LAS VEGAS — It is too early to say it has gotten late early for Daniel Jones, but not too soon to wonder where he stands with a franchise that needs a bona fide starting quarterback and not long ago paid him as one of them.
Jones returns Sunday after missing the past three games with a neck injury, and there were all sorts of offensive misadventures while he was out.
There were also all sorts of follies with Jones on the field in the first five Giants games this season.
When he waits to take the first shotgun snap against the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, the anticipation is he will be an upgrade from his backup, Tyrod Taylor, and certainly entrusted to actually throw a forward pass, faith not granted last week to emergency practice squad fill-in Tommy DeVito.
When we last left Jones, he was getting sacked six times in Miami and failing to get his team into the end zone for a second consecutive game.
Maybe this unwanted break can serve to inject Jones with what Coca-Cola pushed in 1929 as a slogan promoting the promise of happiness and a brief respite from life’s challenges: “the Pause That Refreshes.”
“I don’t really see it that way,’’ Jones said. “I think physically, obviously you want to be on the field. Mentally, you want to be there, you want to be on the field. Certainly missed it.’’
Those who want to look at the Giants and their 2-6 record and bemoan the possibility of forthcoming games that do not matter need to reacquaint themselves with Jones and the contractual bond (four years, $160 million) he has with the team — a different front office regime — that took him with the No. 6-overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Jones will be with the Giants next season because there is no plausible financial escape before 2025.
At this point, there is no appetite within the Giants for scouring the top college quarterbacks in 2024.
But there is also the reality that the Giants were criticized in many circles for the bounty they gave Jones, and halfway through year No. 1, he sits at two touchdown passes and six interceptions, operating behind a decrepit offensive line, and missing games because of a neck injury, the second time in three seasons his neck put him on the sideline.
Now he is back, cleared for contact and admitting he feels fresher than he should feel, devoid of wear and tear as he readies to take the field for the first time in nearly a month.
Maybe his presence will make a difference.
“The guy’s a leader of men,’’ said offensive lineman Justin Pugh, in his second tour with the Giants. “He steps in the huddle, he commands the huddle. I know he learned under Eli [Manning], and he’s got a lot of that same aura that Eli had. When he steps in the huddle, guys respect him. It’s good to have ‘8’ back in there.’’
Jones steps into a whirlwind of a scenario as far as what awaits him in the Giants’ first-ever game in Sin City.
The Raiders (3-5) will play their first game since firing head coach Josh McDaniels, general manager David Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi.
Linebackers coach Antonio Pierce — a catalyst for the Giants in their 2007 Super Bowl run — makes his debut as the interim head coach, against his former team.
“I’m ready to run through a wall for that man,’’ star receiver Davante Adams said.
This is sure to be an emotional environment awaiting Jones. He should have starting tackles Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal back from injuries.
He also gets to lean on Saquon Barkley, and the last time the two were together on the field, the Giants scored 31 points in the second half of a rousing comeback victory in Arizona.
“I’m confident in our group,’’ Jones said. “I’m confident in what we’re doing, and we’ve just got to put it together, and we’ve got the guys to do it.’’
This story originally appeared on NYPost