New York Giants: Daniel Jones was an improved QB in 2020

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Oct 4, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To the naked eye, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones did not improve in his second NFL season. He threw 13 fewer touchdowns, his passer rating dropped 7.7 points, and his team finished 6-10. But despite those notable regressions, he improved in a number of areas as well – including the one that plagued his rookie year. By no means did Jones take a monumental leap in year two like some of the quarterbacks in recent years, but progress was made, and the Giants should be confident in their QB of the future heading into 2021.

How Daniel Jones Improved During His Second Season:

He stopped turning the ball over:

During his rookie year Daniel Jones turned the ball over 23 times, tied for the second-most in the NFL. The Giants lost multiple games in 2019 strictly because of Jones’ inability to keep the ball in his teams’ hands. Heading into the 2020 offseason it was clear that protecting the pigskin needed to be worked on.

After turning the ball over 11 times in the G-Men’s first seven games of 2020, it looked as though Jones hadn’t made any progress with his biggest weakness. But as the season went on, his hard work finally started to show on the field. In his final seven starts, the former Duke signal-caller turned the ball over five times, six less than the first half of the year. Even more impressive though was in his final six starts he coughed the ball up only three times, one of them being a perfect pass that was dropped by tight end Evan Engram in week 17.

When the season was all said and done, Daniel Jones had turned the ball over seven less times than his rookie year. His NFL-leading 11 fumbles in 2019 shrank to six in year two, and his interceptions dropped from 12 to 10. He turned the ball over 1.14 times a game, a sizable decrease from 1.77 in 2019. Of course there’s still plenty of room for improvement in 2021, but the Giants should be pleased about Jones’ development in the turnover area.

He became a real threat with his legs:

After a rookie season that saw Jones rush for 279 yards and two scores on 45 carries, it was clear an elite running ability was present. His 4.82 40-yard dash speed was on full display in 2020, as he ran for 423 yards and a score on 65 carries. That uptick in production was huge for the Giants in a number of games this past season. His 49-yard run against Washington in week six led to a field goal, his 80-yard scamper against Philadelphia in week eight led to a touchdown two plays later, and his 34-yard sprint in week 11 against Philadelphia resulted in his lone rushing touchdown of the season.

Not only did Jones set almost every single Giants QB rushing record in 2020, but he was also one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL. His 6.5 yards per rush led the NFL among players with at least 60 rush attempts and his top speed of 21.23 MPH on his 80-yard run against the Eagles was the fastest speed reached by any QB since 2018. Jones’ running ability needs to be a focal point of the Giants’ offense in 2021. His ability to read a defense on the option is awe-inspiring.

The other categories that saw modest improvement:

The two aspects of Jones’ game mentioned above were the most significant areas of development, but there are plenty of others that saw progress in 2020. His completion percentage increased slightly by .6%, his QBR increased significantly by 5.8 points (largely due to the decrease in turnovers and increase in rushing yards), and he accounted for 3,366 total yards, 60 more than his rookie year.

His improved record:

On top of his individual statistics, his record as a starting QB improved as well. He was 5-9 in 14 starts in 2020, equivalent to a .357 winning percentage. While minimal, that was an improvement from a 3-9 record and .250 winning percentage in 2019. More importantly though, Jones was 4-2 against the NFC East. For a Giants team that has finished above .500 against their division only once since 2010, those four wins are huge. Jones and Big Blue also managed to beat the Cowboys and Eagles for the first time since 2016.

Despite having to play without star running back Saquon Barkley for 14 games, getting sacked on 9.1% of pass attempts (second-highest in the NFL), and struggling to find success in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s terrible scheme, Daniel Jones made progress in his second year.