Daniel Jones atypically steps up vs. Washington — but that could end on Sunday

Jones oddly steps up vs. Washington — but that could end Sunday originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Certain athletes across all sports — from superstars to random role players — happen to turn up their game when facing a certain opponent. For Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, Washington is the team that he chooses to torment.

Jones, of course, isn’t anyone’s idea of a superb signal-caller. In fact, New York elected not to pick up his fifth-year contract option this offseason, meaning he’s set to be a free agent in March. 

Now, to his credit, the former first-rounder is having his most competent campaign yet. That’s probably the nicest word that can be used to describe his contributions, though, which underscores his place among those who share his position. 

Yet if Roger Goodell were ever to set up a schedule that allowed Jones to face his burgundy-clad rival week in and week out, the guy would probably be Canton-bound.

For his entire career, Jones has completed a shade over 63% of his throws, averages a little more than 215 yards per game and has thrown 55 touchdowns against 33 interceptions. In all, he owns a passer rating of 85.4. 

In five meetings with Washington, however, Jones’ completion percentage jumps to 68.3%, he averages 230 yards per game and he’s connected on nine touchdowns against three interceptions. His passer rating, meanwhile, is 100.4, and his squad is 4-1 record-wise.

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To put that into perspective, Joe Burrow — who does still easily outpace Jones in the yards-per-game category — currently boasts a 68.2% completion rate, a 2.87-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio that’s a tick below Jones’ Washington-only 3-to-1 mark and a passer rating of 101.7.

Then there’s Jones’ rushing prowess, which he’s displayed at FedEx Field and MetLife Stadium previously and which is being used more than ever in 2022. 

Jones — who’s scored four times on the ground (already a career-high for a season), picked up 36 first downs with his legs (also already a career-high for a season) and is averaging 41 rush yards per outing (on track to be a career-high for a season) — has a 95-yard, one-touchdown effort and a 74-yard performance on his résumé versus the club Ron Rivera’s presently in charge of.

So, in a lot of ways, the often-maligned Giants quarterback has a tendency to play like a Joe Burrow-like threat (with extreme mobility, too!) when Washington is his foe.

Fortunately, this version of the Commanders is different from the outfits that Jones has previously faced.

The Jonathan Allen- and Daron Payne-led defensive line is stifling whole offenses and individual QBs and running backs alike, as the front is thriving at a level the franchise’s fans have long been craving. Therefore, while Jones has succeeded in matchups with Allen, Payne and Montez Sweat before, he hasn’t encountered them when they’re this locked in.

Then there’s the secondary, which is deploying a three-safety look that’s kept the back end versatile and cohesive. The group that infamously ceded 352 yards and five touchdowns to Jones in 2019 — you know, the one that rolled out esteemed names like Coty Sensabaugh, Aaron Colvin and Kayvon Webster — is gone and has been replaced by a very professional and prepared crew of defensive backs.

New York’s weak supporting cast has to be considered as well.

Jones, to be fair, has never been surrounded by excellent receivers, but his targets heading into Sunday’s clash are especially weak, as injuries have taken Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson out of the lineup. Jones’ offensive line is also a mess; he’s being sacked on 9.5% of his dropbacks, which is the most duress he’s ever been under as a pro.

With those improvements by the Commanders and issues for the Giants, there’s reason to think that Jones’ out-of-character production in showdowns with Washington will come to an end soon. Rivera’s bunch even had the opportunity to see Marcus Mariota in Week 12, who’s somewhat of a facsimile of Jones as a ball carrier.

“Oh, very much so,” Rivera told NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay in a Monday interview when asked if Mariota can serve as a preview for Jones.

But what makes a lot of these Athlete X. vs. Team Y relationships so maddening is that they simply don’t make sense. Rosters, coaches and situations may change, but the single player’s fortunes don’t. The playoff-hungry Commanders ought to be plenty motivated to finally flummox Jones this weekend.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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