Consider this a week of big shoes being filled, as for the New York Giants, long-time starting quarterback Eli Manning gave way to rookie Daniel Jones, who assumed a role previously filled by a two-time Super Bowl winner and made it look easy.
The rookie quarterback completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and also added two rushing touchdowns while leading the Giants to a comeback victory on the road in what was a very impressive debut for the young passer.
What stands out watching this performance are the many ways the Giants offense seemed to take on new life under Jones, and the many traits he brings to the table even with minimal pro experience.
In this piece, we will look at three plays to highlight just how Jones was able to jumpstart this offense and deliver a victory on the road.
One of Jones’ best traits coming out of Duke University was his athleticism. Jones flashed the ability to create and extend plays with his legs, throw on the move, or be utilized as a ball-carrier on designed runs.
Those plays were a focal part of his time in college, and we saw Jones’ athleticism featured in a big way on Sunday. It is rare to describe a quarterback as an “angle-eraser,” but we saw that in the second quarter.
With the Giants trailing 12-3 early in the second quarter, their offense faces a 3rd and 5 on their own 30-yard line.
Looking to keep this drive alive they line up using 11 offensive personnel and put three receivers to the right. Jones (#8) aligns in the shotgun. The Buccaneers’ defense responds with a 3-3-5 nickel defense, and they show pressure with both outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage in two-point stances:
Pat Shurmur calls for a vertical passing concept to the three-receiver side of the formation, with a backside slant route.
This gives Jones the option of a big passing play downfield to the trips side should he like the coverage, or the quick slant route if he prefers the one-on-one matchup backside:
However, best-laid plans and all that. Tampa Bay rushes just four, but they drop the two outside linebackers into coverage but blitz the middle linebacker.
This creates immediate interior pressure, and Jones is forced to flush out of the pocket to his right. That takes him away from most of the routes, and he tucks and runs on this play.
Pay particular attention to how he evades linebacker Shaquil Barrett (#58), who dropped into coverage:
Barrett has the angle on him and should be able to draft Jones down behind the line of scrimmage for a sack, or at least stop him from getting the first down. But the quarterback erases Barrett’s geometric advantage, cuts outside him towards the boundary, and skips upfield for the first down.
Here is another look at this play, from the end zone angle:
It is rare that a QB can erase an angle like that, but Jones’ athletic ability allows the Giants to extend this drive.
They would cap off this drive with a touchdown run from Jones on a zone-read keeper around the right end. Again, his athleticism plays a big role.
Comfort in the Cauldron
Jones was flawless when pressured Sunday, and he was pressured early and often.
On Monday I joined Patricia on her LockedOn Giants podcast and highlighted some statistics about Jones’ handling of pressure that blew my mind.
First were these numbers highlighted by Pat Thorman from Establish the Run:
Jones was pressured on 47% of his dropbacks Sunday--third-highest among all Week 3 quarterbacks--and he completed 80% of his passes on those pressured attempts for 233 yards, two touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Building off of that, Scott Barrett from Pro Football Focus indicated that those numbers were the fourth-most pressured passing yards by any quarterback in any regular-season game in PFF’s history, a timeframe that spans 2007 through 2019.
During that decade-plus, there are 1,674 instances of a quarterback attempting at least 12 pressured pass attempts in a game, and here is the list of quarterbacks who finished with a perfect passer rating:
- Daniel Jones.
That’s it; Jones is the list.
Yet not all pressure is created equally. Sometimes a quarterback creates his own pressure, due to slow reads and decision-making, or bailing the pocket and running into pressure.
So I wanted to see what was creating the pressure. Reviewing the coaches’ film solidified the fact that Jones was tremendous from pressure, and it was not pressure he was creating.
A perfect example of this comes late in the first half. The Giants face a 1st and 10 on their own 25-yard line and put Jones in the shotgun.
They are going to work this shallow cross concept with a drag route from right to left, and a deeper crossing route over the top of that from left to right:
Tampa Bay brings pressure here, blitzing a linebacker and crossing him with the defensive tackle.
The pocket begins to collapse around the young quarterback, but he uses his feet well to slide and feel the pressure and create enough space. He then hits Sterling Shepard (#87) on the crossing route:
It is just a six-yard gain, but the anticipation on this throw is truly impressive.
As you can see from the end zone angle, Jones does not wait for Shepard to clear the underneath linebacker, he throws him open into space. If Jones waits to see the receiver come open here, he is going to be sacked:
This is a tremendous play from the rookie quarterback.
Making the Offense Better
Let’s be fair: Manning was not the reason the Giants entered Week 3 with a 0-2 record. But Jones’ athleticism, as well as his experience running a spread, run/pass offense system in college, might be a better fit for the personnel on this offense.
That was on full display on New York’s first play of the second half. Trailing 28-10 the Giants line up with Jones in the shotgun and use a 2x2 formation, putting tight end Evan Engram (#88) inline on the right:
There are two factors that must be understood to appreciate this play.
First off, notice the running back next to Jones. That’s Wayne Gallman (#22), and not Saquon Barkley, who was injured in the first half.
Second, in the first half, the Giants had amassed a grand total of 33 yards rushing, with Jones accounting for 21 of those yards. The ground game was, shall we say, not exactly in fine form.
But here, the Giants use a play-action passing play, with Jones meshing with Gallman in the backfield. Engram runs a simple crosser from right to left:
The Buccaneers drop into a Cover 3 scheme here, and they should have this play covered well. But the threat of the run action--perhaps including the threat of Jones keeping the football--gets the linebackers to crash downhill, creating a throwing lane for Jones to find Engram:
From there, the tight end does the rest.
Now look, it is one game, against a defense that certainly had its struggles last season and a defense that has given up more than 30 points twice over three games.
But in addition to everything Jones brought to the table Sunday, he delivered something else: Hope.
The hope that Giants fans longed for when he walked across the stage on draft night, materialized in a comeback victory and some pressure numbers for the ages.
Whether Jones lives up to the hope going forward remains to be seen, but on this first afternoon, he filled those shoes extremely well.