Going Deep: Eli Manning and Daniel Jones

Ben Davidowitz discusses the Giants' Eli Manning and Daniel Jones.

The New York Giants have been one of the more stable franchises concerning their starting quarterback position over the last 14 seasons. Ever since Eli Manning took over the reins of the team from Kurt Warner during his rookie season, there has been little doubt who the starting signal-caller would be for big blue. Outside of one ill-fated decision to pull Manning for Geno Smith for one start during the 2017 season, Manning has started every game for the Giants since the midway point of his rookie year. That adds up to 232 games for his career.

Entering the 2019 season, that may all be on the verge of changing. The Giants used their sixth overall pick to select Daniel Jones out of Duke. That is the highest pick spent on a quarterback since the Giants selected Phillip Rivers with their fourth overall selection in the 2004 draft and then traded him for Manning. The Giants have added several quarterbacks over the last decade and a half, but Jones represents the first true effort to find Manning’s heir.

While there is now some pressure in the form of a young and talented quarterback behind him, Manning has looked good throughout the off-season and is determined to hold onto his job. Let’s talk a look at what each player brings to the position.

 

Eli Manning

 

NFL Career Statistics

Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
4,804 7,972 55,981 360 239

Throughout organized team activities and training camp, Manning has routinely been praised for his arm strength, conditioning, and off-season training. His receivers have commented on the strength and speed of his throws. His coaches have noticed he looks more comfortable on the run and moving the pocket. Manning has said he feels more comfortable in the offense compared to the same time last year, and he has put in a lot of work to improve himself physically as he gets older.

Entering his second season under head coach Pat Shurmur and with an improved offensive line in front of him, Manning will look to improve his overall performance. After working in the off-season with former pitcher Al Leiter and football trainer David Morris, Manning looks to have a lively and strong-arm compared to last year. Manning has specifically worked on his ball velocity and deep ball mechanics/conditioning over this past off-season. From all reports thus far, it looks like the work he put in is paying off.

Way back in April, Manning was already gathering his receivers for off-season work at Summit High School. During several sessions, Manning was seen throwing the ball often and accurately while on the move, running bootlegs and roll-outs.

Manning has always excelled at reading defenses, accurately pointing out blitzes, and taking advantage of any mismatches. If he is given time in the pocket, he has the skills and experience to do damage to opposing defenses. There was quite an improvement for the second half of last season when Manning’s offensive line started to solidify in his ability to convert drives into touchdowns.

Weeks Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating
1 – 8 215 315 2,377 8 6 92
10 – 17 165 261 1,922 13 5 99.8

That trend should continue in Manning’s second year in the offensive system. The Giants will also have a much easier schedule for the upcoming NFL season, tying for the 27th least difficult strength of schedule. Last season the Giants were tied for the eighth-most difficult schedule in the NFL. After signing veterans Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers, combined with the return from injury of Jon Halapio, the offensive line should be much improved.

Manning has been a consistent stand-out thus far in training camp. He has had a high completion percentage and has been pushing the ball downfield to a variety of targets. He seems to have a growing connection with Cody Latimer and has been very accurate with the football. On Sunday the 11th of August, Manning reportedly had his best practice of the entire off-season. He routinely connected with Barkley on passes, routinely hitting the running back for big plays through the air. Manning completed his first ten passes of practice on Sunday, threading the ball between defenders several times.

The offense as a whole is going to be greatly improved this year. With the benefit of quality protection from the offensive line, Shurmur will be able to dial up his full playbook. Last year Shurmur was handicapped with his play-calling due to the ineffective blocking of the offensive line. Having the immense talent of Saquon Barkley behind him will keep defenses inching towards the line of scrimmage. This will allow Manning to take advantage of Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate (when Tate returns from suspension). With a good offensive line, dangerous running game, good tight end, and talented receiving group, the Giants have a much better chance at success than last year. Don’t be surprised if Manning walks away having one of his better years this season.

Manning should also be credited with creating an excellent environment in the quarterback room. He has helped Jones when given the opportunity. Manning said he doesn’t view Jones as any different than the other throwers who have come and gone over his 16-year career, regardless of being such a high selection. Manning recently said in regards to his experience in the QB room:

“We’re going to talk about it and say what we could have done better. What protection call could we have made? You want to talk football and learn, and I’ve always thought if I can teach, if I can talk about a concept, if I can talk about a protection and teach it to somebody, then it means I really know it. And so I think it kind of helps me in the process as well.”

To take the next steps with Shurmur’s offense, Manning will have to improve his ability to stand in the pocket and complete throws under pressure. He missed too many open receivers over the last few years and has gotten used to immediate pressure in his face after suffering through some bad offensive line play. Manning will need to trust the blocking in front of him and take advantage of what defenses give him.

 

Daniel Jones

 

College Statistics

Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
764 1,275 8,201 52 29

Jones enters his rookie season after being widely viewed as a reach by the media when he was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. If you speak to coaches and football personal, they have quite a different opinion of the young signal-caller. Jones has already started to earn the respect of his teammates, has improved each day, and has been a dedicated student of the playbook. While constantly shadowing Manning, Jones has shown off a high character, strong work ethic, and ability to learn.

After largely carrying his team in college, Jones enters the NFL with a competitor’s spirit, advanced understanding of the game, three years of starting experience, and many traits that are shared between himself and Manning. One trait Jones has over Manning is his overall athleticism. Jones ran the ball 406 times at Duke and gained 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns, a far higher output than Manning ever had running the ball. Jones has a quiet confidence about him and encompasses excellent throwing mechanics after being well coached by David Cutcliffe while playing for Duke.

One of the knocks against Jones coming out of college was his lack of elite arm strength combined with the tendency to sometimes sail passes–something that could be a concern against ball-hawking defenses in the pros. Another area Jones will have to work on is his ability to correctly read pro defenses and take advantage of what he sees.

In college, Jones showed off good accuracy, the ability to make progressions through his receivers, and the skill set to leave the pocket and do damage as a running quarterback. His ability to tuck the ball and run combined with his ability to run option plays is one of the biggest differences between him and Manning. With Barkley in the backfield, that skill set is one that could be used to create havoc for defenses.

Jones’s college numbers were quite pedestrian. Over his three years starting for Duke, he had a 59.9 completion percentage and threw for 8,201 yards with 52 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Jones had a record of 17 wins and 19 losses. What does not show up in his college stat line is the fact that his receivers had an incredibly high number of dropped passes, often ran incorrect routes, and Jones was often playing under duress from opposing teams pass rushers. In Jones’s last collegiate season alone, his receivers dropped 38 passes deemed catch-able.

Contrary to Jones’s college completion percentage, he throws with incredible accuracy over the middle of the field and when attacking deep. He has good pocket awareness, the ability to identify blitzes and to make the necessary adjustments, and has excellent footwork. Jones also has the courage to stand in the pocket under pressure and the speed to tuck and run for yards.

Over the course of completing five passes on five attempts for 67 yards and one touchdown in his first preseason game, Jones showed off his accuracy and ability to make great reads. His completion to Golden Tate over the middle on a run-pass option and his touchdown throw to Bennie Fowler were both examples of NFL type throws.

One of the biggest things Jones will have to eliminate in the pros is his tell of patting the ball as he works through his progressions and loads up a throw. Defenders in the NFL have often shown the ability to take advantage of such tendencies and jump routes for interceptions. He will also have to learn to slide when he decides to run and to improve his ball security. In college, unlike the NFL, he was able to get away with initiating contact with defenders on carries but still had too many fumbles as a runner.

 

Conclusion

 

It’s a fun and interesting time to be a fan of the Giants. With a retooled and reloaded roster and the quarterback of the future waiting in the wings, things are looking up.

Given the situation, and contrary to recent media reports, it would be a bit of a surprise if Jones starts any games this year outside of the team being eliminated from the post-season early on or an injury occurring to Manning. That being said, Jones definitely has some of the necessary skills to play early and be successful.

The Giants seem to be in an enviable position of letting their rookie quarterback take a year to learn the details of the offense while they rely on a veteran quarterback to be their starter. Manning still can be an effective quarterback in the NFL. At the same time, Manning has shown the consistent ability to be a supportive and knowledgeable teammate, which I think will pay off greatly for Jones when he eventually becomes the starter down the road.

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