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Fixing an ailing Daniel Jones: A prescription for helping the Giants’ rookie quarterback

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong preseason and a tremendous first start in the National Football League, New York Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has returned to earth over the past few weeks. Most recently, Jones was sacked eight times, threw an interception and fumbled three times in a Week 7 loss to the visiting Arizona Cardinals.

The rookie’s production has slipped along with the performance from the organization as a whole. He completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his debut, in addition to rushing for two touchdowns, and posted a QBR of 88.7 in that first start.

Since then? Jones has posted a QBR of 64.3 against Washington in a victory, a QBR of 28.8 against the Minnesota Vikings, a QBR of 27.0 against the New England Patriots, and a QBR of 30.7 against Arizona.

All losses.

Jones has also thrown an interception in each of those games, including two against Washington and three against New England.

Now of course, both the Patriots and the Vikings have talented defenses - and New England’s could be approaching a historical level of production - so you would expect Jones and his numbers to dip a bit. Even with that acknowledgement, there is room for improvement.

So what could that look like? Well, here is Doctor Schofield’s two-step prescription plan to fix an ailing Jones.

Step 1: Get the ball out faster

Easier said than done, I know.

But especially last week against Arizona, there were multiple instances of Jones holding onto the football and not taking some easy throws that were available to him. We can walk through those examples again here to highlight the issue. The first sack of Jones came on a second-and-5 play where the Giants called this passing concept:

This is a half-field read for the quarterback with a quick read and throw available to him. Jones ( has a vertical route on the left along the sideline, and then a quick Ohio concept (go/flat) on the right side with tight end Evan Engram (88) releasing to the flat while the outside receiver stays vertical. The slot receiver on the left crosses the formation on a slant route.

Here, Jones looks first at the go route on the right and the deep slant working left to right, and never flips his eyes to Engram in the flat:

He runs out of time.

Recalling my own days playing the position, as a quarterback on a quick game concept you do not expect to get hit, and you should not. Unless you make the decision to hold onto the football too long. That is exactly what Jones does here, and he runs out of time as a result. All while Engram is wide open in the flat.

It seems that the decision to read the deep slant route working from left to right is what holds his decision process. At first blush, I understand why Jones looked to that route: Given the safety blitz from the middle of the field your first instinct as a quarterback is to replace the blitz with the ball. But once Jones rules that route out due to coverage, he needs to immediately work through his next two reads. The offensive line is expecting the ball to be out by now, and the quarterback needs to fulfill his end of the bargain.

Jones would be sacked again in the third quarter, and once more he refuses to get the ball out on time even though he had a wide open Engram in the flat. This example is the more egregious of the two:

Jones should know to go right to Engram on the flat route here. As Greg Olsen said during the broadcast, the defender over Engram is “driving down from depth.” This is a third-and- short situation, the route concept is designed to create a rub and to screen for Engram releasing to the flat, the safety is trying to cover the tight end in the flat working from the outside, and Jones knows the defense is in man coverage due to the safety rotation before the snap.

But the ball never comes out:

This, again, is a sack you can put on the quarterback. Jones had all the information he needed to make a snap decision as the play begins. Instead, he holds onto the football too long, invites pressure, and is taken down.

So the ball needs to get out faster. But how?

On these designs, Pat Shurmur has done everything he can to give Jones a quick read and throw. The first play has a called Ohio concept, which is a route combination that Jones is intimately familiar with, given how often he ran it at Duke University. On the second play, Shurmur gives his quarterback enough information pre-snap to make a good read and throw. He gives his quarterback the motion coverage indicator. Jones just fails again to get the ball out.

So the prescription fix here is simple: The quarterback needs to get the ball out of his hands on these plays. The problem is, rookie quarterbacks are often slow with their reads and decisions, so the true fix here might simply be time and repetitions.

That leads us to something Shurmur can do.

Step 2: Throw more on first down

Here are the first three first-and-10 situations the Giants faced on Sunday:

Saquon Barkley up the middle for 2 yards (tackle by Budda Baker)

Saquon Barkley right end for 5 yards (tackle by Deionte Thompson)

Saquon Barkley right guard for 1 yard (tackle by Jordan Hicks and Terrell Suggs)

Now here is what the Giants did on the subsequent second downs:

Daniel Jones pass incomplete short middle intended for Golden Tate

Daniel Jones sacked by Chandler Jones for -8 yards

Daniel Jones pass complete short left to Saquon Barkley for -8 yards

Not the best of results.

A small sample size, to be fair, but if you think back to when Jones first caught everyone’s attention in the preseason, on that stellar opening drive against the New York Jets, Shurmur put his quarterback in a position to succeed by throwing on first down. His numbers this season support this proposition as well. If you look at his advanced splits, Jones has completed 64.7 percent of his passing attempts on first downs, for four touchdowns (three interceptions), a quarterback rating of 89.0 and an adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) of 6.81.

On second downs this season, Jones has completed 60 percent of his throws, has thrown one touchdown against a pair of interceptions, has a quarterback rating of 66.4 and an AY/A of just 4.35.

On third downs? A completion percentage of 60.9 percent, a touchdown and an interception apiece, a quarterback rating of 77.9 and an AY/A of 5.91.

Again, the sample size is not huge, but Jones has fared better throwing on first downs than he has on subsequent downs. It makes sense, given how defenses often think offensive coordinators are going to handle life with a young quarterback. Run the football, stay in manageable situations, and avoid asking your young QB to do to much.

Instead, Shurmur needs to use that to his advantage. Show run looks and heavier packages on first down but let Jones throw in those situations. Use run/pass option designs, use play-action, and get the defense guessing. Sure, you might see some incompletions, but you also might hit the defense for some big plays. The numbers bear that out.

Additionally, by using play-action designs as well as some RPOs, you will give the quarterback some quicker reads and decisions to make, helping with the first issue.

So looking at this weekend, pay attention to how often the Giants throw on first down, how often they use play-action and RPO designs, and how quickly Jones is getting the ball out of his hands. If this two-step prescription plan is followed, we might see a new and improved Jones against the Detroit Lions.