When Daniel Jones was entering the NFL, he carried plenty of what was perceived as negative traits that would halt his success at the pro level. One year in, and he’s clearly begun to debunk those beliefs, making truthers out of doubters along the way.
One of the key negatives floating over Jones’ head during the 2019 draft period was his “inferior arm strength.” Yet, while his arm strength may never be Josh Allen/Matthew Stafford caliber, it most definitely hasn’t stopped him from stretching the field in the pros. Certainly a nice change of pace for the G-Men faithful.
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Eli Manning, Captain Checkdown?
Eli Manning will always hold high-ranking in Giants fans’ hearts. However, I think we can all agree that the future Hall of Famer began to get a bit gun shy towards the latter part of his career. The onus falls on the front offices’ inability to supply him with adequate protection upfront as much, if not more than the quarterback’s diminishing skillset. This led to Manning relying heavily on the “checkdown,” at times, to a fault.
Pro Football Focus‘ recent breakdown detailing quarterback’s tendency to checkdown backs up that take. Over Manning’s final two seasons in East Rutherford, he checked down the ball 72 times on 759 pass attempts.
His check down percentage of 9.5% over that period ranked sixth-highest in the NFL. With names such as Blake Bortles and Mason Rudolph accompanying Manning atop these ranks, it should tell you all you need to know about whether or not this stat should be perceived as a negative.
Jones’ Willingness to Stretch the Field Makes Giants Offense Scary
The injection of Daniel Jones into the Giants’ starting lineup in 2019 added a jolt of excitement and a willingness to stretch the field vertically, which New Yorkers hadn’t seen in years from the quarterback position.
Redditor Peakh23‘s side by side breakdown of Manning’s and Jones’ checkdown rates per PFF demonstrate the drastic variances in one another’s game, which can be seen below.
Jones’ checkdown rate of 4.3% ranked seventh-lowest in all of football, thanks to checking the football down just 21 times out of his 493 pass attempts during his rookie campaign.
Jones’ Athleticism, Moxie Leads to Big Plays
So how does a player that was bashed by so many evaluators just 13 months ago for his mediocre arm strength, land on a list sandwiched between the likes of big-arm talents such as Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson?
For starters, the hate on Jones’ arm, much like the majority of his overall evaluations, was a bit exaggerated. Another major aspect was his fearlessness/not knowing any better. The rookie was thrown into the fire with an injury-riddled roster, which included a hobbled-Saquon Barkley, at times ridding him of a major contributor in the flats.
However, the key factor in the drastic gap between Manning and Jones’ checkdown rate may very well be Jones’ athletic ability. The quarterback is a drastic upgrade over Manning in terms of athleticism, and despite an iffy o-line in front of him, he was able to extend and convert plays with regularity because of it.
Oh, and the emergence of speedster Darius Slayton over the final stretch of 2019 certainly doesn’t hurt. Although one could argue that Slayton’s success and Jones’ willingness to air the ball out go hand in hand.
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