Football is regarded as a team sport that requires all 11 guys on offense, defense, and special teams to come together and make the magic that sends their loyal fan base into the start of a new work week during the fall with a big smile on their faces.
But when it comes to offense--the New York Giants offense--the bottom line is that as quarterback Daniel Jones goes, so too will the team.
Like it or not, that's the truth. A quick look at the Washington Football Team, last year's NFC East division winners, reaffirmed that a team isn't going to go very far without a solid option at quarterback. And in Jones, the Giants think they have the right guy for the job.
That's the problem. The Giants think that Jones is indeed their franchise quarterback; however, any lingering doubts start with the organization's failure to put a solid offensive line, receiving targets, and a running game in place ahead of the arrival of their new quarterback.
But Jones isn't blameless here either. People will point to his tendency to hold the ball too long. But, in fairness to Jones, going from college to the NFL, where the speed of the game is a lot faster and the offenses and defenses more complex, is like asking a beginner pianist to play a concert at Carnegie Hall.
That said, let's look at Jones's ball security issues, the biggest stain on his record so far.
In 2020, Jones had 16 turnovers, the same number as Buffalo's Josh Allen, San Francisco's Nick Mullens, and Arizona's Kyler Murray. And of the turnovers, Jones, like Allen, lost six of those balls, second-most among quarterbacks behind the Raiders' Derek Carr.
However, the difference is that of that four-member sample size (Jones, Allen, Mullens, and Murray), Jones' performance hasn't been good enough to overcome the miscues.
Last year, he ranked last in that group's completion percentage (62.5%) and average touchdowns thrown per game (0.8). He also ranked first in dropped passes and sacks absorbed, the latter two stats not his doing but just two other factors that Jones and the offense were unable to overcome last year.
"The first thing Daniel Jones has to do--and it has to start in the first preseason game and I don't care if he plays 10 plays--is take care of the football," NFL Analyst Brian Baldinger told Giants Country.
But there is more to the turnover equation besides those charged to Jones's stat line.
"He's a turnover machine right now, and it just can't be tolerated," Baldinger said. "And it's in so many different ways--he gets the ball knocked out of his hands, he has bad snaps, he has bad handoffs. He has got to take care of the football better.
Baldinger noted that there will be interceptions, especially when taking some more chances. But ideally, he'd like to see for Jones, who has yet to go more than two games in a row without any sort of ball security miscues, to string together several games where his handling of the ball from the snap to the end of the play is as pristine as possible.
Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, and Clayton Thorson.
As if anyone needs more evidence as to why the Giants had to go out and invest in play-makers to help Jones take that next step, the best argument of all is the finances.
The Giants have $9,227,288 invested in their quarterback position, which is 4.97% of their 2021 salary cap and puts them 24th in the league at that position.
Jones takes up the bulk of that spending ($7,189,288, or 3.88% of the team's cap). However, once Jones completes his third season, he will be eligible to negotiate a longer-term contract that ups his salary to somewhere around the current league average of $16.4 million for quarterbacks.
The last thing the Giants want is to extend Jones only to see him not pan out as the franchise quarterback, as what happened with the Eagles. Philadelphia was quick to extend Carson Wentz in 2019, only to trade him this past off-season. That move dumped a record $33.8 million in dead money against their 2021 cap.
The added play-makers, the anticipated return of Saquon Barkley, and the (hopefully) improved offensive line have eliminated any remaining excuses to support any sort of shortcoming from Jones. It's up to him to take advantage of these resources so that he can ultimately cash in when the time comes.
1. Will the Giants tweak the offense to Daniel Jones's strength?
I mentioned the four quarterbacks who all tied for the same amount of turnovers. Sticking with that group, I want to point out that of those four, Jones had the lowest average yards per attempt (6.6) and lowest average air yards per attempt (6.06)
These stats could be due to the other ten guys on the field with Jones on any given play. Still, with the Giants having upgraded his play-maker options, there is no excuse for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett not to open the playbook a little more to include more deep passing.
Jones was pretty good with the deep ball. Per Pro Football Focus, Jones went 20 of 43 on deep pass attempts of 20+ yards, throwing six of his 11 touchdowns for a rather impressive 132.5 rating, the best among quarterbacks who attempted at least 19 deep pass attempts.
Obviously, the Giants can't throw deep on every play, but certainly, there can be some wiggle room to work the deep ball more into the mix, given the upgrade in talent.
2. Can Jones make it through a 17-game season?
Jones has missed two games in each of his first two seasons, both instances while running with the ball. Part of the injury issues came with him not knowing when to slide and end a play, and part of that might be attributed to him hanging in the pocket as long as possible, waiting for something to happen.
His durability could depend on finding that balance between understanding when to throw in the towel on a play versus trying to extend it.
3. Is Mike Glennon an upgrade over Colt McCoy?
Yes, we have to talk about the backup quarterback here for a moment. Mike Glennon gives the Giants a passer with a much stronger arm than Colt McCoy, which is probably why the Giants made the switch.
One area where Glennon lacks 9and which McCoy excelled in) is mobility. McCoy, simply put, was a little bit better at using his legs when he needed to, whereas Glennon is more of a pure pocket passer.
In some ways, swapping McCoy for Glennon could be the strongest hint yet that the Giants are planning to take more shots deep down the field this year and that they want a backup quarterback capable of running those plays just in case the starter is unavailable.
What Would Surprise Me
The Giants increase Daniel Jones's touches as a runner. I have never been a fan of quarterbacks who try to make plays with their legs. I see them as exposing themselves to injury. When you look at the injuries Jones has suffered thus far in his career, they've all come while he was running.
If the Giants want to get to the playoffs, they need to do so on the arm of Jones. That means they have to be very judicious when they ask him to run a designed rollout or an RPO.
I'm not suggesting they throw those plays out of the playbook, but if the Giants find themselves in a position where Jones is getting the most touches and rushing yards (or close to it) weekly, that, to me, is a big problem.
What Wouldn't Surprise Me
The Giants take more deep shots down the field. Last year, the Giants not only had Jones operating behind a developing offensive line, but their receiving options were also arguably better fits for a West Coast Offense rather than for deeper concepts.
As noted above, Jones, when asked to execute deep vertical passes, was pretty good at it. So it would stand to reason that with the additional receiving talent that's a better fit for the deeper passing concepts and the offensive line (hopefully) having gelled enough to allow for 5- and 7-step drop-backs, more deep shots will be in Jones's future.
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