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Progress? Giants’ rookie QB Daniel Jones is making some, if you look hard enough

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Jones’ development might be the only thing that saves Pat Shurmur’s job, so let’s study it

NFL: DEC 01 Packers at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Progress

noun

  • a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage:

the progress of a student toward a degree.

  • developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially with reference to the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material well-being of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.
  • advancement in general.
  • growth or development; continuous improvement:

He shows progress in his muscular coordination.

verb (used without object) pro·gress [pruh-gres]

  • to go forward or onward in space or time:

The wagon train progressed through the valley. As the play progressed, the leading man grew more inaudible.

  • to grow or develop, as in complexity, scope, or severity; advance:

Are you progressing in your piano studies? The disease progressed slowly.

You probably did this when you were younger, didn’t you?

Assigned a 500 word essay on a topic, you would bust out the dictionary and use a definition at the beginning. A cheap and easy way to tack on additional words and lighten your load.

It’s okay to admit it, we are all among friends here.

With “progress” seemingly the word of the season around the New York Giants, it is incumbent upon us to examine if progress is, in fact, being made. While those within the organization, from head coach Pat Shurmur on down, make the case that progress is also being made “behind the scenes” in reality there is one area where progress - or “growth or development” to use the literal definition - matters.

With rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.

Amidst the misery of a 2-10 season coming to a tough ending, with the snowy backdrop of another loss littered with interceptions and turnovers, the main question is whether Jones is making progress at the quarterback position. If he is, if indeed their sixth overall selection is showing signs of growth and development, then it will eventually all be worth it.

What did Sunday tell us? The answer is in parts yes, and in other parts, no.

If you think back to Jones’s debut, and the comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, some of what made that afternoon magical masked a concern that has reared its head over the past few weeks: Pocket management.

Struggles within and around the pocket, failures to get the ball out, mishaps when trying to extend plays, those issues became more pronounced as September became October and November. Resulting in concerns over how Jones handles life in an NFL pocket.

From my viewing Sunday alleviated those concerns, or at least showed progress in this area. Despite Jones putting the ball on the turf, he showed signs of the subtle art of pocket movement, as well as better technique in the pocket, that lead us back to that magical word: Progress.

Take this first quarter throw to Darius Slayton:

Jones faces edge pressure from the right side. He subtly climbs the pocket, dipping his shoulder slightly as he does so, and keeps both hands glued to the football as he moves in response to duress. Only when he starts to deliver this throw does that left hand come off the football. This is almost textbook from the rookie quarterback, as you can see from the end zone angle:

That pocket management and technique is a far cry from plays like this earlier in the season:

On this sack against the Arizona Cardinals, Jones is much more careless with the football, and it results in a strip sack.

Jones failed to feel the pressure on that play as well. Feel for the pocket has been another issue for Jones. Flashing back to New York’s Week 7 meeting with the Detroit Lions, and this sack of Jones by Trey Flowers:

On this play Jones simply does not have that sixth sense that you need as a quarterback, and he ends up getting stripped from behind by Flowers. The rookie is lucky to recover the fumble and the Giants maintain possession.

Then this week:

That subtle little dip, those eyes in the back of your head, are so critical to playing the quarterback position; and playing it well. Trust me on this one. As a New England Patriots fan I’ve seen Tom Brady pull off that move countless times and that feel for pressure - more than all the avocado ice cream in the world - is what has led to his longevity.

However, there are still areas where progress is lacking. Jones threw three interceptions on Sunday, and one of those is worth examining. Early in the second quarter the Giants faced a third-and-10 near midfield, and called for a “sticks” concept, with all three receivers running curl routes right at the first down marker:

Given the down and distance, the Green Bay Packers call for Cover 2 Man Underneath, and their underneath defenders employ “trail” technique underneath:

Using this technique the defenders will stay below their receivers and try to force the quarterback to throw over them. This will require the quarterback to put more air underneath the football, and will give the safeties an opportunity to break on throws.

The other thing the QB can try and do is to simply throw the football through the underneath defender. Not that it is possible, given the laws of physics and all.

Let’s see what Jones tries:

Jones tries to use velocity here and it costs him, as he throws an interception that would lead to three points for the Packers.

Progress does not happen overnight.

But it is happening.