries, and we've got to be able to overcome any type of adversity that presents itself."

*On the team's victories the last two weeks.

"I am proud of the guys and the way they've continued to battle and compete over the last few weeks," Schoen said. "When things are bad, they can go one of two ways, and I'm really proud of the way the guys have continued to come in and compete. We've seen some progress over the last couple weeks and the results to show. We've got five games left against NFC teams, against four different teams, and we're not out of it."

*On why he chose to make Saquon Barkley unavailable at the trade deadline.

"I wasn't going to move him," Schoen said. "…I think we just said he's one of our most productive offensive players right now. To move that guy, it just didn't make any sense and we didn't take any calls or receive any calls on him."

*On why he did trade defensive lineman Leonard Williams for a 2024 second-round draft choice and a 2025 fifth-round selection.

"The draft compensation," Schoen said. "When Seattle called and offered a second-round pick for a 29-year-old player that was on an expiring contract, we had nine games left. It just made the most sense long-term, in terms of the build."

*On whether he needs to question if Evan Neal is better suited to play tackle or guard. The seventh overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft has received criticism from outside the organization for his play at right tackle.

"No, I don't think so," Schoen said. "I went back and watched the Alabama stuff; the kid can play. We just got to get him to be more consistent. I've got a lot of confidence in Evan, he's a hard worker, it's killing him right now to be out there (because of an ankle injury). He's missing some valuable reps in year two, but as soon as he's healthy, he's scratching and clawing to get back. We are looking forward to getting him back there, but he knows there are some things he can do better and that's what we expect from him."

*A reporter asked what "went wrong" with the "construction" of the offensive line.

"Andrew Thomas getting hurt the first series of the (first) game of the season," Schoen said. "That doesn't help when you lose an All-Pro left tackle. Through 11 weeks, we had nine different starting O-line combinations, which is the second-most in 15 years. We have 21 different O-line combinations, which is the fourth-most in 15 years. We were down to our fifth and sixth offensive tackles. It's hard to prepare for that when you have eight or nine on the roster. When you go to camp you are talking about your fifth and sixth offensive tackles being in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game. In reality, that's what you are talking about. We won 10 games with the same offensive line last year, with the exception of (center) John Michael Schmitz (Jr.). We inserted him. (Nick) Gates went on to Washington. I know you would ask about him. And (offensive lineman Jon) Feliciano went on to San Francisco, so we ran it back with the same guys. We thought John Michael would be an upgrade in there, which he's done a good job for us."

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