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Coming into the 2022 NFL season, nobody considered the Seattle Seahawks or New York Giants as threats to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 57. But at this point, both franchises can rightfully claim they’re in the hunt to at least compete for the Lombardi Trophy. 

Then again, before the season began, nobody considered Geno Smith or Daniel Jones as surefire NFL starters, let alone quarterbacks who could lead their respective teams to the playoffs.

Yet through the first seven weeks of a season that’s featured plenty of bad football, the two signal-callers have provided rock-solid play for head coaches on opposite ends of the career spectrum. If Smith and Jones maintain their strong starts, Pete Carroll and Brian Daboll may be game-planning against each other come January. 

And if the NFL journeyman and the oft-criticized 2019 first-round pick continue on their current trajectory, they will have a chance to cash in on their success one way or another.

Competent quarterback play has turned the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks into top-10 teams

What a difference a year makes. 

In the case of Geno Smith, he went from being Russell Wilson’s backup to being the unquestioned QB1 in Seattle. 

In the case of Daniel Jones, he went from being an inconsistent, turnover-prone lightning rod for criticism to being an efficient, effective dual-threat leader in New York. 

Needless to say, a lot has changed since the Giants and Seahawks finished the 2021 season in last place in the NFC East and NFC West, respectively. 

Most shockingly, Smith has thoroughly outperformed his predecessor by completing a league-high 73.5% of his passes for 1,712 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just three interceptions. While the 2013 second-round pick owns a career-high 66.8 QBR, Wilson, who the Broncos acquired and promptly signed to a five-year, $245 million contract extension, has posted a stunningly bad mark of 35.2. In fact, the nine-time Pro Bowler has seen his QBR decline in each of the last three seasons.

Smith’s strong start to his ninth year in the NFL has captured well-deserved attention. Considering he entered the season with just five starts since 2014, it’s safe to say he’s impressed by going 4-3 and helping the Seahawks hold down the top spot in their division. 

Across the country, Jones has also quickly changed expectations for the 2022 season by leading his team to a 5-1 record with a rookie head coach. Not only has he completed a career-high 66.7% of his passes, but he’s also cut down on the costly turnovers that caused so many headaches for Giants fans over the last three years. 

Significant credit should go to Daboll, who has also brought the best out of contract-year running back Saquon Barkley. After struggling to string together victories under Joe Judge, the Giants look poised to make a legitimate run at the NFC East title.

The free-agent market should look much different for Geno Smith and Daniel Jones

Geno Smith and Daniel Jones
(L-R) Geno Smith; Daniel Jones | Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images; Mike Carlson/Getty Images

In addition to setting their teams up for a potential playoff run, Geno Smith and Daniel Jones have positioned themselves to cash in during NFL free agency on their surprising success. Granted, we’re just shy of the midway point of the season, so there’s still plenty of time for either quarterback to revert to his old ways. 

However, if Smith and Jones build on their strong starts, they should command much higher price tags than anyone could have anticipated. 

Luckily for both players, they chose the right time to break out. 

Smith has undoubtedly been one of the biggest bargains in the NFL, as he counts just $3.5 million against the cap. Surely, though, whoever he suits up for in 2022 will have to pay him a significantly higher salary than the $1.26 million the Seahawks are on the hook for this season. 

Will Seattle general manager John Schneider consider signing Smith to a multi-year deal? Or will another team pay up to make him their QB1? 

Like the Seahawks, the Giants must make a franchise-altering decision this offseason involving the most critical position on the field. And like Schneider, first-year general manager Joe Schoen could take two distinct paths with his team’s current starting quarterback. 

Do Daboll and his staff believe they can develop Jones into a Pro Bowler? If so, the Giants will have to be willing to pay well north of $25 million per year to retain the 2019 first-rounder’s services. 

On the other hand, Jones could choose to leverage a breakout campaign into a lucrative deal with another franchise. As a physically talented player who can make an impact with his legs, he brings some unique elements to the table. All it takes is one team to believe in Jones’ upside to make him a former Giant.

Both NFC contenders still have questions to answer

With the November 1 trade deadline right around the corner, teams with playoff aspirations could look to fill roster holes over the next few days. And as much as Seahawks and Giants fans should feel excited about how the early portion of the season has gone, it would be overly optimistic to call either team flawless. 

The Seahawks certainly deserve praise for averaging 26.1 points per game in the first year of the post-Russell Wilson era. Yet it’s unclear whether they have the right pieces on the other side of the ball to contend for a title anytime soon. 

Currently ranked 28th in points allowed at 26.6 per game, the Seahawks had been picked apart against the run every week until they held the Los Angeles Chargers to only 53 rushing yards in their Week 7 victory. With no true stars along the front seven and a secondary headlined by two rookie corners drafted on Day 3, defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt has his work cut out for him. 

Luckily for the Giants’ Don Martindale, he has 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence and highly-paid veteran Leonard Williams anchoring a defensive line that also includes promising rookie pass rusher, Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Giants have also gotten better-than-expected play from a secondary that mostly has an eclectic mix of talent.

Still, that doesn’t mean they’re a lock to earn a playoff berth. 

If the offense doesn’t take a step forward and improve upon being 18th in the league in scoring, there could be some serious roster shakeup sooner than later. Obviously, if Jones reverts to old ways and the team endures another losing season, it’ll be easy for Daboll to cut ties and go after his guy. 

For the fourth-year QB to succeed, though, the Giants have to give him more time to throw. Jones has been sacked on 9.6% of his dropbacks–a staggering figure compared to 5.7% a year ago. 

Can a young offensive line built around two recent first-round tackles step up during the second half of the season? Plus, can the Giants’ collection of wide receivers and tight ends provide enough of a punch to balance with Barkley’s production as a runner? 

We’ll find out the answers to those questions as November and December roll around. At the very least, though, at least Giants and Seahawks fans can feel optimistic about what lies ahead.

Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.

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