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Daniel Jones Spotlight

Changing Of The Guard

by Andy Singleton (@PeoplezPen)

Brains, and legs. That’s really all it boils down to when comparing the differences between Daniel Jones, and his predecessor Eli Manning. Now, before you read another sentence, just know, this is not a scathing manifesto against Eli. He is virtually a lock to join his brother Peyton as a Hall of Fame inductee. It’s just that sometimes in life, eras overlap, and Eli has continued to show his skills not being a great fit for today’s game. It’s not to say he is no longer smart as a signal caller, but almost to say he is now maybe too smart for his own good. In a word, conservative. Or, gun-shy. Or, fearful. With his impressive, and folklore-like debut, Daniel Jones has effectively driven home the final nail in Manning’s New York Giants career. So let us take a deeper look at why this was the right move, and how this should bring enough excitement to silence the draft day critics of Jones.

At this point, you have probably seen enough tweets, sound bites, and headlines of everyone now loving Daniel Jones. Personally, it is a little disturbing, because I was one of the very few saying Jones was going to surprise many. It has been eerily similar to the path I followed last year in supporting Josh Allen. I mention Allen, because in addition to the scrutiny I faced, there are many parallels to the two player’s games. They are both big at 6’5”, they are both inconsistent with their accuracy – although possessing powerful arms, they are both agile and willing runners when flushed from the pocket, and most importantly, they are both gamers. You simply cannot put a price, or Madden rating, on effort and personal sacrifice. You either have the mentality to scrape out every inch of every play, or you don’t. Walter Payton is widely regarded as the greatest Running Back of all time, and the trait that sticks out to most, was his refusal to run out of bounds. That is the type of attitude, effort, and mentality I am referring to in the case of Daniel Jones. Those are the brains I am speaking of. Is it going to get him in trouble at times? Absolutely, one thousand percent it is and will. But when you sum up all of the intangibles, how it affects his teammates, and the impact it will have on the organization, the juice is very much worth the squeeze. The other part of the brains behind Daniel Jones is his quickness in reading the field. This is generally slow to develop for young quarterbacks, but Jones has shown this going back to his college days at Duke. In that NFL Draft Profiles video above, you’ll notice my co-host, The Gridiron Scholar, John Laub stated he thinks Jones is entirely too quick to check down. I would argue, he was checking down because of a lack of talent around him at the receiver position. It wasn’t out of fear, or poor recognition, but rather it was processing information at light speed, and taking what he deduced to be the best available option. Brains. Fast forward to his current role with the New York Giants in the National Football League, and he is surrounded by the unquestioned best talent he has ever had to work with. Let’s take it a step further, and factor in he has arguably the most athletic skill players at his disposal, in the entire league! Evan Engram is a dynamic weapon, who’s uniqueness was not being utilized to its full capacity. Saquon Barkley, as great as we all know he is, has the potential to be even better. Sterling Shepard, when healthy, is a dynamic slot receiver with the ability to fill an alpha role. These are the same tools with which Manning had to work with, but the speed of the game has hampered his ability. Enter the second, and most important differentiator, the legs of Daniel Jones.

Simply put, the object of the offense is to move the ball down the field, giving your team the best opportunity to score points. This isn’t going to happen in just a handful of attempts, so they give you a new set of downs every time you acquire ten yards. I broke it down to sound that basic for a reason. You have to move the sticks to be effective. So far in 2019, the Eli Manning led Giants were 5-23 (17.9%) on 3rd Down Conversions, which was shattered by Jones in Week 3, as he went 6-13 (46.2%). Go back to Jones’ final season at Duke in 2018, and he led the team to 38th in the nation in this category at 41.7%. Too often, most likely influenced by fantasy football, we look for the gaudy totals. We want to see dominance at a position. While that’s all well and good, you can’t be dominant without first having opportunity, and that is what Jones not only gives Giants fans, and not only his own statistics, but the totals of the skill players around him as well. Look at this still shot, as an example, of Eli on 3rd and 9 opting for Bennie Fowler ten yards shy of the marker, and headed into a crowded area. 

A split second longer would have revealed a wide open Saquon Barkley in the flat, with space, and a one-on-one scenario around the first down marker. You are taking the ball out of the hands of the best playmaker in the game, and forcing Benny Fowler to come up with a miracle. Nothing against Fowler, but the smart money is on Saquon. Or take this clip of Eli faced with a 3rd and 10 situation against the Buffalo Bills. Yes, it was 20 yards to the marker, but the defense had their backs to the play, and there was not a single soul in that twenty yard area. Eli has famously shown the ability to avoid a sack, but he has never been much of a runner. That was never his game. But that is exactly where the professional game is now, and what is needed at the Quarterback position. Jones in a 3rd and 5 against the Buccaneers this past Sunday reveals the stark contrast between these two. This play was not a designed run, but he quickly sees that his window is minimal and trusts his legs and ability to attempt to make a play. Move the chains, reset the down, and extend your team’s time on the field.

above, Eli Manning ignoring wide open real estate, while below, Daniel Jones scampers towards the sticks

These may seem like minor examples, but as I said at the beginning, that is really all it boils down to. Hopefully, these quick visuals gave you enough of a glimpse to see what I have in the case of Daniel Jones. Things don’t always have to be so profound! Sometimes, simplicity wins the day. Oh, but what about those glaring inaccuracies you have heard so much about in regards to Daniel Jones? I am here to tell you they are overblown. I said his surrounding talent at Duke was lacking, and in large part it was. Even the most gifted of athletes make mistakes, as evidenced by this drop from Saquon Barkley below. The pass was on target, and should have been translated into six points. These kinks will be ironed out as the players become more accustomed to each other. Already you could see an immediate difference in the aggressiveness of Engram and Shepard. The team is playing with more belief, not to mention more energy. From a non-fantasy perspective, the offense is keeping the Defense fresher. The overall balance of the game should pay immediate dividends for their competitiveness. For fantasy, which is likely why you are here, expect an uptick for all. Evan Engram has had exactly two 100-yard games in his career. The first came this year in Week 1, with Eli, but required 14 targets and 11 receptions to get to 116 yards. With Jones, Engram topped the century mark for the second time, only it came on 8 targets and 6 receptions. This is important to me, because Engram has averaged 7.1 targets per game over his first 28 played. With Jones, he will not need the high volume. Unfortunately, all of this positive energy may have to be put on hold, depending on how long and affected Saquon Barkley is from injury. In the short term, Wayne Gallman figures to be the featured back, and for more on him you can visit Mike Valverde’s post profiling the former Clemson star. In the case of the drop by Barkley, it was followed up on the next play with a TD run from Jones. With Barkley, he undoubtedly has more. But, he already has better talent than ever before, even without Barkley. Daniel Jones is going to be fine. In fact, he is going to be good! It’s about time everyone finally realized it.

Drop a comment below with your thoughts on Daniel Jones. Are you buying?