It is not hyperbole to say that Daniel Jones had one of the best debuts by a rookie quarterback ever. Jones led the Giants to a dramatic come-from-behind victory with the poise of a 10-year veteran. Even if it took a Scott Norwood-esque last-second wide right missed field goal to preserve the 1-point victory (in Tampa no less), nothing about Jones’ performance was a fluke.
As we wrote this preseason, Jones looks to be in total control on the field. You don’t often see the panic or hesitation most rookie quarterbacks are prone to exhibit. On Sunday in Tampa, he played with poise. He showed some of the subtle traits of great quarterback play. He also did many things that Eli Manning is no longer or never was capable of doing.
Jones’ movement skills stood out the most on Sunday. He not only moved to scramble for some big plays, but he moved to buy time to throw. Take the below 26-yard completion to Sterling Shepard on the Giants’ first drive. Watch how he moved left with pressure coming from his right before making an accurate anticipatory throw downfield with ease.
One of Jones’ biggest plays of the game came on this 46-yarder to Darius Slayton. Again, Jones had pressure coming from his right, bought time by moving left, quickly reset his feet, and threw a 40-yard strike back over the middle of the field.
It’s hard to argue that Eli makes that play at this point in his career.
Jones capped the drive off with another deadly accurate touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard.
You can see that Jones didn’t exactly have the ability to completely step into his throw and follow through because his right tackle was being pushed back into him.
As a quarterback, you have to be able to make throws with bodies around you, to throw out of a phone booth so to speak. One of the most impressive aspects of Jones’ performance Sunday was that he could still make accurate throws in imperfect conditions. That’s not something you see from too many rookie debuts.
Jones’ athletic ability adds a new element to this Giants offense. He can scramble and use his legs as a weapon. That’s something not seen around here since the days of Jeff Hostetler.
Take this simple 11-yard run. The Buccaneers brought a blitz up the middle but failed to contain Jones on the edge. He calmly moved to the outside, kept a downfield focus (which helped force Tampa outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett to take a bad angle), and then sprinted for a first down.
This is a dynamic that previously did not exist in the Giants Offense. If you’re going to bring pressure up the middle now, you better make sure you contain Jones and his sneaky speed on the outside. He finished the day with 4 rushes for 28 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On this next scramble, Jones was able to avoid a sack, move to his left and again throw back across his body to make another great 2nd-reaction play.
Jones did not have a perfect day by any means. He nearly threw a costly interception on a terrible late throw over the middle in the 2nd quarter. He was also aided by some great plays around him. Evan Engram took a short throw 75 yards to the house (man, he has some unique speed for a tight end). Darius Slayton also made a great catch to get the Giants to midfield on their game-winning touchdown drive.
Jones was aided by coverage and tackling issues in Tampa’s secondary as well. Buccaneer defenders looked to miss a few assignments in coverage or make the wrong decision/read on several plays.
Jones was also helped by Pat Shurmur’s play-calling and design. That is not a typo. Shurmur used a good mix of play-action and RPOs throughout the game to keep Tampa defenders on their toes. The 36-yard completion to Sterling Shepard on New York’s final drive came from a great play design. You can see the route concept illustrated below.
The Buccaneers were playing quarters coverage to that side of the field, which meant that the cornerback and safety were responsible for the #1 (outside) and #2 (inside) vertical routes to that side. Pay close attention to the route combination, though. You can see that the outside receiver, Darius Slayton, took his stem inside, bringing the outside cornerback with him.
Slayton got on top of the inside route. With both routes appearing to go vertical, the deep safety and cornerback’s responsibilities were muddled. Who was the #1 vertical route? Who was the #2?
The corner went with Darius Slayton, who started outside as the #1. The deep safety also went with Slayton because he became the more pressing threat and looked to be the #2 inside vertical route at that point in the play. This left Sterling Shepard alone on the outside.
Even though it looked like the linebacker underneath should have stayed outside, it is not likely that his presence would have significantly impacted the throw given all of the available space.
Moments later, Daniel Jones was in the end zone and the Giants had the lead.
Every game in Jones’ career won’t be as spectacular as this one was. He will go through some rookie growing pains. With that being said, it’s clear that New York has their young QB of the future. Giants fans have something to be excited about for the first time in a while.
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