Giants Unit Review: The Future Is Here at Quarterback
For the longest time, it seemed as though the Giants quarterback would be Eli Manning, and no one else.
But then came along the surprising selection of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall in the draft and suddenly for the first time since 2004, when the Giants traded with San Diego to acquire Manning, then the No. 1 overall pick in that draft class, an end-date was near.
That end date came a little sooner than anyone expected, after two losses that weren’t solely on Manning. It was the right move because then-head coach Pat Shurmur, perhaps realizing that the defense wasn’t quite ready to compete given all the youth, figured there was no better time than to let Jones cut his teeth.
Week by week, Jones went about his business with the calmness of a thief in the night, slowly erasing the doubts and jeers that had erupted after he named as the team’s first draft pick of 2019.
Whereas he was once booed at Yankee Stadium before even taking a snap, suddenly he was revered and that he won his first two games—one such win resulting in an NFC Offensive Player of the Week award—suddenly made him the toast of the town.
Although Jones did come back to earth after those two impressive starts, there was a lot to like about what he brought to the table, such as his high level of physical toughness, accuracy, arm talent, footwork, mobility, compete level, and mental toughness. He personified what it means to have a short-term memory by bouncing back from bad plays as though they had never happened.
He also showed a bit of a gunslinger mentality in his frequent tendency to seek opportunities down the field, completing 16 out of 54 deep attempts (29.6%) for 459 yards, four interceptions, and nine touchdowns on pass attempts of 20 or more yards.
Give the young man another receiver or two able to separate, and the potential of his conversion rate on deep passes likely improves. But at the same time, learning when to take the shorter, underneath stuff will be important as Jones continues his development.
Where Do They Go from Here?
With a new head coach (Joe Judge) and a still-to-be-named offensive coordinator set to run this offense, the Giants may very well move on from Tanney and, despite the fantasy of team president John Mara to somehow retain a working relationship with Manning, the long-time starter as well.
Manning has been the perfect employee and will forever hold a place in the hearts of the Giants faithful for all he’s done for the franchise. But in having watched him these last few painful years, it’s clear that while he can still make all the throws, he’s been jumpier in the pocket when pressure is around him, and that has impacted some of his decision making.
It’s also clear that if Mara were to get his wish to retain Manning, it probably wouldn’t come with the corresponding discount price tag. Manning has never taken a pay cut from contract to contract, and while he’d probably have to do so if he decides to play with another team, it’s hard to imagine him doing so with the Giants.
What makes the most sense for the Giants is to find a veteran backup willing to come in on a bargain contract, and to draft a young quarterback sometime on Day 3 to develop as a future backup or perhaps even as a trade chip down the line like the Patriots did with Jimmy Garoppolo.
As for Jones, his to-do list is lengthy, but not impossible.
At the top of the list is fixing the ball security issues that marred his play. Many of those fumbles came on blindside hits, but to that end, there is also something to be said for sensing the pocket pressure and using one’s feet to escape it.
Another thing that needs to be on Jones’ to-do list is becoming more fluent in reading NFL defenses.
Quite often in his rookie season, Jones was tasked with making one quick read and then throwing the ball. That started to change toward the end of the year and needs to continue as such into Year 2 of his tenure.
Along with that, there needs to be a balance to where Jones doesn’t develop happy feet and takes off prematurely at the first sign of trouble. A few years ago, that’s what happened with Ryan Nassib, who after a solid rookie season, started to regress thanks in part to skittishness in the pocket.
While this isn’t to compare the talent levels of Jones and Nassib, when one has a mobile quarterback, happy feet are a genuine concern.
Other things for Jones to work on include getting the ball out of his hand faster—he averaged 2.7 seconds in time to attempt a pass, which is an eternity (and a reason why not all the sacks and hits he took were the fault of the offensive line). With that will come throwing the ball away, something Jones showed a reluctance to do in his first season.
Lastly, it will be necessary for Jones to do a better job setting protections and blocking schemes and making more plays from the pocket. But all of this will come as he continues to gain experience, the best teacher of them all.
The Bottom Line
If nothing else, Jones proved he has the toughness to play the position and the steel-like resolve to deal with the fallout each week if things didn’t go well. Those are traits you can’t necessarily teach a guy to have.
The other fact—one that will be covered in an upcoming unit review installment—is putting a more consistent offensive line in front of Jones, specifically a line whose style matches the rookie’s style of play.
Experience—and a lot of drill work--will hopefully fix what ailed Jones in his inaugural season. So yes, despite the apparent end of the Manning era, which many people dreaded for years, it’s assuring to know that the future of the position is in good hands.