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Film review: Giants’ QB Daniel Jones against Cincinnati

What went well, and what did not

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Daniel Jones saw his most significant action yet for the New York Giants against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. So naturally, it is time to dive into the film.

We can start with what worked well for Jones against the Bengals. Frankly, given the injuries that have plagued the Giants this preseason, the fact that Jones did not get hurt might be where to start. But beyond staying healthy, there are things that worked well for Jones and the passing game Sunday night.

As has been covered at Big Blue View and elsewhere, the Giants offense in 2022 might see increased emphasis on RPO designs. Beyond the benefits of these designs conceptually, they also put Jones on familiar footing, given the offense he ran while at Duke.

RPO elements were on display during his time on the field Sunday, and they led to big gains for New York in the passing game. We can start with this completion from Jones to David Sills V, coming on an RPO concept late in the first quarter:

The design of the play, particuarly the blocking up front, helps sells the concept to the defense. Devery Hamilton, aligned at left guard, pulls to the right side. The second-level defenders, on seeing a guard pull, crash downhill in response to get into their run fits. That creates the window for Sills on the slant route, and Jones pulls the football from the back and makes the quick read and throw to the receiver breaking inside.

New York turned to a similar design early in the second quarter, only this time Jones is forced to navigate an unblocked defender to hit the slant route:

The concept is the same, only to the other side of the field. The right guard pulls on the play, which helps influence the second-level defenders to crash downhill. The wrinkle that gets thrown into the mix is the blitz from rookie safety Daxton Hill, who comes unblocked off the left edge. Jones has to navigate throwing this slant route with a free runner in his face.

He hangs in the pocket long enough to deliver the throw, which is slightly high, but given the pressure he is facing, pristine placement is not the goal. Simply getting the ball to Sills is, because due to the run action up front, he has space to operate after the catch. Sills hauls in the throw, and picks up a few more yards after the catch.

Perhaps Jones’ best throw of the night came again with Sills — who is making a strong case for significant playing time this season — working downfield. On this first-and-10 play from late in the first quarter, Jones executes a run fake to his left before targeting Sills on the go route:

Sills aligns at the top of the numbers, in a condensed alignment, which gives him space towards the sideline. Jones knows this, and as such he uses the opportunity to put air under this throw, leading Sills towards the boundary and away from the inside leverage of the cornerback. With space to work with, Sills makes the adjustment to the throw and pulls in the pass for a 20-yard gain.

While at first blush this might look like a play that Jones makes more difficult due to the ball placement, from where I sit I like where he put this ball. He knows the defender is inside Sills, and he knows that the receiver has space on the outside thanks to his pre-snap alignment. Putting this throw where he does gives Sills the best chance to complete the play.

Perhaps his best-executed play from Sunday night came, on all things, a check down:

This play is a well-designed concept from Brian Daboll, with a switch verticals element on the right side of the field paired with a swing route to the right flat from wide receiver Richie James, working out of the backfield. That gives Jones a few different options to the right side of the formation.

While the hope is that something will pop downfield, the Bengals cover this well. Jones wants to hit one of the downfield vertical routes, but both are covered. He even takes a peek at James’ swing route, but with the cornerback staying home over that route, that option is taken away. So he is forced to work to the backside, and hits the check down to his running back working to the left flat.

Jones does that well, even navigating two points of pressure along the way, as both edges are starting to soften around him.

Not everything clicked for Jones and the Giants’ passing game Sunday. There was this interception, which really is more on the tight end than anyone else:

This is another switch verticals concept, this time along the left side of the field, that the Bengals cover well. Jones gives it a quick look, and then gets his eyes to the crossing route from rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger. Jones makes the right read and navigates the coverage well, as he has to fit this throw around the underneath hole defender. But the pass goes through Bellinger’s hands, and is intercepted by the deep safety.

Interestingly enough, the biggest gain from Jones and the Giants’ passing game Sunday might be the one play he needs to learn from the most. On this crossing route, Jones makes the right decision with the football, but takes perhaps a little too much off the throw as he tries to layer the ball in to wide receiver Collin Johnson. The touch Jones puts on this throw allows the defender to undercut the route, and the ball should have been intercepted:

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Jones finished the night having completed 14 of 16 passes for 116 yards, no touchdowns and the interception. The completion percentage is impressive, and as we saw, some of the throws were not exactly easy. While the interception is not to be placed on Jones’ lap, the long completion to Johnson was perhaps one that the quarterback got away with.

Perhaps most comforting was how Jones handled the RPO elements. If those designs are going to be a bigger part of New York’s offense this season, Jones’ familiarity with — and ability to execute — such concepts should give Giants fans reason to believe as the regular season beckons.