Let's conclude our deep dive into New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones's film by turning the spotlight to the ugly in his game.
The Ugly: Mistakes
Jones is a young 24-year-old player who had to learn two systems in his first two seasons. The main focus for the Giants’ offense, according to Jason Garrett, was to cut Jones’ turnovers--the Giants were able to achieve this goal, but the outcome was still undesirable.
In comparable snaps, Jones cut his interceptions by two and fumbled seven fewer times, but the offense was 31st in yards and 31st in points. There were still plays littered throughout Jones’ game where he either made really poor decisions and was careless or missed an opportunity to find an explosive play or even move the sticks.
The Football Team uses Inverted Cover-2 to confuse Jones; this is a variation of the Tampa-2 Robber that Patrick Graham used so frequently down the season's stretch.
Only on this play, both the outside corners are dropping to deep-half responsibilities, but the pre-snap MOFC player drops to Tampa-2 linebacker responsibilities.
Jones sees this, and his feet become unsettled, and then he bails the pocket to avoid the pressure a bit early. Knowing the 3x1 route combination with the seam and comeback, while also seeing what the defense did pre-snap, should have given Jones the indication that the comeback could be wide open.
As I pointed out in the Darnay Holmes article, that overhang defender is stressed in these types of defenses. However, Jones fails to see the wide-open receiver on the sideline until it’s way too late, and then he just fires the ball out of bounds.
These are the frustrating things that Jones struggles with on a snap to snap basis. He recognized the coverage was different from his pre-snap convictions. Yet, he failed to conceptualize the vulnerability in the defense once it was diagnosed--he seemed just to panic because the pre-snap to post-snap read was different.
The blitz isn’t picked up, and the pressure is right in Jones’ face, but the great quarterbacks can decipher and deliver the proper pass in a simple slant/flat concept like the one we see above. Slayton destroys the cornerback on the release, and he has the inside leverage, but Jones throws to the flat defender despite there being little space.
If Jaylon Smith (No. 54) stood square through Jones’ read, then I can see the hesitation, but he didn’t; he committed to the flat route, and Jones should have known, despite the pressure, that the slant would be open due to the leverage and release outside. The defender that blitzed was vacated, and it was the area to target.
A fair criticism of Jones is that he holds onto the football too long. It’s only second down against a two-high defense showing zone, and the Giants flood the left side of the field.
Jones has Engram wide open in the flat, but he gets greedy and holds onto the ball too long, resulting in a fumble. These mistakes have to stop; they’re reckless, and he needs to take what the defense is giving him at times--live to fight another down.
Jones will, at times, get tunnel vision, and he will leave plays on the field. The line of scrimmage is crowded, and there are only two defenders that could potentially drop to the deep half, signifying a possible one high situation.
At the snap, this is confirmed when the defender at midfield takes the horizontal cross from Engram. This means that there’s a one on one matchup with Slayton outside and the nearest deep defender being on the far hash.
Jones has to watch the release of Slayton here, who is streaking downfield for an easy touchdown. Jones decides to throw the ball to Shepard and take the holding penalty that would have been called if he did take the shot anyway. It’s a conservative play from Jones.
Here are three reckless interceptions that Jones has to learn from.
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Jason Garrett designed a terrible play for the second clip, but Jones makes the problem worse by trying to do too much--this is a real issue for Jones. Why Garrett would call a play-action run/rollout towards the unblocked EMOLOS, who happens to be one of the best pursuit defenders in the NFL is beyond me (Bud Dupree).
The third one Jones knows he has the one-on-one matchup with Slayton outside, and he even looks to see the defender dropping down, but he comes off the play too quickly and then just gets too cute as the pocket collapses around him.
I don’t consider Jones a quarterback who typically struggles with ball placement or touch, but it did happen at times in the 2020 season. Garrett loves using this double move, double nine route look from his outside receivers.
Jones puts too much on this pass and leads Slayton out of bounds. The throw is from the middle of the field, he had time to step into the pass, and he had time to set up and focus on his mechanics, but still, the throw was errant.
Slayton, who showed some impressive reps when used in the slot, really separates from his defenders on this play. Jones has a clear platform, with a defender closing in. This could have possibly been a route run at the wrong depth from a receiver that is traditionally outside, but the throw is high and away. A missed opportunity for the Giants.
Jones misses Shepard on this excellent slant and go route that left the cornerback in the dust. If Jones puts this ball on Shepard, it’s a possible touchdown. Jones is able to throw from a clean base, despite the pressure coming in, but the ball is just off target.
After battling back, from the worst game of his career, to nearly tying the game is impressive, but Jones misses his opportunity to bring the game to overtime on this two-point conversion.
If he throws the ball right when he turns his shoulders, he has Lewis open for the conversion, but he waits and waits, and this allows Antoine Winfield Jr (No. 31) to close on the ball and knock it away.
I know there’s not much distance between Jones and Lewis, but this is a bang-bang play--he doesn’t have to wait for Lewis to look at him. Every second counts, and this play, and possibly a win, was left on the field.
This is a significant season for the Giants franchise, and their off-season investments reflect that. Assistant general manager and cap expert Kevin Abrams has suggested that the 2022 cap situation may be tight, so it’s apparent that the chips are all in for 2021--this team has to know if Daniel Jones is the guy.
I would love to sit here and write about my confidence in Jones and how he has shown the ability to deliver in times of crisis consistently, but that would be disingenuous.
I believe Jones has shown many signs of a quarterback that has the necessary traits to experience success in the NFL. These signs aren’t consistent, and they haven’t proven to define Jones in his young career.
However, the operative word is young. The reality that Jones had a truncated off-season and had to learn a new system with new terminology is something that can’t be ignored.
I like Daniel Jones and think he has the upside to be a top 15 quarterback in the NFL. I don’t necessarily believe he can be top 5. This doesn’t mean the Giants can’t win games with him--they certainly can.
Jones has the work ethic, competitive toughness, athletic ability, and the traits, albeit they’re not entirely consistent yet, to be a quality starter in the NFL. His processing must improve for him to take his game to the next level. All of this needs to materialize on the field and hopefully lead to wins on Sunday.
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