The 2019 Daniel Jones Sack Study rolls on! In Part 1 we broke down the sacks that were best laid at the feet of the rookie passer5. In this part, we look at the 13 sacks that I graded as having some “shared responsibility.” Yes, the quarterback could have done something better, but the rest of the New York Giants around him - including sometimes the coaches - could have also been better on the play.
Let’s dive in.
Jones got the first start of his young NFL career in the third week of the season, on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the main memory from this game was the comeback victory Jones led - capped off by his game-winning touchdown run - he was also sacked five times in the contest.
The first sack of Jones in 2019 comes on a first-and-10 near midfield, with the Giants trailing by eight late in the first half:
The Giants run a spacing concept to the right side of the formation, with a pair of curl routes and a swing route from the running back out of the backfield. To the left side Jones has a pair of vertical routes, and given the spacing of the two there is a possibility that this is a bust, as both receivers really end up close to each other, throwing the spacing off.
Jones has a chance to throw the swing route quickly on this play but comes off of it, trying to work back to the vertical routes on his left. But he runs out of time, as left tackle Nate Solder is beaten on the play, and a strip-sack results.
Verdict: We will give Jones 50 percent of the blame on this one, as he did have an option available to him to get the ball out on the swing route.
Later in the third quarter the Giants face a first-and-10, trailing still by just a field goal.
The drive does not start as hoped:
This is a fascinating route concept. Using 12 personnel the Giants try an aggressive vertical concept, sending the boundary receiver on the left on a go route and having Evan Engram run an out-and-up along the same side of the field. This is also paired with orbit motion, with the other WR releasing to the flat on a swing route. The goal? Show Tampa Bay a Sail concept and get the defender covering Engram to bite hard on the out, and let the TE break vertically into space cleared out by the go route.
The problem? On the backside of this play the other tight end and the running back are tasked with blocking the edge defender. It does not go well.
Verdict: 50 pewrcent fault on the quarterback. Sure, the RB/TE combination need to do a better job on the defensive end, but Jones has a window - albeit a slight one - to take a shot where on the out-and-up from Engram with some anticipation. He passes that up, and ends up on the turf.
We skip ahead to the Thursday night contest against the New England Patriots, back when that defense was the most feared unit in the league. On this play the Giants face a first-and-10 in their own territory, and they turn to play-action. Jones fakes a handoff to his left on an outside zone look, and boots back to his right:
Jones gets pressured by linebacker Kyle Van Noy off the edge, and tries to outrun him to the corner. The linebacker manages to flush him out of bounds for a tiny loss, which is recorded as a sack.
Verdict: Part of me wanted to assign all of the blame to Jones here, as when he comes out of the fake the vertical route comes open along the right sideline. With the Patriots dropping into a Cover 2 look, that soft spot on the deep outside is where you want to attack. The problem is, cornerback Stephon Gilmore does a great job of showing Jones his back, telling the QB that he is going to carry the route deep. Only when Gilmore drops off the vertical route into the flat does the route come open. By then, Jones is running for his life.
Ultimately, this could simply be a great play by the defense. But we will give Jones 50 percent of the blame here, because he could have diagnosed this quicker and pulled the trigger on the vertical. Sometimes the guys across the field do their job, too.
This brings us to the Arizona Cardinals game, when Jones was taken down eight times by the opposition. We covered two of these sacks already, but some of the sacks in that contest required sharing the blame.
The first one comes midway through the third quarter, with the Giants down by three:
Now two factors contribute to the sack on this play. First, Engram is tasked with pass blocking Chandler Jones 1-on-1 here, which is a difficult task for a tight end. However, that would be fine if the ball comes out on schedule. Unfortunately, Barkley sells this perhaps a bit too well, and when Jones is looking to retreat and throw the screen pass, his running back is not ready for the ball. Chandler Jones gets to the quarterback, strips the football and recovers the loose ball for a turnover.
Verdict: So here, Barkley needs to get into this quicker. But also, Jones needs to do better with his internal clock here. It is much better to just turf this if Barkley is not in position, than it is to hold onto the football with pressure bearing down on him.
This sack is a bit of a mess:
Jones gets taken down on a fourth-and-15, and the play needs a bit of context. It comes with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter and the Giants trailing by three.
On second down Jones threw in the direction of Tate but the pass was broken up by safety Budda Baker. Facing a third-and-18, Pat Shurmur called for a running back draw play which gained just three yards, forcing New York into a fourth-and-15.
Before breaking down this next sack, it is necessary to look at the sequence from Shurmur. Given that it seems New York was in “four-down” mode at this point in the game, the decision to run a draw was probably not the best decision. At this point in the game the Giants had two timeouts left and the two-minute warning. If they wanted to give themselves a reasonable shot at a fourth down conversion, they needed to be more aggressive on third down. If the pass fell incomplete, the clock would stop and you can still punt the ball away with all your timeouts and the two minute warning left. But by running a draw - and gaining only 3 yards - the subsequent decision to go for it on fourth-and-15 forces you to be more vertical in the passing game.
And therefore call a slower-developing play, with three deep curl routes at the sticks.
The Cardinals blitz Jones from the slot. The QB does not see this coming and Peterson has a free shot at Jones, but even if the QB sees this in time where can he go with the football? The only route truly open is Engram in the flat, but it is fourth-and-15. Jones needs to throw something more downfield than a flat route 15 yards short of the sticks. Barkley sees the blitz coming late and tries to get over to pick it up, but he cannot get there in time and Jones gets hit, turning the ball over in the process.
Verdict: In terms of assigning blame for this sack, I think some has to be given to Shurmur and the sequence of events. Perhaps he thought Barkley could rip off a bigger run on that draw play, but I think the offense needed to be a bit more aggressive on third down to try and get into a much more manageable situation than fourth-and-15. Instead, when they decided to go on fourth down Jones was forced to be much more vertical in his thinking, and again he runs out of time. Now, Jones needs to see this coming, so he still gets some of the blame.
In Week 8 the Giants traveled to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Lions. They would ultimately lose by five, which is almost impressive when you consider that they got down 14-0 in the first quarter.
Detroit’s first points came on a sack of Jones:
The Lions bring a late blitzer in the form of Jarrad Davis, and nobody picks up the linebacker. As this is happening Jones is trying to throw the route concept to his left. When he finally sees the pressure coming, he makes a panicky throw in the direction of his check down route which is both off the mark, and behind him.
Therefore, when it is not caught, it is a live football. Devon Kennard returns it for a touchdown.
Verdict: When you get to the quarterback with only four as a defense, someone missed an assignment. Even so, this is a first-and-10 play and Jones needs to take care of the football better. Sure something was missed up front, but making a hurried and panicked throw behind you is bound to cost you.
Midway through the fourth quarter the Giants trail 31-19, but they have a bit of a drive going. After taking over possession on their own nine yard-line, they face a first-and-10 at the Lions’ 43 yard-line.
Soon it would be second-and-20:
Yes, left tackle Nate Solder is beaten on the play. Another former Patriot Trey Flowers gets past him with a violent push/pull move. But Jones has to get this ball out quicker. It becomes clear almost right after the snap that the Lions are in a man match coverage here with the corners playing off, and the deep comeback along the right sideline can be thrown early and with anticipation. If the ball comes out when it should, Jones only gets hit, not sacked.
Verdict: Yes, Solder can be better on this play, but so can Jones. If he gets the ball out when it should be in flight, he only gets driven to the turf.
Making matters worse, he would get sacked on that second-and-20 play, and the Giants would end this drive without points. We’ll get to the subsequent sack in Part 3.
In Week 9 the Giants hosted the Dallas Cowboys, looking for revenge after a loss in the season opener. This would be Jones’ first start in this rivalry, and the Giants would go on to lose by 19.
In the fourth quarter the Giants are trailing but have the football near midfield. Facing second-and-10, Jones drops to throw:
The Giants run a switch concept on the right, with the middle trips receiver breaking outside while the boundary WR cuts towards the middle of the field. Dallas overloads the right side of the offensive line, putting three defenders to that side of the formation. But then they loop the outside defender towards the interior, and that breaks the integrity of the pocket, leading to the sack.
Verdict: Sure, you would hope the offensive line could recognize this stunt concept from the defense, but Jones again has a window to get the football out. He hesitates, and that leads to the sack.
Here is how Dallas scored their final points of the night, on the game’s final play from scrimmage:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Solder is beaten but Jones needs to get the ball out faster. The Giants run four verticals and the Cowboys drop into zone coverage. There are windows, particularly the vertical route along the right sideline, but Jones takes too long to get the ball out. Simultaneously, Solder is beaten off the edge with a speed move to the outside, and the pass rusher knocks the ball from Jones as he is starting his throwing motion. Jourdan Lewis scoops up the loose ball and houses it for the touchdown.
Verdict: Anytime I’m asked what I want to see from Jones in 2020, I think of plays like this. The margin for error is so slim in the NFL, and we see that idea on this play. If he is just a half-step quicker in pulling the trigger, this is not a scoop-and-score situation. So while Solder does get beaten to the outside, the quarterback could be better and quicker. Also, Solder forces the defender to the outside, giving Jones the opportunity to climb the pocket a bit more.
At this point in the season you can see the impact pressure is having on the Giants schematically. In this Week 10 game against the New York Jets there are many plays where the Giants simply send three receivers into the pattern, looking to protect Jones better.
This third-and-10 play from the third quarter is one such example:
Even with the extra protection, Jones gets taken to the turf on this snap. He still, however, had options. The most glaring one is the underneath route working right-to-left in front of the linebackers, but I understand why Jones does not throw this given the situation.
The comeback route along the left sideline is a different story.
Verdict: The pocket does collapse around him, but on third down sometimes you gotta hang in there and deliver. Jones could have thrown this comeback route at the sticks.
With just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Giants trail by seven and face a second-and-5 on their own 35-yard line.
This one is a tough one:
The Jets get to Jones with a cross blitz up front, with the linebacker and the interior defensive tackle pressuring the QB through the A gaps. As Jones is taken down, he was starting to throw the curl/flat concept to the left. The QB initially wants to throw the flat, but he hesitates because the CB is lurking. When the cornerback finally squats on the flat route Jones works to the curl, but that is when the pressure gets to him.
Verdict: You could make a case for any grade here. Maybe this is all on the QB, as he must read the coverage and make a decision faster. Maybe the OL/RB need to protect him better, and it is all on them. Since football, as is life, is repleat with grey areas, I’ll spread the blame around on this one.
Now we limp into the final week of the season, as the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones was sacked four more times in the year’s final contest, with two of those requiring some sharing of the blame.
The first sack of the afternoon is one such play:
The Eagles bring a twist, with the interior defensive tackle over the right guard loops around the left tackle’s spot after the snap, getting to the quarterback. You would like to see the Giants’ offensive line recognize this stunt and block it up, but at the same time...
Jones needs to get the ball out faster.
The Giants have a double dig called to the left, with the third receiver releasing to the flat. Both the flat route and the deeper dig are open, but Jones hesitates.
Verdict: Yeah, you know where this is going. OL can be better here...but, so too, can Jones.
Second verse, same as the first:
Jones has the over route against this zone coverage, he waits to throw it, the pressure is getting home, and I’m cracking an adult beverage.
Verdict: Yeah you know where this is going...
Look, playing quarterback is hard. The difference between a completion and six points the other was is often literally a matter of inches. On many of these plays, if Jones is quicker with his decisions, the sack is avoided, even with the breakdowns around him.
Up next, Part 3, where Jones was really left hung out to dry.