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Giants 2021 roster profile: Will QB Daniel Jones make the leap?

The Giants have done what they can to set him up for success

Daniel Jones.

As we meander our way through player-by-player profiles of every member of the New York Giants 90-man roster, we have arrived at the most important one.

Jones will almost certainly have more to do with the success or failure of the 2021 Giants than any other player on the roster. Not to mention his performance could have much to do with the direction of the franchise in years to come. Jobs, including his own, could well be on the line for the long-struggling Giants in 2021.

Will Jones answer the question of whether or not he can be the Giants’ quarterback for the foreseeable future in the affirmative, perhaps leading them to the playoffs and allowing GM Dave Gettleman to determine his own fate? Or, will he fail and leave the Giants perhaps searching for a new GM, quarterback and offensive coordinator?

Let’s take a look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 221
Age: 24
Position: Quarterback
Experience: 2
Contract: Year 3 of four-year, $25.664 million rookie contract | 2021 cap hit: $7.189 million

Career to date

To the consternation of many draft analysts, and more than a handful of Giants fans, Dave Gettleman went against the grain and selected Jones No. 6 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Since then, Jones has flashed enough good football to make you think that Gettleman could ultimately be right about the former Duke Blue Devil. He has also played enough bad football to make you wonder how anyone could have ever fallen into “full bloom love” with him.

Jones completed 61.9 percent of his passes as a rookie, with 24 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions and an interception percentage of just 2.6. He ended up with a passer rating of 87.7. The eras are somewhat different in terms of how offensive football is played, but Eli Manning did not approach those statistical levels until his fifth year in the NFL.

In his second season, Jones seemed to regress in many ways. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes, but had just 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. His yards passing per games fell by 22 yards, and his passer rating fell to 80.4.

The Giants did figure out how to get Jones involved in the offense as a runner at he totaled 423 rushing yards, but that wasn’t enough to truly jump start an offense that was 31st in the league in scoring.

All along, turnovers — really fumbles — have been an issue. Jones has a career interception percentage of 2.4, which is fine. Drew Brees just finished a Hall of Fame career with an interception percentage of 2.3. It is the fumbles that aren’t fine.

Jones has led the NFL in fumbles in each of his two seasons, with 18 in 2019 and 11 last season. Blame whatever you want — offensive line play, lack of awareness, lack of ball security, lack of willingness to quit on plays that break down — that has to change for Jones and the Giants to succeed.

2021 outlook

The Giants spent the offseason aggressively trying to upgrade the talent around him. Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, tight end Kyle Rudolph and the return of Saquon Barkley should do that. The Giants are banking on improved stability in the coaching ranks and the natural progression of talented young players to improve an offensive line that has not given Jones a chance to succeed in his first two seasons.

If those things fall into place the way the Giants are hoping, it will be up to Jones to take advantage of them.

Regardless of circumstance, though, sooner or later Jones needs to show the Giants once and for all whether he is — or isn’t their guy. During an appearance on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, former New York Jets GM and current NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum got right to the heart of the matter:

“At some point greatness is gonna show up. Let’s go! Take the team over and show that you’re a great quarterback,” Tannenbaum said. “There’s always going to be excuses … I think he’s flashed, but at some point we need to see it multiple weeks in a row.”

Rather than simply giving you my opinion on whether or not Jones will reward that faith during the upcoming season, I thought I would turn to the Big Blue View staff to see how our writes felt about Jones. Thus, this section will really be a “round table” with a variety of opinions about how Jones will fare in 2021.

Here is the question I posed:

“When the 2021 season is over will Jones have justified the Giants’ faith in him, or put them back in the market for a new quarterback?”

Chris Pflum

I have, for the most part, hedged with my predictions with respect to Jones because, frankly, I’m still not sure who he is as a quarterback.

To a large extent, I’m right where I was about this same time last year when discussing Jones: He is a walking Rorschach test. When it comes to Daniel Jones, I think you can find evidence to scaffold the belief that he’s a nascent franchise QB, or that he is a future journeyman.

On the plus side you could point to a reduction in fumbles, improvements in working past his first read and getting the ball out of his hands faster (2.76 seconds in 2020 compared to 2.85 seconds as a rookie). Jones showed an incremental improvement in overall accuracy, we saw the the effect his athleticism can have on defenses. And we have read plenty of anecdotes regarding his leadership, work ethic, and toughness. Not to mention the ever-present aesthetic deep pass he has flashed since college.

But that deep passing, which was lauded by NFL NextGenStats, is a natural segue to the flip side of the coin.

Jones only threw 39 “deep” passes in 2020, an undeniably small sample size and those are inherently unstable. Will Jones continue to build on his success passing deep in 2020 if the Giants throw downfield more in 2021, or will a larger sample size regress to something more like his rookie numbers? And despite throwing shorter passes on average in 2020, Jones was a less efficient quarterback than as a rookie. He took steps back in his ANY/A (5.38 to 4.92), EPA+ CPOE (0.074 to 0.035), Success Rate (45.6 percent to 45.1 percent), and Air Yards (7.9 to 7.2).

Will Jones make a significant step toward becoming a true Franchise Quarterback? There’s reasons to believe he will, and reasons to believe he won’t. Whether Jones takes a significant step forward or continues to tread water, the Giants’ answers are easy.

The harder question is if Jones continues to be who he has been, taking steps in some areas of his game while regressing in others. Missing time due to injury and struggling with turnovers, flashing encouraging signs but never quite being consistent enough to get the team over the hump. At that point the Giants might need to make the tough decision on whether or not they are in the “quarterback hell” Dave Gettleman talked about shortly after being hired.

Nick Falato

To say Daniel Jones is entering a crucial year in his third season would be an understatement. He flashed in Year 1 under Pat Shurmur, but was reckless with the football to the tune of 18 fumbles and 12 interceptions. He was a bit more cautious with the ball in 2020 - 11 fumbles and 10 interceptions - yet the lack of explosive plays were more than evident with Jones in Garrett’s system. Some of those struggles were with Garrett, a young offensive line, and a lack of weaponry around the second-year quarterback.

Jones seemed to have a problem with consistency in the sense of fully putting all the pieces of playing NFL quarterback together. He was better with his eye manipulation of safeties, and, at times, maneuvered the pocket well and used his escapability to extend drives. He also was a bit more efficient as a deep ball thrower in 2020, albeit he showed good glimpses of that in 2019.

However, he would still lock onto the first read too long, struggled (at times) with reacting to post-snap movement, and he would bail pockets a bit too early at times (offensive line was horrendous in his defense). Jones now gets a full off-season in his second season with Garrett, along with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Rudolph, and a healthy Saquon Barkley (hopefully). The Giants need to win football games and we need to see development from Jones. The team has to make the fifth-year option decision next year; if the Giants go north of .500, and Jones shows positive signs, I believe they pick up the option and reassess. If the Giants struggle in 2021, then they could use the ammunition acquired through the Bears trade to possibly find Jones’ successor. I am not willing to say that one good year from Jones solidifies his spot going forward past the fifth year - this would be especially true if Dave Gettleman doesn’t retain his job.

Mark Schofield

With the success of Josh Allen a season ago, New York Giants fans are hoping that Daniel Jones can have the same “third year leap” that saw the Buffalo Bills make it to the AFC Championship game last year.

Given that the NFL is a copy-cat league, the Giants are trying to emulate what the Bills did last season for Allen. New York added at the wide receiver position, signing Kenny Golladay in free agency and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round, similar to how Buffalo added Stefon Diggs to give Allen a go-to weapon in the passing game.

But the biggest plank to Allen’s rise is perhaps the consistency in coaching he has enjoyed since entering the league. During his time in Buffalo Allen has played for one offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll.

For the first time since his college days, Jones will be playing for the same offensive coordinator as he was a year ago, with the return of Jason Garrett.

That consistency will be critical to Jones’ potential success this season. Consistency in coaching breeds confidence in quarterbacks, and Allen is living proof. With some stability in place around him, Jones is in position to have the kind of success that other quarterbacks have enjoyed. He might not put up the kind of numbers that Allen did last year, but Giants fans are right to be cautiously optimistic that Jones will take a step forward this season, justifying the organization’s faith in him.

Emily Iannaconi

When it comes to Daniel Jones, it’s important to remember that the Giants were looking for a replacement to Eli Manning - in the most literal sense. And in his 16-year career, Manning famously finished with a record of 117-117. He had moments of greatness but was known on a day-to-day basis for showing up and his steady pocket presence. I still believe that Jones can fill that void for the Giants in his third season.

In his sophomore campaign, Jones threw 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But he also had a lack of weapons with Saquon Barkley’s absence and some poor performances (ie Evan Engram’s drops). His turnover rate slightly improved as he fumbled 18 times in 2019 and 11 times last season. Jones was sacked 45 times last season, but it’s important to consider the offensive line he had for protection. In short, throughout his two seasons in the league, Jones has had many factors working against him. He may not ever be Patrick Mahomes level great, but the Giants never expected that from him. Unlike other NFC East QB’s in recent years (Dwayne Haskins Jr., Carson Wentz), Jones has a team-first mentality and strong work ethic. He still has the potential to replace Manning on the roster - and that would be enough for the Giants.

Ryan Magill

I was hardly the biggest fan of the Giants drafting Jones 6th overall in 2019. By this I mean I was repeatedly cursing at my TV that the Giants took a guy some analysts claimed was a possibly third-round talent over my favorite player in the draft in now-Jaguar (and 7th overall pick) Josh Allen. And in his short NFL career thus far, Jones has provided both sheer brilliance and sheer head-scratchers. His first start against the Buccaneers made many believe they were wrong about the man who would be known as “Danny Dimes”. Turnover woes have plagued him consistently since then, and don’t even get me started on the play against the Eagles. I want nothing to do with it.

All of that being said, I am an optimistic person. I believe in the power of a talented No. 1 option at WR like Kenny Golladay on a young QB (Ex: Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen in Buffalo). I also believe a full season of healthy Saquon Barkley will help elevate Jones’ game even more. Will Jones ever be worth the #6 Pick? Probably not in terms of individual talent. Then again, Eli Manning was never the most talented QB in the league but he will always be a legend in New York for the championships he won. If Daniel Jones can show the team is getting close to that (and I think he can do that), the Giants’ faith in him will be justified.

Valentine’s View

I believe Jones will justify the Giants’ faith. He will never be Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, making off-platform plays that leave your jaw on the floor. In my view, though, Jones has every physical skill necessary to play the position at a quality level, and the personality to succeed in New York/New Jersey. It’s a matter of whether his processing speed improves and his turnovers decline.

I think we saw signs of improvement in both areas last season. His fumbles went from 18 to 11, with three coming in a game against the Arizona Cardinals when he was on one leg and shouldn’t have been playing. When you look at the pro Football Focus data on turnover-worthy plays, Jones went from near the bottom of the league in 2019 to roughly league average in 2020. In its 2021 QB Annual, PFF wrote:

Jones played better than his stats showed, as the Giants had the lowest pass-blocking grade in the league and the eighth-worst receiving grade. Jones was excellent throwing the ball 20-plus yards, producing the third-best grade and highest passer rating in the league at 132.5. Passes up to 20 yards were a different story, as Jones ranked in the bottom half of the league in those. Still, the second-year QB’s overall season was much more promising than public perception might indicate. There’s hope that Jones can have success with a better supporting cast, most notably cleaner pass protection and playmakers who can create separation at the short and intermediate level of the field. Jones still needs to cut down on the turnover-worthy plays, and he could do a better job of getting the ball out of his hands quicker, but the 2020 season was a step in the right direction given the poor situation surrounding Jones.

A full-blown Josh Allen-esque leap would be nice, but I think all we really need to see is that the arrow is continuing to go up. I believe it will.

Poll

"When the 2021 season is over will Daniel Jones have justified the Giants’ faith in him, or put them back in the market for a new quarterback?"

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Justified the Giants’ faith
    (851 votes)
  • 18%
    Forced them back into the QB market
    (192 votes)
1043 votes total Vote Now

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