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QB Daniel Jones: The Good, the Great and the Ugly, Part 1 of 3 - The Good

Nick Falato takes a really deep dive into quarterback Daniel Jones' film--so deep that we have a special three-part edition of "The Good, the Great and the Ugly."

The expression "make or break" has been synonymous with Daniel Jones for the entirety of the off-season--an off-season where the Giants spent a first-round draft pick on a wide receiver in Kadarius Toney while adding receivers Kenny Golladay and John Ross, and tight end Kyle Rudolph to his arsenal.

Since the Giants selected Jones with the sixth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, there have been plenty of doubters. I, for one, saw Jones as a second-round grade--a player who can win in the NFL, but one that needs a good supporting cast. He operated in David Cutcliffe’s offense at Duke, where there were designed throws and simple half-field reads.

Coming from Cutcliffe’s system shouldn’t be a referendum on Jones; both Peyton and Eli Manning played under Cutcliffe in college at Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively. However, Jones didn’t show elite traits in college like Archie’s sons. He did show excellent perseverance, athletic ability, a good arm, and exceptional toughness.

My critics of Jones coming into the NFL surrounded his ability to quickly process his surroundings when the pre-snap reads don’t match with the post-snap reality. It’s mostly between the ears with Jones, albeit the turnovers--that he did improve with in 2020--didn’t help either.

What’s frustrating about Jones is that he does process the game well at times and shows good adjustments mid-snap, but it’s not consistent, and the lack of consistency has put the Giants into a difficult position if Jones fails to have a solid season. New York will be set to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option in May of 2022. He has one season to prove the doubters wrong.

Jones’s supporters will often point to his lack of true weaponry and his youth as sources of his struggling success. These both have merit - no denying it. The offensive line has been a wreck as well - that may not change this year. A second year in Jason Garrett’s system should theoretically help, but Garrett has done a poor job maximizing yards after the catch.

Heading into his third season, second in Garrett’s offense, Jones will look at his improved weaponry and attempt to supersede his 11 to 10 touchdown/interception ratio while also keeping the turnovers down.

I believe he is a better quarterback than that stat line indicates but is he a good enough quarterback to win this division now that he has a true number one receiver, possibly will be getting his star running back healthy, and his defense is now in the top third of the league?

The spectrum of outcomes for Jones is vast. I can see him performing well this season and living up to Dave Gettleman’s vision as the heir apparent to Eli Manning. However, I can also see him struggling behind a young offensive line. He has to be a more consistent player; he has to take full advantage of defensive mistakes, and he has to stop leaving plays on the field.

The Buccaneers’ game was the worst of his career. He was one of the main reasons why the Giants lost that football game and several instances will substantiate that claim. Jones is a better quarterback than what he showed in that primetime game against the eventual Super Bowl champions.

He still struggles with aspects of mastering the quarterback position, but his intriguing traits are interesting.

As Jones is perhaps the most important player on this roster and the one to whom the team's success is tied into, I've taken an expanded look into the good, great and ugly from his 2019-2020 film. Overall, I'd say it's fair to conclude that Jones still struggles with mastering the quarterback position, but his intriguing traits are interesting.

In this first of three parts, I'll be looking at the good in Jones's game. The "great" and the "ugly" will follow in separate installments, with one dropping every two hours until we get to the end of the series. 

The Good: Flashes Advanced Quarterback Skills

Eye Manipulation

In his second season, Jones has shown the ability to consistently use his eyes to hold the middle-of-the-field closed player (MOFC) in place to effectively target an advantageous one-on-one matchup to the opposite side of the field. This is something that Jones has improved since his rookie 2019 season.

Check out the 3x1 set (with Y attached) above; Jones sees the split safety look turn into a single high look right before the snap; he points it out and understands that the slot fade will be a one on one matchup, with tons of space, if he can get that safety to avoid Golden Tate’s (No. 15) area. How to do that, one may ask? Easy--look off the safety, like you see below.

As he catches the snap, he peers to his right to see if the safety dropping down is coming on the blitz. He notices he is not and then diverts his eyes to his left to force the safety away from Tate.

Jones stares at the safety and Evan Engram’s (No. 88) cross before hitting his back foot and firing a great pass, with an opportunity to be high pointed, to Tate for the touchdown. A big reason why plays like this succeed is that Daniel Jones uses his eyes to manipulate the safety. This creates the matchups for the wide receivers.

Here it is again; Jones’ eyes as he drops back go to his right, holding the safety in place. It’s a tight BUNCH to Jones’ right with Darius Slayton (No. 86) as the lone receiver to Jones’ left. By holding the MOFC safety in place, Jones creates a one-on-one opportunity for Slayton, who is aligned inside the numbers.

All Slayton has to do is win his release outside, and he has all the space in the world from about minus one off the numbers to the sideline to allow Jones to deliver the pass. Jones puts a nice over-the-shoulder ball to Slayton and the Giants score.

Jones’ most impressive game may have been the Bengals’ one where he was injured in the third quarter. He manipulated Jessie Bates III (No. 30) several times with his eyes, and Engram made the team play with great releases off the line of scrimmage.

Jones’s eyes, shoulders, and feet indicate that his first read is to his left, but he knows, with a clean release, he’ll have Engram in that prime one on one matchup. Jones and his eyes come through again.

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I like this play from Jones because he has to speed up his internal clock before getting nailed by the blitzing defender who faked like he was dropping. Jones controls the near hash safety and even gets him to bite down on the slant, but Jones quickly gets his eyes on the matchup he desires in the slot and then fires an impressive pass in the reach of Slayton, who makes a great play on the football. Daniel Jones has to be quick and accurate with his motion here, and he succeeds.

Anticipation

Another high-level characteristic of a good quarterback that Jones sometimes showcases is his ability to throw the football with anticipation. This means throwing the football before the wide receiver breaks in anticipation to where the receiver will be; it’s also been referred to as throwing your receivers open. Jones doesn’t consistently do this, but he has done it several times.

This is just a simple skinny post from Damien Ratley (No. 19), but Jones throws the football right as Ratley plants his foot in the ground on the break, right in the center of the zero of the numbers.

The covering defender is playing over the top and outside, and an underneath defender is making this throw difficult. Still, Jones anticipates Ratley’s route and delivers the pass out of reach of the underneath defender. Ratley ends up catching the football just before the near hash. This play looks simple and easy, but this is a good throw from Jones.

Jones sees the coverage right at the snap and knows when to throw this simple slant/flat concept. C.J. Board (No. 18) runs the slant, and Jones rears back to throw the ball well before the flat covering defender crosses Board’s face. From his pre-snap convictions, Jones is aware that this is man coverage, and the cornerback is playing off.

This means that the corner left enough space for a tight throw to be successful and that the flat covering defender will be preoccupied with the flat receiver. This allows Jones to hit his back foot and fire a quick pass right as Board plants his foot into the break.

The pass leads Board into the space where he is going to be. Throwing with anticipation is much easier on these simple slant/flat combinations, but Jones can do it on deep digs and other more complex sets of routes.

Here’s a very difficult pass from the far hash. Daniel Jones is being pressured, and he sees the off leverage from the defensive back. Jones knows he has the deep comeback, but his clock is accelerated, and the throw is from the far hash, outside the numbers--one of the more difficult throws that require velocity, even at 12-yards of depth.

Jones has to throw the football before Slayton breaks back towards the quarterback. He throws the ball outside and away from the defender, and Slayton has the time to adjust and move the chains. This is a good job by both Jones and Slayton.

Jones showed these types of anticipatory skills on deep digs a few times in 2020. These balls require good touch and precise placement between the underneath and over-the-top defender.

This is a deep dig from Sterling Shepard (No. 87), and Jones throws the ball at the receiver's break and hits Shepard in stride. The ball is caught just past the 45-yard line, right before the near hash--the ball was thrown when Shepard was at the 40-yard line, plus split off the numbers at about three yards.

Placement

There’s also some anticipation on this throw above because Jones waits for Slayton to pass through the tight throwing window and hits the receiver right before the ROBOT (roll or run to find dig) player gets there. 

Jones sees where he wants to go with this ball right after the play-action, but he has to use velocity, some touch, and throw Slayton into an area a bit deeper than his route may have originally been designed because of the underneath defenders. Another very good throw from Jones.

This touchdown pass to Dion Lewis (No. 33) against the Buccaneers required touch because the coverage was so good by the defender. Jones sees that the linebacker is late to find Lewis, and then he fires a pass that only Lewis can go down and get. It’s not the sexiest throw from Jones, but it’s effective.

This type of back-shoulder play showcases the excellent rapport that Jones and Slayton have from their 2019 draft class. It requires timing, rhythm, and understanding of leverage.

The cornerback plays inside and over the top coverage; Jones sees this and fires the pass outside and away from the defender. Slayton adjusts and makes the catch--both are on the same page here.

There are several other throws that Jones made throughout the NFL season that would be deemed well above average. The fact that these throws aren’t overly consistent and, at times, some plays are left on the field is frustrating because we KNOW he has the capabilities of making these types of plays for the Giants’ offense.

The inconsistency makes this just good, but hopefully, next year, it will be the great part of Jones’ game.

Up Next: Part 2, The Great


More "Good, Great & Ugly" Breakdowns

WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph | OLB Oshane Ximines | LB Carter Coughlin | IDL Dexter Lawrence II | WR Darius Slayton | LB Cam Brown | DL Leonard Williams | OL Will Hernandez | IDL Austin Johnson | IDL B.J. Hill | WR Sterling Shepard | ILB Blake Martinez | DB Logan Ryan | C Nick Gates | OT Matt Peart | CB Darnay Holmes | ILB Tae Crowder | CB James Bradberry


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