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How will playing Daniel Jones change the Giants’ playbook?

Let’s look at some of the possibilities

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Daniel Jones
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What kind of offense, exactly, does New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur really want to run? With Daniel Jones taking over for Eli Manning we’re probably really about to find out.

Zone read/quarterback runs

The Run/Pass Option (RPO) is something the Giants have utilized with Manning. It’s something pretty much all NFL teams utilize now. The Giants’ RPOs have been limited to handoff to the back or pull it and throw. The element that has not been there is the quarterback occasionally pulling the ball and running.

Jones ran for 1,323 yards in three seasons at Duke. Expect to see him, at some point, pull the ball and take off with it. Might the threat of that open an occasional crease for Saquon Barkley? Gee, wonder what Barkley could do with a little added running room?

The NFL game now includes the quarterback as a runner. It loosens up defenses and helps offenses even the numbers game in terms of blockers vs. defenders.

We saw Dak Prescott run the zone read effectively vs. the Giants. We saw Josh Allen do this:

It has to be an element Pat Shurmur would like to incorporate into the offense.

Intermediate passes

In 2018 there was much gnashing of teeth about Manning and his propensity to check the ball down. Through two games in 2019, it’s been head-scratching to watch the consistently throw the ball underneath and not challenge the intermediate areas of the field. Only 16 of Manning’s 89 passes in the first two games came in the intermediate area, between 10 and 20 yards.

Manning yards per pass attempt was 7.5 in 2018, but just 6.2 so far in 2019. His adjusted yards gained per attempt was down from 7.3 to 5.7. Some of that, of course, is due to the injuries at the position and a certain wide receiver no longer being on the team. Still, some of that seems to be due to the Giants really not trying often enough to attack that part of the field.

Against Buffalo on Sunday, Manning missed an open Evan Engram on one intermediate throw and couldn’t connect with Cody Latimer on another.

I think about this preseason throw by Jones, and it makes me wonder if with Jones behind center we will see more plays designed for the intermediate areas of the field:

Moving the pocket

Shurmur has said over and over in his two years that it is something he likes to do. Manning had success doing it in 2018, but his limited mobility showed up on a couple of occasions when the Giants tried to do that in Week 1 vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Mark Schofield examined why.

Moving the pocket should suit Jones. Obviously, he has more mobility than Manning. Moving the pocket also simplifies the game for a young quarterback. It shrinks the field and limits his reads. It also puts him in a spot where if he doesn’t like what he sees he can use his legs and try to save the play.

More creative use of Saquon

This is mostly about how the Giants are using Barkley in the passing game. And, to be honest, is really a topic that needed to be touched upon no matter who the quarterback was.

Here at Big Blue View, we spent oodles of time in the offseason discussing how the Giants could make more efficient use of Barkley’s receiving talents. Instead, the Giants, devoid of game-breaking receiving talent on the outside, have been even less efficient with him than a year ago.

It isn’t the fact that Barkley’s seven receptions thus far have him on pace for only 56 catches after he had 91 a year ago that bothers me. It’s the other numbers that show how little the Giants are getting out of Barkley’s extraordinary receiving talents.

Barkley’s yards per reception are down from 7.5 last year to 6.3 this season, his yards per target are down from 6.0 to 3.6 and his catch percentage is down from 75 percent to 53.8 percent.

You’re thinking, ‘but Manning missed him on a wheel route vs. Dallas.’ Which is true. The Giants, though, need to dig a little deeper into the playbook and fully utilize one of the few real advantages they have in the passing game.

It will also help the Giants if they actually run the ball more often with Barkley and Wayne Gallman. Manning threw 89 passes (44.5 per game) in the first two games. The Giants — neither Manning nor Jones — can win that way.