Much has been made about the start that New York Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones has enjoyed so far in his rookie season. That includes a small helping of crow consumed by yours truly. However, if you think back to before the draft, there were a number of different avenues available to the Giants, some of which remained feasible when they were first on the clock with the sixth overall selection. They could have selected Dwayne Haskins. They could have waited until later in the draft and taken a Drew Lock or a Will Grier. They could have traded for Josh Rosen. Instead they went with Jones, and the early returns have been positive.
Keeping that in mind, let’s check in on some of the quarterbacks the Giants could have picked at some point in this draft, as well as peeking in on Kyler Murray who went first overall. While the “grass is always greener,” as the expression goes, life — and the rookie quarterback situations around the league — often tells us otherwise. For each quarterback we’ll look at one preseason throw that shows promise, and one that should have the team’s fans wary.
Selected first overall to run Kliff Kingsbury’s system — a system the rookie head coach recruited the QB to run at Texas Tech — Murray has shown both the athleticism and playmaking ability that made him the first overall selection, but there are still concerns as he heads into his first NFL season as the team’s starting quarterback.
We will look at two plays from Murray’s outing against the Minnesota Vikings. On this first throw, we see some of the precision accuracy from the rookie quarterback that he displayed during his one season as a starter for the Oklahoma Sooners:
This is a perfectly-placed back shoulder throw in the vertical passing game. Passes like this are impossible to defend, and the Vikings’ cornerback has no chance on this throw. Murray’s arm talent and accuracy enables him to be a threat in the vertical passing game, and in Kingsbury’s system he will have chances like this to stretch teams down the field.
Obviously one of the criticisms facing Murray was his size. While he measured in at a bigger than anticipated 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds at the combine, those numbers still put him in the outlier category of quarterbacks. That, coupled with the often-used line of “nobody plays defense in the Big 12 so he hasn’t needed to make difficult reads and decisions,” led to some wondering about picking him first overall.
Both issues cropped up on this throw against Minnesota:
Murray faces an unblocked defender off the edge, right in his throwing lane. He stares down this weakside comeback route and rather than using his eyes or another means to manipulate the defender out of his target line, he simply throws this route anyway with the defender in his path. He is lucky this throw is not intercepted.
One of the issues I found with Murray was that manipulating defenders was not as natural for him as it was with, say, Haskins. Often his ability to move defenders with his eyes or a pump fake was reliant upon scheme, and not feel. He’ll need to develop that part of his game as he grows into a pro QB.
Haskins had an opportunity to return home (having played his high school football in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.) and take over as Washington’s starting quarterback. But those plans were derailed this week when Jay Gruden named veteran passer Case Keenum Washington’s Week 1 starter. So far, Haskins has shown in the NFL what we saw from his one year at the reins of Ohio State’s offense: Flashes of potential but moments that leave you underwhelmed.
We’ll start with the bad throw, from Washington’s game against Atlanta:
Here the offense runs a red zone concept designed to get the receiver in the flat open, and that is exactly what happens. Everything from the snap to the throw by the quarterback is well-executed. Haskins makes an anticipation throw, he speeds up his process because things happen faster in the red zone, and he makes the right read.
But then there is the throw itself. His footwork is off, he steps well left of the target line and Washington misses a chance for points. As we often saw with him on film, everything is great, until the throw.
But then he bounces back on his next passing attempt and delivers this dime:
Here Haskins shows great placement and a great read on this vertical route along the right side. To make this throw — especially after the miss he had on the previous drive, shows both mental toughness as well as the potential he brings to the Washington roster.
There was a school of thought that the Giants might address other needs with their two first round selections, and then address quarterback sometime on Day 2. Lock was a quarterback that was surprisingly available not just at Pick 17 when they selected Dexter Lawerence, but also at Pick 30 when the Giants moved back into the first round to draft cornerback Deandre Baker.
Lock’s preseason has been marked by his new head coach declaring that he “is not ready” and “has a long way to go,” as well as a thumb injury that has placed at least the start of the regular season in jeopardy. But he still shows flashes, like he did on this corner route against the Seattle Seahawks:
Lock puts this throw right on his receiver, getting the ball out of his hands well before his target makes his cut to the sideline. In fact, it seems like the receiver was not even ready for this throw, given how he secures the pass. But this is a great read, quick decision and perfect throw from Lock.
Now the flip side:
It is tough to truly grade this play without access to the All-22 version, but all young quarterbacks need to get faster with reads and decisions. That is especially important when backed up in your own territory. Lock probably expected that the protection scheme would have this play blocked up, but he still takes far too long in the pocket to make a decision here, and is sacked for a safety.
In that mix of quarterbacks getting first round buzz was Will Grier from West Virginia University. As the draft approached there was even speculation that the New England Patriots would call his name at the end of the first round. But Grier waited until third round to hear his name called, and he would be headed not to the AFC East, but rather the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers.
It seemed like a great opportunity was in front of him, given the depth at the quarterback position in Carolina and the lingering shoulder injury to Cam Newton. However, Grier’s preseason has been rocky and while head coach Ron Rivera has stated that he will help the team “some day,” Kyle Allen seems to be in the driver’s seat for the backup spot behind Newton.
Still, there have been flashes:
This is a great example of a quarterback executing in the play-action passing game coming off a fake with his back to the defense. Grier has admitted that his “internal clock needs to get faster,” but his clock was right on time with this throw. He delivers on this deep out route from a very crowded pocket with great touch and placement.
Now, some of the bad.
You probably saw this play come across your timeline in the seconds after the Buffalo Bills’ defender crossed the goall ine, but this is simply a bad read and throw. Now to be fair to Grier (Letterkenny reference number one of the season) this might have been a misread by the receiver, curling to the inside and not the outside, but regardless this ball should not have been thrown.
Grier still has a chance to secure the backup position behind Newton, but he’ll need to perform more like the passer we saw on the first throw, and not the second, in Carolina’s preseason finale.
Finley, along with fellow fourth rounder Jarrett Stidham, might be one of the bigger success stories out of the non-Day One draft quarterbacks. Finley has completed more than 73 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and an interception, and seems to have solidified his status as the team’s backup quarterback.
Finley was not known for his physical tools as much as his mental prowess, but he flashed some pocket poise and maneuverability on this downfield throw against Washington:
What stands out watching this play are his eyes. When a quarterback is pressured like this and it gets to him, you might see his eyes drop and him look at the rushers. Finley keeps his field of vision trained downfield, and it enables him to both step around the free rusher, and make this throw for the big completion.
He did throw one interception this preseason, on this attempt against the Kansas City Chiefs:
He does get pressured around the edge and there is a possibility that his arm is hit just prior to the release, which might have impacted the trajectory of the throw. Whether that is the case or not, this is still a bad miss from Finley.
Yet, it was basically his only bad miss from the preseason so far, so Bengals fans should be pleased with what they have seen so far from their new QB.
Another fanbase that is pleased with their new fourth round quarterback is a fanbase that you probably believe has been spoiled over the past few decades. When the Patriots drafted Stidham on Day 3 of the 2019 Draft expectations were not exactly high. Those expectations probably even cratered a bit when Stidham struggled in minicamp, even throwing an interception during a walkthrough drill as told to me by Patriots’ beat reporter Evan Lazar on a recent episode of The Scho Show…
Yes, that is a shameless plug …
But since then Stidham has developed into a quarterback that not only makes the roster, but perhaps steals the backup job from Brian Hoyer. Stidham has executed New England’s offense very well and has displayed the arm talent and accuracy that made him an interesting evaluation:
However, in that same Titans game he threw this route to the left flat late, and was lucky that it was not intercepted and taken the distance for a score:
The fact that Patriots fans are buzzing about Stidham, and wondering if the organization just keeps him behind Tom Brady come roster cut down day, is probably not what 31 other fanbases want to hear out of the northeast as another football season approaches.
You knew that you were not getting out of this piece without a Rypien reference.
With the injury to Lock, Rypien and Kevin Hogan are battling it out for the Denver Broncos’ backup job. Neither quarterback has stood out yet, but Rypien will get a shot in Denver’s final preseason game to lock down the backup spot behind Joe Flacco.
The dream endures.
Now that you’ve taken a spin around the league Giants fans, that Jones pick probably feels even better.