Despite the national narrative that the future of New York Giants QB Daniel Jones has long been decided, please consider the following- “part of the process IS THE PROCESS”. And, to that end, the New York Football Giants have done a dis-service when it comes to Jones, when trying to set him up for current and future success. Until, that is, this year.
Since being selected as the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the last thing to come to anyone’s mind is a comparison between him and current Buffalo Bills MVP candidate Josh Allen. More on that later. Enter new head coach, Brian Daboll, who coached Allen in Buffalo for four years prior to becoming the head coach of the Giants.
Until this season, Jones’ career has been stuck in neutral with little or no tangible improvement from one season to the next. In fact, I have been one voice to even go back further in his career. I don’t think he got better in his last two years at Duke either. I said the exact same things about him when I made school visits as the national scout for the Los Angeles Chargers. I’ve haven’t changed my opinion during his time in the NFL. He just hadn’t gotten any better.
The numbers do tell a story of slight improvement despite the quality of play that most have been critical of with Jones. He has shown that reducing INT’s (12 as a rookie) and fumbles (18 as a rookie) in each of his first four seasons helps. That along with increasing his completion percentage, in each year, 61.9% as a rookie, to this year’s current rate of 67.3%, all play a factor in raising your level of play to meet the ever-shrinking margin of error that is acceptable in the NFL game. I think these numbers need to be acknowledged in showing that young players who make mistakes will not always be young players who make mistakes. Consider this as well, accuracy is not always about completion percentage, but also about a comfort level in learning his trade for playing the QB position at the highest level.
The overwhelming difference in Jones now, for me, is the design of the offense to fit his skill set. This has been brought to the table by the new Giants coaching staff, in particular Daboll. There is a lesson here for the rest of the offensive geniuses in the NFL. Don’t be stuck in your own world of making every player fit your scheme. Its occasionally okay to make the scheme fit the player.
We see how this is playing out in Chicago as well with QB Justin Fields. Until this last Monday night vs the Patriots, it has been Bears coaches (two different staffs) trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and making Fields into a drop back, coverage processor, in the pocket, QB. Monday night was the first true glimpse of “what might be” with Fields as they adapted a more skillset friendly approach and Fields had his best game of his young career.
IMO, this is what we are seeing in New York in 2022. Here is my condensed assessment of what Jones is.
STRONG POINTS: He is very athletic both inside and outside of the pocket. Jones can extend plays on the edge of defenses with his legs and with impromptu decisions. He can make defenses pay as a runner. Jones has above-average arm strength to make tight window throws. He shows touch and correct trajectory on most throws which tells me he has a natural feel for being an NFL passer. He is accurate with above-average ball placement most of the time and his receivers (who are another story) can run after the catch because the ball is on target. Jones is a very good ball handler who carries out fakes with both his hands and his eyes well. He is really good at making first or even second reads in both the run and pass games. Jones sees half field better than full field.
WEAK POINTS: Jones does not have a quick trigger/release. He needs his legs under him to generate velocity on most throws. He does not process coverages from straight drop back play designs (a combination of m/m and certain zone coverage together give him problems). He does not anticipate or throw people open. Sometimes Jones looks at the entire field but doesn’t see the obvious and he WILL take some chances that are not needed.
Based on this, what the Giants are doing on offense is exactly the match for the skill set that Jones possesses, perhaps for the first time in his career. The Giants run a play action/RPO offense that has many predetermined targets and routes. This offensive scheme does not ask the QB to sit in the pocket, process coverage, and determine targets on the fly. They don’t force him to anticipate and make a lot of timing throws before receivers are open. Instead, they are taking advantage of his ball handling, his athletic ability and his accurate above-average arm strength. When his feet are under him, Jones makes one or sometimes two basic reads and pulls the trigger. The Giants offensive staffs gives him the simplest keys and allows him to take off and run (especially vs m/m coverage) when things are cloudy to sort out in the secondary.
Now in his fourth year in the NFL, Jones is on his third head coach and third offensive coordinator. Even the team owner, John Mara, admitted the Giants, as an organization, have failed Jones and his development. In regard to my earlier comment about process, I agree with Mara, the Giants process had failed with Jones before this season. The results we are seeing in 2022 with Daboll are not only the first sign of improvement in Jones IMO, but also, for the first in six years, we now can see an upside that allows us to think they may have their QB of the future, contract numbers notwithstanding. The skills have always been there.
Because of what they are now doing, Jones’ confidence is growing. At some point in the near future, he will likely master these given tasks of this offensive scheme and move to the next level. That’s the upside. It’s a process, remember?
And as part of the upside will come an upgrade in his targets. He is playing with limited WR’s who struggle to both coach and separate at times. GM Joe Schoen will fix this ASAP.
We saw what Daboll did with Bills QB Josh Allen (who had similar traits) both physically (6050+ and 230 lbs+) and from a mental standpoint. Allen was in the same offense as Jones and coached by the same OC for his first four years in the league and it still took him time. We even saw, on another level, the progress Daboll made with Mitch Trubisky, even though it was just for one year. Trubisky struggled before Daboll in Chicago and after him in Pittsburgh. Much has been said and written about what Allen, the leagues frontrunner for MVP this year, has become while struggling early in his career. I credit Daboll and his system of developing a skill set to build confidence as a young QB navigates the learning curve of becoming an NFL starter.
Giants fans can now consider their future bright with their current QB. And thru my eyes, we might just be burying the lead, RB Saquon Barkley might be the best offensive player in the NFL so far this year. But that’s for another day.