There were times throughout 2019 when Daniel Jones looked like the next young quarterback star. His three games with 4 or more TD passes and no interceptions come to mind. There were also instances where he looked like an inexperienced and lost rookie, turning the ball over 23 times in 13 games. Like all rookie QBs, Jones has plenty of room for improvement. The good news for the Giants is that he has many of the traits that the best quarterbacks in the game possess.
Go back and look at just about any big performance a quarterback has ever had in NFL history. One constant you’ll probably notice is that he had a ton of time and space throw. This makes sense, doesn’t it? The longer a quarterback can hold the ball, the longer defenders have to cover, and the greater the likelihood is that a receiver will then break open.
Any quarterback can have a big game when he has time due to the protection. But that isn’t always something readily available. Therefore, a quarterback has to be able to create time and space to throw in other ways.
This is where pocket movement comes in. Effective pocket movement, or functional mobility, is one of the most important and necessary traits for a quarterback to have. The ability to avoid the rush within the pocket and quickly reset your feet, all while maintaining a downfield focus, is something you see out of the best quarterbacks in the game. It’s something that helped make otherwise immobile quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning two of the best (if not THE two best) to ever play the game.
Daniel Jones possesses this trait.
The below plays are just a few examples from the 2019 season. Against the Buccaneers in Week 3, look how Jones adjusted to the blitz coming from his right, and slid left off of the hash mark to buy just enough time to let his receiver get open. He did all of this while keeping his focus downfield.
Had he stayed on the hash mark, he would have been sacked or the play would have at least been disrupted.
On the below snap, Jones again bought time to avoid the rush coming from his right. This time he had to actually move instead of just sliding. Jones found room in the pocket and reset his feet, again while keeping his focus downfield, before delivering an accurate 40-yard throw.
He made that play look easy, but moving left and throwing right 40 yards downfield is anything but.
Jones’ pocket movement on this next play was a little more subtle. This was 4th-and-2 against the Redskins in Week 4. You can see that Washington had no safety in the middle of the field. This was Cover-0 (Man-to-man across the board with the rest of the defense blitzing).
In Cover-0, there is no working through your progressions as a quarterback. You pick your best matchup and attack. This is because there generally aren’t enough men left to protect against all pass rushers. The ball has to come out quickly.
Here, since the Giants were in an empty set and using a 5-man protection, Jones knew they did not have enough to protect all 6 Redskins pass rushers. He had to pick his matchup and get rid of the ball.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Jones had to hold the ball just a bit to allow his receiver to get open. With free defenders coming from his right, Jones slid left to buy himself just a split second more time to release the ball.
This was a subtle move by Jones, but one that enabled the completion.
There are also times when a quarterback has to hang in the pocket knowing he is going to take a big hit and still deliver the ball downfield to an open receiver. Jones doesn’t shy away from these situations.
On this 4th down against the Bears in Week 12, Jones avoided the initial rush, quickly reset his feet, and delivered an accurate desperation pass with Khalil Mack (#52) closing on him.
That’s an impressive throw in between 3 defenders considering the duress Jones was under.
On this next play against the Packers in Week 13, Jones was able to fire a touchdown pass with a defender flashing right in his face.
On the below play against the Eagles in Week 17, Jones was able to make an off-balanced throw with a free rusher coming off the edge. There was no way to complete this pass without taking a big hit. And that’s exactly what Jones did.
The ability to keep your eyes downfield and deliver the ball knowing you’re about to get clocked is not something that generally gets developed at the NFL level. You either have it or you don’t. The good news for the Giants is that Jones already possesses this ability.
Of course, Jones also has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket after things have broken down.
You won’t see many throws better than that.
Below, Jones was again able to avoid the rush and escape to the outside to buy time, allowing his receiver to break open downfield for a big play.
Again, moving left and throwing back to the right isn’t easy. Jones is more talented than he gets credit for.
Below is another example of Jones using his legs, this time to escape a sure sack and scramble for a first down.
When you look at the rookie season Jones had, it really is impressive when given some perspective. The most valuable skill players that the Giants have when it comes to creating advantageous matchups are Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate (when aligned in the slot), running back Saquon Barkley, and tight end Evan Engram. Those four players combined to miss 22 games. Jones also played behind an offensive line that struggled to consistently protect. All of this while learning a new offense and getting used to the speed of the NFL. And he still was able to perform at a high level.
Not seen here is how comfortable Jones is in the quick passing game. I get it, the short throws aren’t as exciting as the flashy downfield passes that make it onto all of the highlight shows. But a consistent quick passing game is what leads to sustained offense and wins. Jones makes plenty of splash plays too, by the way. Not for nothing, but he was also at his best on 3rd down (97.4 QB rating vs. 84.0 on all other downs).
There are plenty of elements of Daniel Jones’ game to be excited about if you’re a Giants fan. If Dave Gettleman can use the cap room and draft capital he has available this offseason to add a little more talent around his franchise quarterback, don’t be surprised to see the Giants quickly become one of the league’s best offenses.
To read about where Daniel Jones struggled in 2019, click here.
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