New York Giants fans were given a gift on Sunday afternoon: The gift of hope. The stellar debut of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in a comeback victory of the road has breathed new life into this franchise.
The rookie QB completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and also added two rushing touchdowns, while leading the Giants to a comeback victory on the road. A very impressive debut for the young passer. We were treated to some of the traits from him that made him the sixth-overall selection, such as his athleticism, his accuracy in the short area, and his toughness. But something else stood out as well: His handling of pressure in the pocket.
Jones was flawless when pressured Sunday, and he was pressured early and often. But some numbers truly crystalize how good he was under duress. First were these numbers highlighted by Pat Thorman from Establish the Run. Jones was pressured on 47 percent of his drop backs Sunday - third highest among all Week 3 quarterbacks - and he completed 80 percent of his passes on those pressured attempts for 233 yards, two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Building off of that, Scott Barrett from Pro Football Focus indicated that those numbers were the fourth-most pressured passing yards by any quarterback in any regular season game in PFF’s history, a timeframe that spans 2007 through 2019. During that decade-plus, there are 1,674 instances of a QB attempting at least 12 pressured pass attempts in a game, and here is the list of quarterbacks who finished with a perfect passer rating:
That’s it. He’s the list.
Yet not all pressure is created equally. Sometimes a quarterback creates his own pressure, due to slow reads and decision-making, or bailing the pocket and running into pressure. If the pressure he was facing was created by his own slow decision-making, and his mistakes in reading the defense, then there is an issue that will need to be addressed as he continues his rookie season. So I wanted to see what was creating the pressure. Reviewing the coaches’ film solidified the fact that Jones was tremendous under duress, and for the most part it was pressure that he had no hand in creating.
A perfect example of this comes late in the first half. The Giants have a first-and-10 on their own 25-yard line, and put Jones in the shotgun. They are going to work this shallow cross concept with a drag route from right to left, and a deeper crossing route over the top of that from left to right:
Tampa Bay brings pressure here, blitzing a linebacker and crossing him with the defensive tackle. The pocket begins to collapse around the young quarterback, but he uses his feet well to slide and feel the pressure, and create enough space. He then hits Sterling Shepard (87) on the crossing route:
It is just a 6-yard gain, but the anticipation on this throw is truly impressive. As you can see from the end zone angle, Jones does not wait for Shepard to clear the underneath linebacker, he throws him open into space. If Jones waits to see the receiver come open here, he is going to be sacked:
Here is a clip from when Jones makes up his mind to deliver the throw:
This is a tremendous play from the rookie QB.
Here is another example. Early in the third quarter the Giants have a first-and-10 right at midfield, and they put Jones under center using 22 offensive personnel. They have two tight ends in the game and align both in a wing look to the right:
On this play the Giants use playaction and give the QB two routes to choose from: A deep post to Darius Slayton (86) or a crossing route to tight end Evan Engram (88):
This play tasks tight end Rhett Ellison (85) with hinge-blocking on the right side, stepping down to his left first and then pivoting to seal the edge. Fullback Elijhaa Penny (39) is tasked with coming across the formation and helping on the right edge as well.
But as this play develops and Jones comes out of his play-action fake, he faces immediate pressure off that right edge in the form of Carl Nassib (94). That forces Jones to quickly turn and roll to his left, but he keeps his eyes downfield and finds Slayton with a perfect deep ball:
Again, the pressure is not of Jones’ creation, but he handles it perfectly.
Then there is this example, where Tampa Bay linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) jumps offsides and pressures Jones quickly into the play. Jones feels the blind side pressure well and escapes to his left, before finding Saquon Barkley (26) in a scramble drill situation:
Of course there were the two fumbles that Jones lost during the course of the game on sacks from Barrett. On both of these plays, Jones might have been a step slow with his decision, but it was due in part to the fact that he was looking to take a deep shot in the vertical passing game. Here is his second quarter fumble. He initially wants to work the right side of the formation, where he has a snag route from the wide receiver and a swing route from the running back. But seeing this covered Jones comes to the left and is looking to deliver on a deep ball when he is hit:
What also might not help this play is the condensed nature of both vertical routes, which might have been a mistake by one of the receivers. But even if Jones takes a shot here the Buccaneers are in good position to defend the deep shot.
On the fourth quarter fumble, Jones again is looking to take a shot on a deep post route. He actually handles the initial edge pressure well and does a good job climbing the pocket. But Barrett gets a hand on the football as Jones is starting his motion, and punches the ball out:
Now, the issue here is that Jones might force a throw to that deep post route into coverage, but even here, the pressure is not of his own creation. Could he have been a tic faster on both plays? Perhaps, but looking at these plays it seems that the time necessary for the routes to develop was the largest contributing factor.
There was one play where Jones could have handled the pressure a bit better, even though he completed the pass. Late in the first half the Giants faced a third-and-5 and line up with Jones in the shotgun using 11 offense personnel:
Tampa Bay shows pressure here, sugaring the A-Gaps with linebackers in blitz posture. Here is the route design New York utilizes:
Jones wants to work the concept in the middle of the field, from the shallow crosser to the pair of sit route over the top of that route from Cody Core (17) and Slayton.
Jones manages to find Slayton under pressure for a gain of 15:
But if you look at this play again, Jones has a window to make a throw earlier in the play - with anticipation - to Shepard on his sit route. The QB is looking at Core on the curl route, and there is a window to throw this between the linebackers. However, Jones waits a step longer, allowing the pressure to get closer to home:
Now this is a bit of a contrast to the first play we highlighted, where Jones did make an anticipation throw under duress. So if it is perfection we are striving for, perhaps we can note this play as one where Jones contributed to his own collapsing pocket. Even still, however, he is able to make a tough throw from the cauldron to move the sticks on a third down.
According to the numbers, Jones was perfect under pressure on Sunday. This is one of those instances where the film review largely supports the statistics. One heck of a debut from the rookie.