EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Daniel Jones was nearly picked off on his first pass of the game. Then he was picked off at the end of the Giants' first drive. Before he could catch his breath, the Giants were down 17-0. And in the end he was sacked eight times.
Give the Giants rookie quarterback this much credit: Despite all that, he never flinched. And that's certainly something, especially considering he was making just his fifth NFL start.
But Jones is going to need to do a lot more than that if the Giants are going to start to win.
Right now, that's really about all he's doing - not flinching and battling as much as he can. He's otherwise erratic, and the offense is struggling, which should come as no surprise. Despite all the predictions that a quarterback switch was all the Giants would need to turn things around that was never going to happen.
Jones is a rookie, and rookie quarterback struggle. He shows flashes of brilliance, but those can't overcome the things he continues to do wrong.
"I think I'm making progress in some areas," Jones said after the Giants' third straight loss, this time 27-21 to the Cards. "And I still need to improve a lot in others."
Yes he does, because right now he's turning into a turnover machine.
Jones, quite simply, takes far too many chances, trying to throw balls into incredibly tight windows. He's either not seeing the defenders, or just assumes he's good enough to squeeze the ball in. He also seems reluctant to throw the ball away, which leads to him holding it too long. And his offensive line just isn't good enough for him to do that.
And all that has led to this: Six fumbles, five lost, in five games, plus seven interceptions giving him 12 turnovers in all. That too is not surprising for a rookie quarterback. Alarmingly, though, his penchant for turnovers was one of the constant criticisms even the scouts who liked him had before the NFL draft.
Regardless, 12 turnovers in five starts is a pretty significant deal. On Sunday, that was the difference between him and Kyler Murray, the Cardinals rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick. Jones looked like the better, more NFL-ready quarterback for most of the game, completing 22 of 35 passes for 223 yards while Murray went 14 of 21 for 104. But Murray didn't turn the ball over. Jones turned it over three times.
And as Tom Coughlin used to point out over and over and over again: Turnovers, more than anything else, make the biggest difference in NFL games.
"He's a tough son of a gun, and he's fighting through it," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "He made some good throws, too, today. He did a lot of really good things. We just have to try to cut back on some of the mistakes, that's all."
Yes they do. And it's also worth noting that Jones doesn't have a lot of help. He wasn't just undone by his own mistakes. He was hurt by plenty of drops, missed blocks, and poorly timed penalties.
"He's learning and we've got to help him out," said receiver Golden Tate. "The receivers, we've got to get open. We've got to catch the balls that come to us. We've got to run the routes the way they're designed. We've got to block. ... I think we have a lot of talent. We have a great scheme. But we've just got to do things right."
Jones took plenty of responsibility for what went wrong too, and rightfully so. He's got plenty of time to improve, of course. There are still nine games remaining, and the Giants have no intention of turning the clock back and putting Eli Manning back on the field. No matter what they said, they've always known that the minute they made the quarterback switch, this season became all about grooming Jones for 2020. They're committed to that. They're committed to his growth. They're committed to giving him his learning experience. And there's no going back on that now.
But the trend-line on Jones is unmistakable, and at some point it needs to be reversed. In his first start down in Tampa, Jones was remarkable, going 23 of 36 (63.9 percent) for 336 yards and two touchdowns (and a passer rating of 112.7), while running four times for 28 yards and two touchdowns, too. But in his four starts since, he's gone 82 for 135 (60.7 percent) for 791 yards (197 per game) with four touchdowns and seven interceptions -- a passer rating of 65.4.
That is neither good enough, nor really good at all.
Again, it's very early in what everyone believes will be a long and prosperous career for Jones. Only the delusional thought his rookie season would be smooth. But his flaws are being exposed and it's up to him and his coaches to fix them or mask them. Certainly they'll have to if they really want to be in contention next year.
But if they can't do it sooner, then get used to more of what was on display on Sunday afternoon. There will be more moments of brilliance from the 22-year-old budding star at some point, and many, many more moments that elicit frustration. There will be growing pains, and they will be undoubtedly painful.
Until he gets over them, there won't be many wins for the Giants to make the hurt go away.