New York Giants: Is Daniel Jones to blame for offensive struggles?

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Oct 11, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws a pass before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the 2020 season, New York Giants fans were enamored by the additional nine-pounds quarterback Daniel Jones added during the off-season. With the anticipation that Jones put more velocity behind the football and eliminate his turnover issues, an increase in production was estimated.

Needless to say, through five weeks of the regular season, Jones has taken a significant step backward in his development. Some might blame Daniel Jones for the majority of the offensive struggles, but as we dig deeper into the offense, you’ll see that he is simply overwhelmed with inadequacies at every corner.

Through five weeks, Jones has a 74.5 grade via PFF but saw a consistent drop off for four weeks straight prior to his week five matchup against Dallas. Jones hasn’t thrown a touchdown in over three games, but that isn’t necessarily his fault. The offensive line has been lackluster, and his wide receivers have failed to gain separation. It is no surprise that the offense has struggled, considering they released one of their regularly active wide receivers in Damion Ratley on Tuesday afternoon.

Through five games, though, the second-year quarterback only has 1,111 yards and two touchdowns to show. He has thrown five interceptions and fumbled the ball four times, officially turning the ball over more than he has scored. He’s also been sacked 16 times, which puts him on pace to go down 51 times in 2020.

To put that number into perspective, even during Eli Manning’s worst years regarding his inept OL, he only went down 47 times. That means Jones, who has more athleticism and mobility, is actually on pace to surpass that number.

That should give you an idea of how poor this unit really is. Taking a deeper dive into the offensive line, specifically from week five, both tackles were virtually useless in pass blocking. Andrew Thomas graded out at 31.7 and Cam Fleming at 24. They allowed 18 pressures on Jones, which writes its own story that Daniel simply doesn’t have the time in the pocket to progress through his reads. In addition, the lack of separation from his pass-catchers has made his job even more frivolous.

Pass rushers break through his protection so quickly, and his receivers take so long to get open, Jones is waiting in the pocket frantically to find a moment to throw the ball. That is the issue with the offense right now, both the OL and wide receivers are so inapt and inefficient, it is forcing Jones into problematic situations. That is why he currently leads the team with 130 yards on the ground, as he’s tried to take things into his own hands when his receivers are bottled up, and his line is as good as Swiss cheese.

It is also important to note that his top slot option Sterling Shepard has been out the past few weeks, and the lack of consistency for Shep has been detrimental to his lack of productivity. Having him healthy and developing chemistry with Jones is essential for the offense’s success. With Darius Slayton essentially representing his only reliable option, teams can easily scheme him out of the game.

The New York Giants saw some success, but not enough:

However, in week five, the Giants found a way to activate Slayton in the passing game. He hauled in eight receptions for 129 yards, which would have been more if not for Ratley’s offensive pass interference penalty that negated a touchdown.

That leads me to my next point, Jason Garrett’s scheme. If you watched the last four weeks, you’ve noticed the receivers’ lack of pre-snap motion and basic route concepts. Not to mention tight end Evan Engram, who stated that he is running more curl routes than working out of the seam in 2020.

His primary usage should be centralized around his speed, but forcing him to run short routes is against his strengths. Engram is not a refined route runner and is often best running down the middle of the field in a straight line or mesh/drag concepts. He can be used to extend the defense and push players into the secondary, but Garrett has completely taken that factor away.

It is also important to mention that Engram’s run-blocking grade averages out at 36.5, which is borderline malpractice for the offense. They need to be utilizing Kaden Smith more predominantly, but Evan has been decent in pass blocking, chipping, and then running out to receive passes in the flat. The problem, Garrett has not schemed that way and created mismatches with linebackers in space.

Back to Daniel Jones. The turnovers and bad decisions have undoubtedly played a part in his regression, but there’s only so much he can do with the lackluster talent around him. The offensive line has put him in poor positions, and his receivers haven’t given him any slack.

The entire scheme and unit is a work in progress, but without Sterling Shepard and another big-bodied wide receiver, Jones is going to have a difficult time finding his reads in the passing game. Garrett needs to give him more control of the offense and the ability to make decisions at the line of scrimmage. We saw a flash of that against Dallas, with Jones audibling into an outside zone run after spotting man coverage with Jalyn Smith and Golden Tate. The audible worked perfectly and was reminiscent of Eli Manning and his intelligence pre-snap.

Overall, I think plenty of blame falls on Jones, but much more of it results from the offensive line, Jason Garrett’s scheme, and lack of separation from the wide receivers.

All of these individual things need to improve, as it is making Jones look worse than he is. There’s only so much you can do and “wow” plays he can make to hold over the fan base, as most have already pointed their focus towards Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL draft.