Giants' 2020 Roster Report Card: Grading the Quarterbacks

Patricia Traina

For the first time since 2004, you won’t see Eli Manning’s name among the Giants quarterbacks list ahead of training camp. But the reality is that all good things have to end eventually, and Manning, who retired after last season, delivered far more thrilling moments for the Giants fan base than he did clunkers.

Manning’s retirement aside, an argument could certainly be made that the Giants upgraded their quarterback spot compared to where it was this time last year, and here’s why.

Last year going into camp, Manning was the starter, followed by Jones, Kyle Lauletta, and Alex Tanney, three quarterbacks that had minimal regular-season NFL action between them (Jones being the sixth overall pick in the draft).

This year as the Giants get ready for training camp, scheduled to start July 28, their potential backup situation is a lot more stable as is their starting spot in what might very well be the best quarterback situation since the days when David Carr was on the roster as Manning’s backup.

Roster Locks: Daniel Jones

Barring anything unexpected happening, Jones is going to be the starter this year. His 24 touchdowns were tops among his rookie peers last season. His 61.9% accuracy rate was second among rookie quarterbacks who took at least 50% of their team’s offensive snaps (ranking behind Arizona’s Kyler Murray).

Jones needs to improve on his ball security issues—his 18 fumbles led the league. But another area the team is going to need him to step up in his deep ball accuracy. Per PFF, he completed 16 of 54 deep pass attempts of 20 or more yards with a 35.2 adjusted completion percentage on his deep passes, fourth out of five rookie quarterbacks who attempted a minimum of 20 deep passes.

Better pass protection and quicker mental processing should go a long way toward Jones being able to find more success in the deep passing game, expected to be more prominent in the offense Jason Garrett is thought to be planning.

So too will being able to hit the ground running in operating Garrett's offense. To supplement his learning this off-season during the virtual program, Jones also studied film clips of the Cowboys offense.

"I’m trying to stay on top of it," Jones said in May. "With all of this stuff, it’s a lot of information. It’s a whole new system. I’m trying to work at the pace we’re asked to and understanding as much as I can thoroughly and fully before trying to jump ahead, and it’s not taught completely. I think the coaches have done a really good job, like you said, separating it and getting it to us piece by piece."

We'll find out soon enough how well that process went.

Likely Backups: Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush

Already Colt McCoy appears to have developed a rapport with Jones, as it was McCoy who helped Jones arrange a passing camp last month at the University of Texas. But the most significant benefit McCoy brings to the table is prior starting experience.

We’ve already seen Jones, who is more of a mobile quarterback than Manning ever was, miss multiple games due to injury. While the hope is that he doesn’t experience another injury-related absence again, there are no guarantees. So it behooves the Giants to have a backup quarterback on the roster with actual starting experience just in case.

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It remains to be seen if the Giants will keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster, but if it’s three, it would be hard to imagine the third guy not being Cooper Rush, who was with Garrett in Dallas and who knows his system inside and out. Rush’s knowledge of the offense is vital given the lack of a traditional off-season, as he can serve as sort of a “teaching assistant” int hat quarterbacks room.

Even if the Giants can’t keep three quarterbacks on the roster, Rush would still be eligible for the practice squad, making him an almost lock to be a part of the Giants organization in some capacity in 2020.

Bubble Guys: Case Cookus, Alex Tanney

Given the lack of a traditional off-season and the strong possibility that there won’t be any preseason games played because of the COVID-19 virus, it’s a bad year for undrafted rookie free agent quarterbacks to try to impress enough to at the very least receive practice squad consideration.

When you throw in the fact that the team you’re trying to impress is installing a new offensive system and the odds of impressing drop even further.

Such is the situation that Case Cookus of Northern Arizona finds himself in. Cookus impressed the Giants brass enough with his college tape to earn an invitation to training camp.

While it would be nice to give him a spot on the practice squad, especially if the practice squads are expanded, if the Giants need to shuffle the main roster around due to injury, Cooper Rush might have a better chance at the practice squad spot than Cookus at this point.

Tanney draws a lot of flack from fans, but despite his limited game experience, he’s been in several systems, and he’s been a useful voice for starter Daniel Jones. With the arrival of McCoy, Tanney, who seemed to be a Pat Shurmur favorite, has likely seen his final stint with the Giants.

Grade: B+

Yes, Jones had a lot to work on in the off-season--the ball security issues, learning a new offense, and expanding his read beyond the initial one. The second-year player didn't sit on his hands and expect everything to come to him via osmosis.

Just as important, with Manning retired, Jones knows that he can make this offense his if he steps up, so that part of his growth will undoubtedly be fun to watch.

As already noted, the Giants backup situation is as solid as it's been in years. It's hoped that Jones, who last year had to miss games with a high ankle sprain, will enjoy an iron-man streak similar to what Manning experienced over his career. 

But should Colt McCoy have to step in for a game or two, at least the Giants can take solace in knowing they have experienced depth behind the starter.