Matt Nagy Expects a Different Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones is not the same quarterback he was after walking out of Solider Field last year, and Bears head coach Matt Nagy knows it.
Back then, Nagy's Bears defense kept the then-rookie mostly in check when it mattered during the Giants' 19-13 loss to Chicago.
Still, Jones, who threw two touchdowns in that game and stood tall in the face of pressure, left enough of a positive impression on the Bears' head coach to where he's expecting the Giants signal-caller to be a much more confident quarterback this time around.
"The game is slowing down to [Jones] from last year to this year, that's what I've felt in the one game he's played," Nagy said after having reviewed the tape of the Giants' Week 1 loss to the Steelers.
"There's a nice, quiet confidence that he has when he's back there behind center and breaking the huddle and the way he sees the field.
"I thought this first game you could see that not only is he a threat to make plays with his arm, but he can do things with his legs as well and he's making good decisions."
Jones certainly played as if the game slowed down for him. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished in the middle third of the league (19th– 2.68 seconds) in average time to throw, getting rid of the ball quickly on most of his dropbacks.
Nagy's defense will be up against a completely different Giants offense this year that could feature some pre-snap motion and some different looks that all flow through Jones.
Last week, Jones passed the ball on 61.5% of the Giants' 1st-and-10 plays, the eighth-highest rate in the league. He was 13-of-16 on first down for 155 yards and allows the Giants to be a pass-first team in 2020.
In last year's Bears-Giants matchup, Jones played well enough to give the Giants a 7-3 lead at halftime, but his fumble in the third quarter proved to be a critical turning point that swung momentum in the Bears' favor as they took a 19-7 lead late in the fourth.
Facing a two-possession deficit, Jones still led the Giants' offense for a touchdown to give the Giants a chance late in the fourth quarter.
"[Jones] played well against us last year," Nagy recalled. "It's never easy [with him]."
For Jones, that fumble was one of his league-leading 18 last year. Ball security quickly became his Achilles and overshadowed some optimism around the potential he flashed as a rookie.
This year, Jones has shown improvement in his ball security and many of his decisions.
The ball security issue, in particular, is essential. The Bears defense, much like the Steelers', gets after the ball carrier looking to create turnovers. But while last year it was a little bit easier to separate Jones from the ball, this year, Nagy's defense will have to deal with a much bigger and leaner quarterback who added 10 pounds of muscle and increased his strength and ability to take a hit.
The extra bulk has proven to help quarterbacks reduce fumbles in the past, even as recent as last year when Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson returned to training camp with about eight new pounds of muscle. This helped Jackson reduce his fumbles per game from 1.7 as a rookie in 2018 to just 0.56 in his MVP season in 2019.
The added muscle might have even played into Jackson's improved rushing yards after contact, going from 1.3 in 2018 to 1.9 in 2019 and his deep-ball completion.
It's too soon to say if Jones' second year will follow the same path as Jackson's. Regardless, Nagy is expecting to see a much different Daniel Jones Sunday.
"He's a second-year quarterback that has seen a lot of defenses and I think he's done a great job and has a super bright future," Nagy said.