If nothing else, the New York Giants need to find out this year if Daniel Jones is indeed their quarterback of the future.
Jones, selected sixth overall in last year’s draft, certainly has the looks of being a franchise quarterback. Still, the typical rookie year struggles that were accentuated by ball security issues have some wondering if he’s the latest in a long line of failures to be considered good enough to challenge the franchise records and accomplishments as set by the now-retired Eli Manning.
Mark Schofield, a quarterbacks specialist for the LockedOn NFL podcast network has been bullish about Jones’ path, and has lauded the youngster for leaving no detail to chance this off-season, including the addition of nearly 10 pounds of muscle which Schofield believes will significantly help Jones’ game.
“Well, I think two things come into play when a quarterback adds muscle add a little bit of weight and mass to his body,” Schofield said. “One is the fumbles. The more muscle you add, some of those hits won’t impact what they did a year ago. So that’s certainly one thing that comes into play.
“The other thing that it does is prevent any sort of wear down throughout the season,” Schofield added. “A lot of times when rookies come into the league regardless of position, it’s this strange sprint where they don’t get any sort of extended rest period, and the body starts to break down for a lot of rookies because now you’re playing a 16 game schedule, which for most rookies they haven’t done before.
“So when you get a chance to sort of add this muscle mass it’s going to enable you to play deeper into the season at a much higher level than you’ve had before.”
If that’s not enough reason to inspire hope, consider the quantum leap that Lamar Jackson of the Ravens took between his rookie season and his second year. Jackson, whom some teams didn’t think had what it took to be an NFL quarterback and instead wanted to work him out as a receiver, might very well have laid down the blueprint (as outlined by SI.com’s Jenny Vrentas in a recent “Daily Cover” feature story) for Jones to take that next step forward.
Jackson’s second season was a quantum leap from his first. That kind of jump is not unheard of for quarterbacks, though how it happened was. The Ravens changed offensive coordinators, promoting Greg Roman from tight ends coach; they went all in on a scheme that dared to feature its quarterback as the centerpiece of its passing and rushing attacks; and Jackson did what NFL evaluators have long considered rare—he became significantly more accurate as a passer. … Jackson’s completion percentage soared from 58.2 as a rookie to 66.1 despite a more complicated passing scheme that featured more difficult throws.
Jackson, who like Jones added 10 pounds of muscle in between his rookie and sophomore campaigns, also saw a vast increase in his production. As researched and noted by Giants Country’s Jackson Thompson, the quarterback’s second-year growth saw an increase in yards-per-carry from 4.7 in 2018 to 6.9 in 2019, the most by any quarterback, and might have even played into Jackson’s improved rushing yards after contact which improved from 1.3 in 2018 to 1.9 in 2019.
Even more encouraging given that Garrett’s offensive scheme has roots in the Air Coryell, the added muscle helped Jackson’s deep ball, which, per PFF, went from 38.5% as a rookie to 41.8% last season and helped him improve his ball security.
Garrett has been encouraged by what he’s learned about Jones so far.
“There’s no question that he is a football guy,” Garrett said this week on a video conference call with reporters. “He loves football. He’s always so prepared. He’s always studying his stuff and wants to be better.
“My experience has been when you have that approach, and that kind of attitude, if you have some ability, you’re going to keep getting better every day, and he’s certainly doing that.”
Garrett said he was impressed with what he saw from Jones during the quarterback’s rookie season.
“The thing you like so much about Daniel is his approach, Garrett said. “He has ability. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic, he has all the tools you’re looking for. He loves football; he works very hard at it; he’s always trying to refine his skills, gain more knowledge, and do what he needs to do to be a better quarterback.
“Playing as a rookie in the NFL is a challenge,” he added. “Playing quarterback as a rookie in the NFL is a real challenge. Daniel handled himself really, really well.”
Garrett didn’t speak about any specifics he or Giants quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski have had Jones change as far as his mechanics, but based on the videos the Giants have released, Jones’ footwork has been a lot smoother, which can be seen when he’s dropping back and hoping over bags.
The other thing Schofield noticed is that Jones is crouching a bit more in his stance to create more of a wider base.
“When you’re a tall quarterback—6’5”—you tend to have mechanical problems if you sort of stay upright,” Schofield said. “Now, Jones didn’t have those, but it did pop up from time to time where that front leg locked up.
“Now this isn’t something that I saw a lot from Jones, but it did pop up from time to time here and there.”
According to Schofield, the concern is that if the quarterback’s front’ leg locks up, that can throw off the entire throwing motion.
“In a sense, if you lock up that front leg and almost act like you’re slamming the brakes on a car, because it’s almost stops all of your forward momentum,” Schofield said. “And that’s when it disrupts the chain, basically at the hip between the upper body and the lower body. You see this with taller quarterbacks.”
While some will use statistics to determine a quarterback’s growth, Schofield believes it’s not so much about numbers, which are generally only good for one season, as it is about some bigger picture items.
When asked what benchmarks could be looked at to determine whether Jones’ career is indeed on the right path, Schofield mentioned three areas in no particular order of importance.
The first is ball security. “You want to look for improved ball security in and around the pocket, and it starts with the mechanics of handling the football in the pocket.”
Schofield said that pictures and video clips of Jones going through drills show his left hand glued to the ball whenever he’s moving around. That wasn’t always the case last year during Jones’ rookie season, especially when he’d move around the pocket and pump his left arm to create more motion.
The second thing is the mental aspect.
“You don’t want to see sacks that can be attributed to Daniel Jones himself,” Schofield said. “There were instances last year where sometimes the ball didn’t come out when it should. So you want to see improvement in the speed of which decisions are made and you want to see those be the right decision.”
The third element—and perhaps the biggest of all—is to see where Jones is at the end of the season rather than base any judgments on a weekly basis.
“You don’t want to focus and get caught up on the improvement from week to week,” Schofield said. “You just want to see if Jones, by the end of the 2020 season, ends up in a better position to be a better quarterback than he was at the season. As in life, development isn’t linear; we all have peaks and valleys in our growth. It’s the same with quarterbacks.
“There will be some games where Jones makes mistakes. There will be some games where maybe he comes up and throws a pair of interceptions and struggles to hit 60% completion marks and things like that. But you just want to see at the end of this season Jones in a better position than he was when this year began.”
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