clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Tommy DeVito can make case for backup QB role in 2024

The undrafted free agent has held up surprisingly well in his most recent starts

New England Patriots v New York Giants
Tommy DeVito
Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

With the way Brian Daboll spoke about Tommy DeVito after rookie minicamp, it seemed pretty evident that DeVito would not make the New York Giants’ Week 1 roster in 2023. The question was whether he would even find a place on the practice squad. The answer, of course, was yes, as the player who received plenty of preseason noise and hype remained the team’s de facto QB3.

Fast forward to December, and the Giants are now in a situation they never anticipated. With Tyrod Taylor designated to return from injured reserve, Daboll tabbed DeVito to continue as the starter with Daniel Jones out for the season. The purpose of this decision is clearly to determine whether DeVito can be their backup quarterback next season.

DeVito’s development into the primary backup would be a big boon for the Giants. He has just a $915,000 cap hit in 2024 compared to Taylor’s current $6.9 million figure for 2023. The Giants have $47.6 million in cap space for 2024 (17th) but only 38 players under contract for next season. That $5 million in savings would be quite helpful to fill out the roster.

What does DeVito need to do to prove to the Giants that he can be their No. 2 signal-caller in 2024?

By the numbers

Among 21 backup quarterbacks with at least 40 dropbacks this season, here are DeVito’s numbers and ranks.

Note: backup quarterback is defined as any passer who would have been a backup if not for injury or poor performance; therefore, Josh Dobbs is a backup. Additionally, all numbers are from before Monday Night Football this week.

  • 62.9% completion percentage (6th)
  • 76% adjusted completion percentage (2nd)
  • 6.6 yards per attempt (7th)
  • 6.67% touchdown rate (1st)
  • 2.86% interception rate (11th)
  • 2.7% big-time throw rate (10th)
  • 3.3% turnover-worthy play rate (7th)
  • 19% sack rate (21st)
  • 47.5% pressure-to-sack rate (21st)
  • 3.09 average time to throw (21st)
  • 29.5% first down rate (12th)
  • 7.6 average depth of target (15th)
  • 62.8 Pro Football Focus passing grade (3rd)

These numbers paint a picture of an accurate backup quarterback who can make a reasonable number of big plays while keeping the ball out of harm’s way. Although his average depth of target is on the low side, his yards per attempt average is solid for a backup. If DeVito could keep this up for a few more games, his numbers would be well within the range of an NFL backup, particularly considering the adverse conditions he’s operating under. In fact, from Weeks 9-12, DeVito’s 97.2 passer rating ranks 10th out of 36 qualified passers (min. 40 dropbacks).

The biggest red flag in DeVito’s profile is the combination of high pressure and sack rates, a sky-high pressure-to-sack rate, and an extremely long release time. Daniel Jones and Taylor, both quarterbacks who are known for holding the ball too long, still have better numbers than DeVito in those areas.

In particular, the pressure-to-sack rate is telling. Jones’ 31.6% rate is the worst among 36 qualified passers (min. 150 dropbacks). Taylor’s 20% rate would rank 23rd. They were both among the league’s most pressured passers: Jones’ 45.5% rate was the second-highest among qualifiers, while Taylor’s 44.2% rate would have been the third-highest.

DeVito has been pressured less than that at 40.1%, yet his sack rate is more than double Taylor’s (8.8%) and 1.3 times as high as Jones’ (14.3%). He also takes longer to release the ball than either one (both Jones and Taylor were at 2.85 seconds). That release time may explain why he is sacked so much more than his counterparts despite similar circumstances.

There is an accusation that DeVito is an all-or-nothing passer, either throwing a deep ball or dumping the ball off. From Weeks 9-12, that was not necessarily the case. From Weeks 9-12, he ranked 23rd out of 32 passers with a 9.6% deep rate, 12th with a 20.5% intermediate rate, 12th with a 45.2% short rate, and 20th with 17.8% behind the line of scrimmage. That’s a pretty even distribution of passes. Over those four weeks, DeVito’s best PFF grades relative to other passers were in the short (78.1, 6th) and intermediate (66.0, 18th) areas of the field.

Tale of the tape

DeVito’s tape reflects much of his statistics, with one primary exception. His adjusted completion percentage is more indicative of his general accuracy than his actual completion percentage. This is largely due to the 9.6% drop rate he's endured. While a high drop rate is often indicative of an inaccurate quarterback, this does not seem to be the case with DeVito. He is not the most precise passer, as his ball location could use improvement, but most of his passes are catchable if not always on target.

Furthermore, Giants pass-catchers went just 5-for-16 (31.3%) on contested catches from Weeks 9-12, while the league average is over 40%. That gives DeVito a significant disadvantage as a passer since he cannot rely on his receivers to make a tough catch.

Aggressive deep ball

In Weeks 11 and 12, DeVito began to showcase his ability to make some plays downfield. His 91.7 PFF deep passing grade during that time ranked ninth out of 33 qualified passers. Although the sample size is small, he went 4-of-7 for 134 yards on passes of 20+ yards downfield during that span, ranking fifth among passers with 19.0 yards per attempt. His 141.4 passer rating on those throws ranked 7th.

From Weeks 6-8, Tyrod Taylor’s deep passing numbers were very similar to DeVito’s in Weeks 11-12. Taylor went 5-for-10 for 160 yards, 16.0 yards per attempt, and a fifth-ranked 94.2 PFF deep passing grade in that span. Taylor also had more big-time throws with six compared to DeVito’s two, although his 95.8 passer rating was not as pristine because he did not throw any deep touchdowns compared to DeVito’s two.

If DeVito can continue to showcase some ability to push the ball downfield, he’ll make more of a case to win the No. 2 job. One improvement he needs to make on his deep ball is recognizing when to throw over the top vs. back shoulder. There were a few plays where he overthrew Jalin Hyatt or threw the ball straight into the coverage rather than leaving it back shoulder with the defender over the top.

Additionally, DeVito tends to notice open deep opportunities too late, resulting in a contested target rather than a wide-open throw. He struggles to identify the potentially open receiver and then make anticipatory throws. Like Jones, DeVito has also missed receivers open on several over routes, leaving potential big plays on the field.

Sticks too long on first read

The most constant issue popping out on DeVito’s tape is his tendency to lock on to his first read and rarely veer away. This is a common issue for young quarterbacks, especially for one as raw as he is. It’s the main reason he gets sacked so much and his pressure-to-sack rate is too high; he takes too long to progress through reads and often bails the pocket if his first read is not open. He also constantly tries to make a play in the face of pressure rather than throwing the ball away if his read is not open.

Here are a few examples:

This is the biggest area he will need to improve upon to be the Giants’ primary backup quarterback. While backups have more leeway than starters, if the quarterback gets sacked half the time he’s pressured, it’s going to impede the offense from functioning.

To take it a step further, this tendency likely comes from being unable to identify the defense pre-snap. Again, the standard in this area is much lower for backups than starters, but there still must be some level of command of the defense.

One thing worth noting is that DeVito is the only one of the three Giants quarterbacks who has played exclusively without Darren Waller. There are plays on his tape where he’s forced to throw the ball away or take a sack because there is no one open. That may have been less of an issue for the bulk of the time Jones and Taylor were under center. The Giants don’t have a true No. 1 receiver, making this a more important issue than it might be for other teams missing their top tight end.

Can he win the job?

As Ed Valentine and Patricia Traina discussed on The Valentine’s Views podcast, there may be some indications that the Giants’ players would prefer to see Taylor return to the starting lineup. With the long game in mind, though, Daboll is choosing to stick with DeVito and get a continued look at what the Giants have.

Many backup quarterbacks in the NFL are limited in one way or another. A number of them have started games this season, including Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Jake Browning, Zach Wilson, Aidan O’Connell, and Tyson Bagent. Still, if the Giants really will stick with Jones as their starter next season, they’ll need a backup who can realistically step in as a starter for a prolonged period.

Can DeVito be that player? Even in the last few weeks, there isn’t compelling evidence that he can be. The sheer number of sacks he takes is unsustainable in the long run. The Giants’ offensive line is porous, but not at a nearly 20% sack rate level of porous.

For DeVito to have a shot of winning the backup job, his pressure-to-sack ratio and release time will both need to decrease significantly. He’s done some good things, but between the two-game sample size and the glaring negatives remaining in his profile, he remains a long shot to stick around as the primary backup.

Still, this cameo as the starter is not the be-all and end-all for DeVito. Backup jobs are often won and lost in training camp and preseason as much as down the stretch of the previous regular season. If DeVito can soak up all the new information he’s processing on the fly and come out of the year with a better sense of the offense, he still has a chance to win the backup job next year even if his performance tails off or plateaus.