Fixing Daniel Jones for 2021

by Craig J. Santucci @NYGiantsRush

Let’s talk about Quarterback Daniel Jones.

With all this Deshawn Watson trade talk I wanted to drop in some thoughts on Daniel Jones now that the season is long over.

Fandom:

I do not love or hate Daniel Jones. I root for him because he is a New York Giant. I also see potential in a big, strong, smart kid that can throw and run like a deer when given the opportunity. I have also seen Scott Brunner, Danny Kannel, Kent Graham, and Dave Brown, take snaps for the Giants. It wasn’t pretty. In today’s’ NFL…Daniel Jones seems to be a late bloomer which does not bode well with “Fandom”.

Issues that need attention.

  1. Weapons
  2. Confidence
  3. Mechanics/footwork

Weapons:

Jones has the size and arm strength to get the job done in the NFL job. In 2019 Jones went vertical with success proving he could deliver explosive plays down the field. Slayton and Jones connected 48 times, for 740 yards and 8 touchdowns. In 2020 that disappeared. Even in a basic system, receivers have to learn and work to get open. These receivers are called, “A Pro’s Pro”. The Giants have one: Sterling Shepard

With a lack of weapons, the RPO is vital. When DJ took off he gained massive chunks of yards. The RPO was underutilized. The Giants haven’t had a mobile QB since 1971.

After the Jones hamstring injury, his play immediately looked like it was week one all over again. Sometimes I doubt Jones mental toughness. I’d like to tell him to stop thinking and play football. His average receivers and lack of chemistry with them compounds this issue. As the season progressed Jones made some great throws but like clockwork, every Sunday is filled with dropped balls and no separation. The only two receivers that should step on the field wearing Giants blue in 2021 is Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. This includes trading Evan Engram. We have now seen his floor and his ceiling. You get…what you see.

The Giants must acquire a wide receiver in Free Agency and draft two offensive targets for 2021.

Confidence: Manning Influence

This season Jones looked tentative from the 1st snap. He did not look like a QB in charge of an NFL team. He looked like a player wearing the uniform, just doing a job. The Garrett offense may have confused him or it could be simple as a lack of reps with the starting teams due to Covid. Either way, Garrett needs to feature what Jones does best and build success.

While it may be very subtle, the Manning influence seemed to be missing. Eli was gone and there was no one to enforce the muscle memory. Jones needed to progress and continue developing his own habits and routines. I don’t give QB coach Jerry Schuplinski a pass here. Schuplinski seems like he just mailed it in. How can we see Jones struggling from our living rooms, yet Schuplinski doesn’t see it from the field every day. It’s like McAdoo as the OC instantly correcting Manning’s footwork when exiting the from the center.

Confidence: Between His Ears

Eli Manning was drafted onto a very mature team. In those early years as Manning figured things out…leadership NEVER rested solely on his shoulders. Coughlin created a leadership council headed by one position player in each group. Snee, Shockey, Diehl, Strahan, Toomer, O’Hara, AP all helped carry the load in the early years. Manning grew…into the guy.

For Jones…being a leader is clunky and it shows. I chalk this up to a lack of confidence, a lack of understanding of the Offense and where the receivers were going to be, or both.

Some coaching staffs recognize that the QB is struggling and immediately strip things down to basics and feed the QB in pieces. No one is going to tell you in public, but I can make an educated guess, that many people on the staff considered Jones a full year starter with experience and with a Duke education. Like any staff in the NFL facing Covid restrictions, preparing was tough. Did they potentially underestimate how much Jones would have to unlearn and relearn? It’s very possible.

Mechanics/Footwork:

For the 1st four or five games, he looked like a one read QB. He was not scanning the field, he was not stepping up in the pocket and he was not fooling the defense where he was going with the ball. He was sliding horizontally, his footwork was terrible, and was holding the ball too long. In the NFL you have to let the ball go or die.

Between week 5 and week 8 Jones progressed each week. Gallman was getting hot and the offensive line was actually blocking. (Columbo fired) In those weeks, the Giants scored 34, 20, 21, and 23 points. Gano was still the driver, but Jones was noticeably better overall.

Mechanics: Fumbles

Jones fumbles are unacceptable at the NFL level. Once ESPN is showing your weekly fumbles on TV, you’re labeled a fumbler and defenses know what to do. So unless you can take a hit and hold onto the ball week in and week out, pass rushers are coming hard, punching and chopping that ball to the turf.

I’m not sure fumbles can be fixed at the Quarterback position, however, this isn’t new. Jones fumbled 19 times over 3 years at Duke, losing 13 of them. Until he has a pro bowl caliber line, he needs to throw the ball away or instantly pull the ball to his body. Trying to make a play while being sacked does not work. He did lower his fumbles from 18 to 11 in 2020.

Fumbles by a QB in 2020: Carr(11), Murray(9), Allen(9), Wentz(10), Hurts(9), Cousin(9), Jackson(10), were all a top of the leader board for fumbles. He is learning, just slower than anyone would like.

PSI: I would even consider lowering all Jones footballs to 12.5 psi. This is still within regulation and could give him an edge gripping the ball when he’s mobile. It couldn’t hurt.

Summary:

If the Giants acquire a down-field threat and big possession receiver Jones productivity will increase.

The offense needs to fit around what he did at Duke and his rookie year with the Giants. Why? Because NFL teams are adapting their playbooks and tempo to mirror the QB strengths. Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen are perfect examples.

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