Daniel Jones has not been a walkover for the Eagles throughout his four-year career.
He’s one Evan Engram drop from having a winning record against the Eagles and is coming off a playoff debut in which he had arguably the best game of his young NFL career, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for another 78 yards, the most by a Giants’ quarterback in their storied postseason history.
In the Giants’ 31-24 Wild Card round upset at Minnesota last weekend, Jones did what no other quarterback ever accomplished in NFL postseason history by throwing for over 300 yards, with at least two touchdowns, and rushing for over 70 yards. In other words, Jones had a “Jalen Hurts game.”
Can Jones, who’s 2-3 against the Eagles, do it again?
Giants’ coach Brian Daboll may be the best coach in the NFC East. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has great familiarity with Jones. It may not mean anything, if Daboll and Jones have a new scheme. Jones has improved by multiple levels under Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
“Every game is different, but they are a familiar opponent,” Gannon said. “We’re preparing like we do any other game, whether it’s a team that we’ve played a couple times or a team that we haven’t played. We go through our full process. You can use the previous games as a tool but know that they’re going to have different things for us, and we’ll have some different things for them. It’s a new game, especially going into the playoffs it’s a new game, a new season so we’ll be ready to go.
“(Jones) played extremely well (against Minnesota). Their offense was clicking on all cylinders. He made a lot of plays, a lot of throws. He used his legs at the right times to extend drives and get some first downs. We know just like anybody we go against that the skill set of everybody that we’re playing against, how they use those guys and what we have to be aware of and what we have to have a plan for. Yeah, he played extremely well that game, and it’s one of the major reasons why they’re playing us on Saturday night.”
The Giants are supposed to be a grinding team that consumes time with long drives. Yet, New York’s first three possessions against Minnesota that resulted in touchdowns came on drives of five, four and six plays. The template, however, the Jones and the Giants are going to need to follow came on the Giants’ third drive of the game, when they ate 10 minutes, 52 seconds off the clock on a marathon 20-play, 85-yard drive. Granted, New York couldn’t close, forced to settle for a field goal, but the series kept the Vikings’ potent offense off the field and converted four third downs. On two of those third downs, Jones completed two passes for a combined 14 yards, while he ran for a combined to rush for 20 yards on the other two third-down conversions out of the shotgun.
What the Eagles may see Saturday night is a version of their offense thrown right back at them with Jones’ running ability, which was always there, coupled with his new-found passing touch, which was not.
While the NFL world was looking at the vast improvement made by Hurts in a year, Jones has quietly and steadily evolved into who the Giants thought they were getting when they drafted him with the No. 6 overall pick out of Duke in 2019. It’s taken some time to get here, but Daniel Jones has arrived—and he’ll be at Lincoln Financial Field with something Jalen Hurts has yet to achieve in his young NFL career, a playoff victory.
Road teams in NFL Divisional Playoff games have won four of the last five games, dating to Tampa Bay’s win at New Orleans in the last contest of the 2020 Divisional Round. The Eagles, though 14-3, have struggled down the stretch between the Hurts and Lane Johnson injuries, to a fatigued offensive line manifested by the plague of false start and ineligible-players-downfield penalties.
Another quality Daniel Jones’ start married to the Eagles’ continued slide could erupt in a surprise on Saturday night.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.