Analyst on Giants’ Daniel Jones: ‘This One May Seem Like a Mistake’

Daniel Jones named Giants most improved player

Getty Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants.

It’s safe to say Daniel Jones has his fair share of retractors. It’s certainly understandable. On the surface, the New York Giants quarterback has won just eight games as a starter over his two NFL seasons, compiling 38 total touchdowns to 39 turnovers over that period.

However, sometimes the box score doesn’t tell the whole story. Despite heading a unit limited with talent, Jones showed growth as a decision-maker in 2020 (especially towards the latter end of the year), while his rushing ability proved to be arguably New York’s most effective form of offense.

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Daniel Jones Dubbed Giants’ Most Improved Player

Pro Football Focus, who makes a living going beyond your run-of-the-mill statistics, took note of Jones’ growth this past season. So much so, in fact, that the analytics powerhouse named Jones the Giants’ most improved player of 2020.

This one may seem like a mistake, given that many of Jones’ passing numbers actually took a step back in his second season, but those passing numbers don’t tell the entire story. Jones’ PFF grade — a number designed to isolate the play of a quarterback from his supporting cast — actually improved from 65.9 as a rookie to 78.4 in 2020.

The biggest reason for that improved grade was that Jones did a better job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way, reducing his number of turnover-worthy plays from 31 in 2019 to 17 this past season on a similar number of dropbacks. He also gave the Giants some added value with his athleticism as a runner. A better offensive environment should lead to better results for Jones next season.

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Did Jones Actually Improve in Year 2?

Jones’ second pro season was far from pretty. The former No. 6 overall pick went just 1-7 over his first eight starts of the season. Over his entire 14-game slate, Jones averaged just 210.2 ypg through the air, a near 41-yard dip from his 250.8 ypg average as a rookie. On the year, Jones never once exceeded two touchdown passes in a single game, tossing a total of 11 touchdowns all season long. To put those numbers into perspective, in 2019, Jones closed out the year throwing four-plus touchdowns in three of his final seven games. In those three games alone, he amassed 13 touchdown passes, two more than he accumulated in all of 2020.

Now for the positives. His completion percentage jumped from 61.9% as a rookie to 62.5% in his second season. Over his final six starts of 2020, the former Duke Blue Devil went 4-2. During that span, the typically turnover-prone quarterback turned the ball over just three times (one interception, two fumbles lost). The most impressive takeaway from Jones’ late-season push was that his seemingly improved play in the passing game came when he offered the least in the running game.

Over the first 10 games of 2020, Jones averaged 38.4 rushing yards per game, rushing for at least 45 yards on five separate occasions and topping 63 yards in three of the final five games in that 10-game stretch. Then, in Week 12, coming off a bye, Jones sustained the first of his multiple lower-body injuries of the year, greatly diminishing his rushing prowess. From Week 12 on, Jones essentially totaled what he had averaged on a per-game basis prior to injury, amassing just 39 rushing yards over his final four games.

Are these things to build on as Jones embarks on year three? Absolutely. At the same time, he remains a deer in headlights at times operating from the pocket. Plenty of that blame can go on the offensive line, which graded out as one of the worst units in football. On the other hand, Jones has shown similar lapses from the pocket dating back to his college days. Jones will be getting all-world running back Saquon Barkley back in the fold this coming season, which should do wonders for the quarterback. Yet, the team still lacks a legitimate top-option in the passing game, and could serve to benefit from not one, but multiple additions to their receiving corps.

The Giants continue to sell Jones as their long-term answer. If that’s to prove true, both he and the organization have some work to do.

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