EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today listed Daniel Jones as a full practice participant for the second consecutive day, meaning the quarterback was able to do everything he normally would and is expected of him during the team's on-field work.
But when the Giants try to extend their season with a victory Sunday at home against the Dallas Cowboys, the term "full participation" will take on a different meaning.
Jones might take every one of the Giants' offensive snaps, as he did in each of the season's first 10 games. But he conceded yesterday that the lingering effects of the hamstring injury he suffered in Cincinnati on Nov. 29 will prevent him using his legs as well as his arm to advance the ball. Jones is the team's second-leading rusher with 403 yards and 56 carries but had just one attempt in his last two games, a three-yard run in the final moments last week in Baltimore.
"I've played from the pocket the past couple weeks, and I expect to continue to do that until I'm healthy," Jones said. "We'll see what exactly, but I expect the game plan and what I'm asked to do to be fairly similar to what it's been these past few weeks."
Coach Joe Judge would prefer his players not discuss injuries and while he wasn't thrilled with Jones' statement, he revealed no anger on his Zoom call today.
"I read Daniel's comments yesterday," Judge said. "Probably a little more forthcoming than I would have been with it right there. But as I said yesterday, we'll do whatever it takes to win the game. But again, I can't stress it enough, I'm going to always put the players' health in consideration on how we call the game. I can't turn around, as you said yesterday, and 'take the gloves off.' Well, the gloves come off and you expose someone to long-term injury, that's not always the most opportune thing. We're going to make sure that we always put our players in a position of strength, and that includes their health."
A week after sustaining his first injury, Jones was replaced by Colt McCoy in the Giants' victory in Seattle. He returned to the field but did not have a rushing attempt vs. Arizona on Dec. 13. He did, however, suffer an ankle injury that combined with the hamstring to put him on the inactive list the following week against Cleveland. The ankle is no longer an issue and Jones played last week against the Ravens, though he took no chances with his legs.
"Daniel has done such a great job working back from this injury," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "He's an incredibly mentally tough guy, incredibly physically tough guy. I think we've seen that throughout this season. He's doing everything he can to play his best and have all aspects of his game available. He's working a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort with our training staff to be healthy and be ready to go, and he's made great strides here the last few weeks. There's no question he's not 100 percent in terms of his mobility. We recognize that, he recognizes that. But you certainly want him to be functional. He's a very good pocket quarterback, and that's probably where we'll spend most of the day."
Jones certainly knew he wasn't revealing much to anyone who has watched the Giants' games this season. In addition to averaging 5.5 carries through the first 10 games, he has three of the top four and four of the team's six longest runs this season, including an 80-yarder at Philadelphia on Oct. 22. His 406 rushing yards are a record for a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era.
Jones enjoys running the ball and succeeds when he does. It's a big part of his football DNA. In three seasons at Duke, he had 406 rushing attempts for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns. Anchoring himself in the pocket might be counterintuitive for Jones.
"It's certainly something I have to be aware of with my mobility and what I can do, and something I'm cognizant of playing in the game," he said. "But it's how I've played these last couple of weeks and I've kind of gotten used to it."
Not coincidentally, the Giants' rushing attack has been less effective as Jones has stopped running. From Oct. 18 to Dec. 6, they exceeded 100 rushing yards in seven consecutive games, including a season-high 190 in the victory against the Seahawks. In the three games since, they rushed for 78, 74 and 54 yards in losses to the Cardinals, Browns and Ravens.
The Giants will again look to Wayne Gallman, who has team-leading totals of 136 carries, 617 yards and six touchdowns, and Alfred Morris to provide the yardage on the ground.
"We have a lot of ways to run the ball," Jones said. "We have really good runners and guys we can get into space and can make plays. We'll continue to do that, get the ball to those guys. I'm not sure it limits us a whole lot, but we have to be good with what we can do."
*Judge has spoken more than once in the last two weeks about his high regard for and commitment to Jones as the Giants' quarterback for the future. Today, Garrett was given his opportunity to speak about Jones' viability as a "a long-time NFL starter."
"We think Daniel has a chance to be a really good player," Garrett said. "There's no question about that. He has all the attributes that you want in a quarterback. He'll grow from his experiences that he's had. There are a lot of positive things he can build on over the last couple of years. There are certainly some things that he has to improve upon. But he's absolutely the right kind of guy. He'll focus his energy and attention on those things. Hopefully, we'll continue to grow around him and continue to create a better environment for him to play his best football."
*In addition to New Year's Eve, today is Judge's 39th birthday. Let's just say even if there were no COVID restrictions, attending the ball drop in Times Square wouldn't be part of his plans.
"It's going to be a wild night, man," Judge said. "Break down some tape, get tomorrow's practice finalized, try to get a little bit of sleep. We're rolling through it. The good news is it's going to be 2021 for an entire year, so if I don't get to tonight, I'll get to catch up later on."
*The Giants' injury report remained unchanged from yesterday. Fullback Eli Penny (illness) and wide receiver Golden Tate (calf) did not practice. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (rib), tight end Evan Engram (calf) and safety Jabrill Peppers (ankle) were limited. Cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee) practiced fully.