A Closer Look at Daniel Jones's Second Season

On the surface, New York Giants QB Daniel Jones's stats suggest he's taken a big step backward. But in digging a little deeper, that's not necessarily the case.
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I recently ran a listener Q&A on the LockedOn Giants podcast, but unfortunately, a few questions arrived after I had wrapped up the recording.

I plan on circling back to those questions next week, but there was one question tht caught my eye because it aligned with an analytical breakdown I was planning to do on quarterback Daniel Jones.

Here is the question, as submitted by "JM:"

You can't win in the NFL with the production the Giants are getting from the QB position. For every passing TD, the QB has more than 2 fumbles and interceptions (more than a 2 to 1 ratio)—only 9 passing TDs in 13 games.

This year the top QBs in the league contribute around 18 points per game (passing and rushing TD's). The league average for all QB's so far this year is 10.6 points per game. Giant QBs produce 4.6 points per game, dead last in the league even behind the Jets (6.0). We are more likely to finish last in the NFC East than first.

How can anyone feel that we have the QB of the future on this team? There is a 25-game history now of Jones that is trending downward. I want Jones to be successful, but how can anyone with any football knowledge and common sense think that this guy is an NFL QB? ... What does the media see?

If we go by Daniel Jones's 2020 core statistics alone, yes, there is reason to wonder if the Giants have made a horrible mistake in turning the keys to the kingdom over to the former Duke signal-caller.

But touchdowns to interceptions thrown don't tell the full story, especially when it comes to quarterback play, which we’ll get to in a moment.

First, a look at the numbers. As a rookie, Jones threw 24 touchdowns. This year, that number has dropped to eight. He also threw for 300+ yards five times in his first season, whereas this year, the best he’s produced is 279 yards in the regular-season opener against the Steelers.

The interceptions are down—12 last year, nine this year—as are the fumbles (18 last year and ten this year).

All these numbers don't paint a pretty picture. But there is more behind the numbers, which offer an encouraging picture and contradict the idea that Jones is "trending downward."

Jones is tied with Detroit’s Matthew Stafford for having absorbed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL (37). Of his 37 sacks, Jones is responsible for six, a slight improvement from his rookie year where he was sacked 29 times in 13 games but was linked to eight of them.

By contrast, Stafford, who has far more experience than Jones, has been linked to nine of his sacks absorbed this year.

Jones is also ninth in the league for most dropped passes (24). Take away those drops—and a few of them have come on third downs—and Jones has an adjusted completion percentage of 75.4%, 21st out of 30 quarterbacks who have taken at least 50% of 553 dropbacks (that number being the most dropbacks taken by a quarterback in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs).

That adjusted completion rate is better than what Jones recorded as a rookie (72.3%). Tying into that has been reducing bad throws, where Jones has gone from 80 as a rookie to 63 this year.

Interestingly, Jones has averaged the same amount of time in the pocket (2.5 seconds) between the snap and throwing the ball or pressure collapsing the pocket as both a rookie and in his second year.

(This number is one lump figure versus PFF's numbers, which are separated according to different events within the quarterback's usual timeline.)

In yards per pass attempt, Jones is only two-tenths of a yard off from his rookie numbers (6.6 to 6.4). In contrast, his yards per completion is right about equal (10.7 to 10.3), which suggests he's stayed the same despite continuing to be let down by inconsistent offensive line play and receivers who have not only been banged up but who have struggled to separate.

Jones has by no means arrived. Certainly, the fact that he had a new offensive system to learn this year combined with having no off-season or preseason didn't help matters.

And his ability to move around in the pocket has always been a feather in his cap, especially when playing behind an offensive line not only trying to jell but which has played through an unconventional rotation.

One final point, this one specific to the top quarterbacks in the league and what they're contributing pointwise. I took a look at the Giants' penalties this year.

New York has 75 penalties this season for 529 yards, according to league stats. Of those yards, 178 yards of offense have been nullified.

But even more alarming is that 26 of the Giants penalties on offense have resulted in a stalled scoring drive. You want another reason why the quarterbacks haven't been producing points on top of the dropped passes and the leaky protection, look no further than the fact that nearly 35% of their penalties stopped their drives.

Jones's second season hasn't been the big breakout year (think Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes) that people weren't expecting. He still has some struggles seeing the whole field, and there are still some questions as to whether the offensive system put in place by Jason Garrett is the fit everyone hoped it would be.

The biggest question--his pocket awareness--is still a work in progress, which quarterback coach Jerry Schuplinski said is coming along. Still, it's something that Jones needs to realize when to call it a play when the pocket around him is collapsing rather than to try to be a hero and take an unnecessary risk with the ball.

However, a more in-depth look suggests that his sophomore season hasn't been as disastrous as it might appear on the surface. 

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