With New York Giants training camp hopefully beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Keep in mind that some of the players discussed may be cut as the 2020 NFL draft class signs their rookie contracts.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks
2019 YEAR IN REVIEW: Right or wrong, for about a five year period from 2014 to 2018, there was an overwhelming sense that the New York Giants as a franchise unsuccessfully tried to “fix” the roster around two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. Offensive linemen, receivers, head coaches, offensive coordinators, position coaches, and even a general manager came and went. Ben McAdoo benched Manning for one game in late 2017, but the outcry caused the team to quickly reinsert Eli back into the line-up. And his career losses continued to mount. Many expected the Giants to draft Manning’s replacement with the #2 overall pick in 2018, but team selected running back Saquon Barkley instead. In 2019, the Giants made the highly controversial decision to draft Daniel Jones with the #6 overall pick. The hand writing was on the wall. Eli’s days were numbered.
Entering the 2019 season, the prevailing opinion was that Jones was unlikely to see the field until the Giants were officially out of the playoff hunt by November or December. Stunningly, it only took two games and an 0-2 start for ownership, management, and the coaching staff to pull the plug. Barring injury or a meltdown by Jones, Eli’s days as a starting quarterback for the New York Giants were over.
Despite his greenness, Jones started off like gangbusters and the team quickly evened its record at 2-2. But dark clouds quickly appeared on the horizon. The team’s best player, Saquon Barkley, suffered a high ankle sprain, missed three games, and wasn’t quite right the rest of the season. The offensive line regressed (again) and couldn’t run or pass block. The Giants top skill players never played one game together with Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram all missing significant time. Making matters worse was the defense remained one of the league’s worst, rarely providing the offense with good field position and opportunities. Jones lost his next eight starts, suffered his own high ankle sprain and missed two games, and split his final two starts, finishing with a 3-9 record. Manning’s first game back came against his old nemesis, the Eagles, which caused him to officially become a career losing quarterback. Fortunately, he won his last career start and evened his regular-season career record at 117-117 before giving way to Jones again for the final two games.
In many ways, Jones had a stellar first season despite playing on a bad football team. Jones’ 24 touchdown passes (in 12 games) was the fourth-most by a rookie quarterback in a single season in NFL history. He threw for over 3,000 yards and completed 62 percent of his passes. Jones also rushed for two touchdowns and 289 yards, the third-highest rushing total by a Giants’ quarterback in the Super Bowl era. He impressed coaches and teammates with his smarts, work ethic, competitiveness, and ability to make plays. Two of his wins included late-game heroics. However, the fumbling problem cannot be overlooked. Jones fumbled the ball an incredible 18 times, losing 11, or about one lost fumble per start.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Eli Manning has retired. Aside from Daniel Jones, Alex Tanney returns. The newcomers are Colt McCoy (unrestricted free agent from the Redskins), Cooper Rush (claimed off of waivers from the Cowboys), and Case Cookus (undrafted rookie free agent).
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Stating the obvious, it’s the continued development of Daniel Jones, who is now coached by a new head man (Joe Judge), offensive coordinator (Jason Garrett), and quarterback coach (Jerry Schuplinski). Note that Mike Shula served as both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2019. It’s also interesting to note that Garrett, Tight Ends Coach Freddie Kitchens, and Senior Offensive Assistant Derek Dooley all have experience as quarterbacks coaches.
The COVID-19 situation has prevented the assistant coaching staff from addressing the media. And Joe Judge has gone out of his way this offseason to not praise or even mention specific players by name as he publicly contends that all players, regardless of their draft or contract status, are competing on a level playing field. But Jones has so impressed Judge during virtual meeting sessions that he has now made an exception with his Jones.
“I love working with this guy every day,” said Judge. “He’s got a fire that burns in him. He brings other guys along with him. He shows up every day. He knows what you’re going to teach before you’re teaching it in terms of being prepared on material. He sets the tone for the room, and I’m very excited when we finally get these guys in person and get with him.
“We had a lot of conversations, a lot of conversations. Let me tell you something right now, sitting down with him and talking his philosophy on the program and where we’re going to go, what his goals are in his career, I’m glad he’s on our team. Let me put it that way. I’m really glad he’s on our team.”
That is great news as it was certainly possible that a new coaching staff would want to start with their own new guy (see the Arizona Cardinals as just one recent example).
Looking at the big picture, the only way the Giants are going to compete with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and now possibly the Chase Young-led Washington Redskins is for Daniel Jones to become the best quarterback in the division. That’s a lot of pressure, but it is what it is. This is a quarterback’s league and all you need to do is look at teams like the Chiefs and Ravens and see what a top QB can do for your team. Jones needs to stay healthy and be the type of quarterback who perennially puts up 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns while at the same time cutting down his turnovers.
The secondary story lines ares are who will be the primary back-up and how many quarterbacks will the Giants keep on the roster.
ON THE BUBBLE: Barring the unexpected, Case Cookus’ only shot in the short term is the Practice Squad. Meanwhile, Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush, and Alex Tanney will all be competing for only one or two roster openings.
PREDICTIONS: Yes, I’m drinking the blue Kool-Aid. No New York Giants rookie quarterback has impressed me more than Daniel Jones, and that includes Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler, Eli Manning, and a host of guys we would rather all forget (Dave Brown, Kent Graham, Danny Kanell). Does the fumbling bother me? Yes. Do I think it can be fixed? Yes. When Jones came to the Giants, I was told by draftniks that the guy had accuracy issues and couldn’t throw a deep ball. I saw the exact opposite. I also saw an incredibly smart, competitive, and tough guy who wants to win desperately. I think Daniel Jones will become the best quarterback in the division and I think it is going to happen sooner than most people think. But he needs to stay healthy in order to do so. We took that for granted with Eli Manning.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush
Much depends on whether Judge keeps two or three quarterbacks. Being a long-time special teams coach, I can see him wanting to keep an extra special teams player over the third quarterback. But the expansion of rosters to 55 might encourage him to keep three. One has to think McCoy is the front-runner for the #2 job. McCoy has started 28 games in his career and was an early free agent target of the new regime. Cooper Rush has the advantage in that he knows Jason Garrett’s offense. That becomes an even bigger advantage in the COVID-19 environment. That all said, The New York Post is reporting that the Giants continue to value Alex Tanney’s presence on Daniel Jones. So don’t totally discount him.