The New York Giants’ offense has struggled throughout their first three games of the 2023 season. The team sits with a disappointing 1-2 record as QB Daniel Jones faces criticism for his performance to start the year.
Jones has tossed just two touchdowns compared to four interceptions through three games with only 562 yards on a 64.9% completion percentage. The offense is struggling immensely and much of the criticism has gone toward offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
This season, Kafka’s game-planning has been inconsistent. The team has barely utilized Jones’ rushing abilities and has failed to build an offensive approach centered around their quarterback’s greatest strengths. Despite his proficiency in passing on play-action concepts, Kafka has rarely called play-action passing plays for Jones.
In order to fix their offense and maximize Jones’ strengths, the Giants need to begin running more play-action passing plays.
Daniel Jones has posted elite play-action passing numbers this season
Daniel Jones’ Pro Football Focus play-action passing grade of 91.4 is tied for the second-best grade in the NFL so far this season. Jones has thrown for 278 of his 562 yards this season on play-action (49.4%) passes despite play-action passes making up just 30 of his 97 attempts (30.9%).
Jones’ adjusted completion percentage is 84.6% on play-action passes compared to just 69.2% on plays without play-action. He is also averaging 9.3 yards per attempt on play-action passes versus just 4.4 yards per attempt on plays without play-action.
Jones has converted 11 first downs on his 36 play-action dropbacks (30.5%) compared to just 19 first downs on his 84 dropbacks without play-action (22.6%).
So far this season, Jones has thrown four interceptions in three games. All four of Jones’ interceptions have occurred on plays without play-action. He has 0 turnover-worthy plays on play-action and his only two PFF “big-time throws” of the season came off play-action.
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Play-action can mitigate the pressure
Jones has faced pressure on 15 pressures of his 36 play-action dropbacks (41%) compared to 41 pressures on his 84 dropbacks (48%) without play-action.
Play-action passes can buy time for an offensive line because they cause opposing defenders to prepare to defend the run for a second before they start pass-rushing. This gives quarterbacks more time to read the field and gives receivers an extra second to get downfield.
Jones’ standout Week 2 performance was fueled by play-action
Jones’ season so far has been highlighted by a stellar Week 2 performance against the Arizona Cardinals. Down 20–0 at halftime, Jones and Big Blue stormed back in the second half of the game, pulling off the improbable 31–28 victory. New York’s franchise quarterback was elite in the second half of the game and finished the day with three total touchdowns and 380 yards of offense.
Play-action passing was a huge component of the Giants’ game plan and success against the Cardinals. In Week 2, the Giants ran play-action on 47.7% of Jones’ dropbacks as he went on to throw 26/37, 321 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in the game with a 2.87s average time to throw.
In the following game, New York took a different approach to the game plan and moved away from the play-action-based offensive scheme. In Week 3, the Giants ran play-action on only 17.6% of Jones’ dropbacks as he went on to throw 22/32, 137 yards, 0 touchdowns, and one interception in the game with a 2.54s average time to throw.
The Giants went on to lose to the San Fransisco 49ers by a score of 30–12. Implementing play-action back into the game plan should be a point of emphasis in Week 4.
The Giants need to run more play-action
Running play-action buys Daniel Jones more time in the pocket and mitigates pressure from opposing pass-rushes. His stats indicate that Jones is more accurate and is a sharper decision-maker when throwing off play-action.
Going forward, OC Mike Kafka and HC Brian Daboll should be centering their game plans around play-action passing concepts to buy Jones more time in the pocket and create hesitation in opposing defenses.
Jones has been elite when passing off play-action this season and it needs to become a larger part of the game plan.