NFL teams pared down to 53-man rosters this past Saturday. That meant plenty of debate over fringe players who were kept or released. New York Giants fans contributed their share of gripes. Many were upset about the cuts of fan favorites Ryan Connelly and Corey Coleman. While these cuts were surprising, and possibly mistakes, they’re ultimately unimportant to the Giants’ success this season. Most see New York as a bottom-tier team. When you consider they hold the NFL’s worst combined record the last three seasons, it’s tough to set expectations much higher. But that doesn’t mean the Giants can’t outperform those forecasts. If Big Blue surprises with a playoff-caliber year, it’ll be thanks to their second-year quarterback.

There are, broadly speaking, two ways to have a winning football team:

  1. With a strong, deep, balanced roster and a competent quarterback who will manage the game and minimize mistakes.
  2. With a really good quarterback.

We can pretty quickly rule out the first option for this year’s Giants. New York has accumulated good young talent, as ESPN recently ranked their group of under-25 players second in the NFL. But their roster is still in its “development” stage. It won’t take long to find holes in the Giants’ depth chart, whether at cornerback, linebacker, or offensive line. Right now, this roster is nowhere near good enough to carry an average quarterback to the playoffs.

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The second option, though, isn’t out of the question. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones is entering his second season, a time when quarterbacks of recent memory (Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz) have catapulted into stardom. Jones had a rookie season at least as promising as any of them, throwing 24 touchdowns in just 12 starts.

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Jones has more than his fair share of detractors. The Giants were roundly excoriated for ostensibly reaching to select him sixth-overall in the 2019 draft. But if you block out the noise and controversy surrounding his early career, it has the earmarks of a franchise quarterback. He’s a first-round quarterback who’s already shown he can spearhead wins, not just come along for the ride. Rarely did Jones look scared or overwhelmed his rookie year. His major faults (holding the ball too long, forcing tight-window throws, fumbles) are products of overaggressiveness, not a lack of ability. It’s no guaranatee Jones will overcome these issues (see, Jameis Winston), but any coach will take a player he has to reign in rather than prop up.

It remains to be seen if Jones will experience the “Year 2 Jump” we’ve seen from a few of his modern predecessors. There was nothing from his rookie season, though, that suggested he’s not capable. In fact, he showed signs he’s more capable than most others have been.

This space has covered the spectrum of Jones’ possible progression before. There’s still a greater chance he turns out to be mediocre-to-bad than good, as is the case with most young quarterbacks. But if the Giants are playoff contenders this year, it won’t be because they kept the right reserve linebackers, or made shrewd waiver claims. It will be because Jones became the type of quarterback you build a franchise around.

– Ryan Cuneo is the Managing Editor of Full Press Giants. He covers the New York Giants. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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