Jan 272021
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 11, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks and head coaches will always be lightning rods for the media and fans. That’s just the way it is. Winning championships will silence most critics. But only for a limited time, and they will then soon return. We saw this with Phil Simms and Eli Manning. Simms’ regular-season record was a 95-64; Manning’s regular-season record was 117-117. Other modern era NYG quarterbacks of note, Dave Brown was 23-30 and Kerry Collins was 35-33 when they played for the Giants.

Through two seasons, Daniel Jones is 8-18.

So fan ire directed at Jones is as predictable as the sun rising in the east, especially with Joe Judge just finishing his introductory honeymoon season. Is the criticism justified? Passionate opinions vary. And everyone has an opinion. I will simply point to something Sy’56 wrote in his second-to-last game review of the 2020 campaign:

It is OK if you believe Jones is not the answer. It is OK if you think Jones is the answer. Nobody can objectively determine that right now. One thing we all can and should agree on: you don’t know. I don’t know. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. The kid has played TWENTY-FIVE games behind a bottom-5 offensive line, the worst set of receivers in football, a tight end who is among league leaders in drops, and a star running back who has missed 14 of 25 games in which Jones started. He needs to be better and I have been vocal about that. You can even argue NYG should start over at QB in the upcoming draft. But to say Jones and NYG should be better because he was the #6 pick (means almost nothing, do some research), or that Jones is a definitive bust, you just sound foolish. This kid has shown more in 25 games than SO MANY quality quarterbacks. That is a fact.

Piggybacking on what Sy’56 wrote, I’m not going to try to convince you that Jones is a good or bad NFL quarterback. Opinions are far too set in concrete. I will simply remind you that many, if not most, New York Giants fans were convinced Phil Simms was a dog as late as the 1986 season (the Giants passing game really struggled much of that year) and the same of Eli Manning in 2007 (just remember the mood after the November game against the Vikings). At the time, Simms was in his 8th NFL season and Manning in his 4th NFL season and fans were still calling both bums.

Big picture. Other than the ridiculous number of fumbles, Jones had an incredible rookie season. His sophomore season in the NFL was a major disappointment. Despite starting two more games, Jones’ touchdown productivity fell from 24 to 11. Interceptions have not been a big problem for him, but the fumbling is still an issue even though it dropped from 18 to 11 (one of those was on Wayne Gallman).

Jones struggled early. The offensive line and running backs did not play well and Jones ended up being the leading rusher for the team in four of the first seven games. Once the offensive line started to improve and the running game picked up, Jones stopped turning the ball over, he played better, and the team began to win games. Unfortunately, just as Jones seemed to be hitting his stride, he suffered a hamstring injury, missed a game, came back too soon, injured his ankle, and missed another game. Jones’ rough start and finish overshadowed the brief positive stretch in November. In some ways, the season feels like an “incomplete” grade for Jones.

My biggest take-away from 2020 regarding Daniel Jones is what Joe Judge (unprompted) said about him on December 28th after a rough loss against the Baltimore Ravens:

We have to make sure we avoid the hits on the quarterback. But there are times you’re protecting with just five and they’re bringing six or seven, and Daniel did a very good job yesterday of really controlling it and operating it and getting the ball out. You look at yesterday, there are a lot of situations where Daniel knew there were going to be free runners. You just know it by scheme. That’s part of how you design getting the ball out. We had some hot reads, some sight adjustments, and just some plays schemed for a quick gain. I really like the way Daniel handled it yesterday. You kind of talk about what level of improvement have we seen throughout the year, I think there are a lot of things that show up on the tape yesterday with #8. You watch him from the start of the year to through yesterday and how he handled a lot of the situations with the pressure, the ball security and the decision-making. He did a lot of things that demonstrate a lot of growth. There are a lot of things you guys ask me all the time. What are you really looking at with this team as you go forward?

Well, I’ll start with a key piece right there with Daniel. You always want to know about is Daniel our guy? Are we going forward with Daniel? The answer is absolutely. What gives us that confidence is even in games like yesterday where it didn’t come out perfectly, you can turn the tape on and you can say, ‘hey listen, in games one through whatever, that wasn’t the guy we were looking at.’ You watch the tape yesterday and you see that guy in there operating, executing, understanding the pressure and not just standing in there with courage like he’s done all along and taken a hit but understanding how to take the hit and deliver an accurate pass and move the sticks down the field. These are things that as he grows in this league and develops in his craft, he’s going to be able to do. As we get going and we build more into this scheme, he’ll be able to handle it different ways as well and take some hits off himself. You see a lot of growth in these guys. I thought Daniel yesterday played well. There are some plays I’m sure he’d like to have back, some plays we’d like to do differently. That’s natural in any game. We’re going to coach it to eliminate those plays on the front end. But at the same time, there was a lot of growth that I saw with Daniel that’s really showed up in terms of how he had to play the game yesterday and what he’s able to do.

THE STARTER

In his second NFL season, Daniel Jones did not have the type of year hoped for or expected. Missing two games due to leg injuries (hamstring and ankle), Jones started 14 games and completing 62.5 percent of his passes for just 2,943 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. On the positive side, he rushed the ball 65 times for 423 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and one touchdown. Jones’ productivity fell from his somewhat stellar rookie season, when he started 12 games, completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. While Jones markedly decreased his fumbling in 2020, it still remained an issue. In two seasons, Jones has fumbled the ball 29 times, losing 17. The Giants drafted Jones in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones has classic quarterback size and is a good athlete who can hurt teams with his feet. He has good but not great arm strength. Encumbered with poor surrounding talent, Jones was not quick and decisive with his reads at times in 2020, holding the ball too long, and was inconsistent with his accuracy. However, Jones still continued to flash as both a passer and runner. In a nutshell, Jones is still too hot and cold. He is competitive, smart, tough, and hard-working. The coaching staff thinks very highly of him.

THE BACK-UP

Colt McCoy easily won the back-up quarterback spot for the Giants in 2020 and ended up playing in four games with two starts, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 375 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The 6’1”, 212-pound McCoy was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He has spent time with the Browns (2010-2012), San Francisco 49ers (2013), and Washington Redskins (2014-2019). The Giants signed McCoy as an unrestricted free agent from the Redskins in March 2020. In 11 NFL seasons, McCoy has only started 30 games, 21 of which came with the Browns in 2010-2011. McCoy lacks ideal size and arm strength, which limit his ability to threaten NFL defenses. He’s a typical back-up type quarterback who usually will not hurt his team, but also is incapable of elevating its play. McCoy is smart and a positive influence in the locker room.

ON THE PRACTICE SQUAD

The Giants signed Joe Webb to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in December 2020. The team waived him and then re-signed him in January 2021. The 6’4”, 231-pound Webb was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He has spent time with the Vikings (2010-2013), Carolina Panthers (2014-2016), Buffalo Bills (2017), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Detroit Lions (2020). Webb has played in 104 regular-season games with four starts, completing 90-of-159 passes (56.6 percent) for 888 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions. He also has caught 10 passes in his career and returned 18 kickoffs.

The Giants signed Clayton Thorson to the Practice Squad in late September 2020. The 6’4”, 222-pound Thorson was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles cut him in August 2019 and he was then signed to the Practice Squad of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys cut him in early September 2020.

The Giants signed Alex Tanney to the Practice Squad in early December 2020. The 6’3”, 208-pound Tanney was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs after the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-traveled journeyman has spent time with the Chiefs (2012), Dallas Cowboys (2013), Cleveland Browns (2013), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014), Tennessee Titans (2014), Buffalo Bills (2015), Indianapolis Colts (2015), and Titans again (2015–2018). The Giants signed Tanney in May 2018 after after he was cut by the Titans. He surprisingly won the back-up quarterback job to Eli Manning in 2018, but was moved to third-string in 2019, being active for only one game.  The Giants cut him in early September 2020. Tanney has only played in two regular-season games, coming off the bench for the Titans in 2015 and the Giants in 2019.

The Giants claimed Cooper Rush off of waivers from the Dallas Cowboys in May 2020. He spent three weeks on the Giants’ Practice Squad in September before the Giants cut him. Rush spent the rest of the 2020 season back with the Cowboys. The 6’3”, 225-pound Rush originally signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2017 NFL Draft.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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