New York Giants offense struggling early in camp, why we shouldn’t jump to conclusions

new york giants

The New York Giants re-tooled their offense this off-season, acquiring Kenny Golladay in free agency and Kadarius Toney in the first round with the 20th overall pick. Golladay, a big 6’4″ possession receiver, offers Daniel Jones a great security blanket in the passing game and downfield threat. The offense last season stuck to a more West Coast-style scheme, dinking and dunking for short yardage rather than targeting receivers downfield seeking chunk plays.

Ultimately, the scheme must adapt, taking risks downfield and applying Jones’s arm strength. However, Jones and the offense have looked outmatched thus far during training camp compared to the defense, which is expected to be a top 10 unit this year once again.

The defense was one of the more surprising factors during the 2020 season, showcasing a unique blend of zone coverage and blitz packages. Coordinator Patrick Graham is set to return to his roots, a man-coverage-based game that relies heavily on the pass rush. That is a primary reason why the Giants allocated assets toward drafting Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith, and signing several options like Ifeadi Odengibo and Ryan Anderson.

The defense always had the upper hand for the New York Giants starting camp:

The offense was always going to be outmatched early in camp, as Jones missed several passes on Friday, including a short dump off to Devontae Booker and throwing an interception to Logan Ryan on a fade route to Evan Engram in the end zone.

The Giants’ secondary has been working all off-season together in Tampa Bay, simply transitioning over to the Quest Diagnostic Center for training camp. Their chemistry continues to grow, and it is showing off against Jones and the offense, who’ve had two consecutive tough practices, littered with drops and mistakes.

However, with so many new pieces on offense and new coaches, it will take time for the unit to gain their sea legs. Making assumptions and justifications just three days into camp is a bit overzealous, but if the unit continues to struggle a few weeks down the road, then concerns will have some legs.

Both Jones and Golladay have spent time after practice refining their chemistry and building their timing. After Friday’s practice, Golladay stated that it’s all about “getting the chemistry down like clockwork.” Nonetheless, he’s had a tough time facing off against top corner James Bradberry, but it is important to remember that Kenny missed the majority of the 2020 season and is still working his way back to football form.

New York Giants: Freddie Kitchens’s promotion could lead to a more vertical offense

New York Giants, Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

The 2020 New York Giants offense was pitiful. They averaged a putrid 17.5 points per game, ranked 31st in the NFL. But things might change drastically for the stale dink-and-dunk Giants passing attack in 2021. Joe Judge and the Giants made crucial changes to their coaching staff this offseason to fix their offense, including a key promotion of Freddie Kitchens.

Last offseason, the New York Giants hired Joe Judge as their next head coach. Coach Judge built an impressive staff that included numerous former-head coaches as assistants. In 2019, Freddie Kitchens was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns before being fired and ultimately hired the same offseason by the Giants as a tight ends coach.

Freddie Kitchens’s role has changed this offseason. Kitchens received a promotion from tight ends coach to “senior offensive assistant.” This promotion will give Freddie Kitchens more responsibility with the offensive line’s connection to the scheme and could also give him a greater influence on the offense’s passing attack.

How Freddie Kitchens can influence the Giants’ offense

Working with the offensive line

Head coach Joe Judge said that Freddie Kitchens’s “primary responsibility is going to be working with the front” in his new senior offensive assistant position. Judge explained, “tying into having two young offensive line coaches with Rob and Ben, I think Freddie is going to be an asset up front working directly with them and helping bring together the game planning, like all of our coaches will, but working directly with (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) with some of the things that are going to happen upfront.”

This move could lead to less miscommunication along the offensive line. Kitchens will work to streamline the communication between the offensive line and the offensive coordinator. Freddie Kitchens will work to help the Giants’ young offensive line develop this year, but his influence in the team’s offensive scheme might be even more exciting.

Creating a more vertical passing attack

It is no question that the Giants want to get more vertical on offense in 2021. They added one of the best vertical weapons in the entire NFL this offseason with they signed star wide receiver Kenny Golladay. The Giants also added speedy wide receiver Kadarius Toney in the draft. These two could create an elite vertical receiving duo.

The Giants’ new wide receivers will go as far as the scheme lets them. The biggest criticism of Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme in 2020 was the lack of vertical passing concepts. That is bound to change in 2021 with the new weapons acquired and the promotion of Freddie Kitchens.

Freddie Kitchens’s influence

Quarterbacks in Freddie Kitchens’s offense tend to have a high average depth of target. Under Todd Haley in 2018, Baker Mayfield’s ADOT was just 6.8 but shot up to 9.1 once Freddie Kitchens took over. According to PFF, Mayfield’s ADOT under Kitchens in 2018 was 9.6 yards, a very deep average. Kitchens again had him over 9 yards in 2019, averaging 9.2 yards ADOT.

Compare this to Daniel Jones’s first two seasons in the NFL. Under Shurmur in 2018, Jones’s ADOT was 8.4 yards. Garrett’s notoriously non-vertical offense in 2018 brought Daniel Jones’s ADOT down to 8.0 yards. Now, as a senior offensive assistant, one must assume that Freddie Kitchens will help Jason Garrett implement more vertical passing concepts and try to raise Daniel Jones’s ADOT in 2021.

Baker Mayfield threw 72 total 20+ yard passes in 2018 and 76 attempts in 2019. Kitchens had him airing the ball deep frequently. Daniel Jones threw 54 deep passes under Shurmur in 2018, playing in only 12 games. In 14 games under Garrett in 2020, Jones threw far fewer deep balls, only 43 total. This is obviously a problem, especially when considering Daniel Jones had a 132.5 passer rating on 20+ yard throws last season, the highest in the NFL.

What this means for Daniel Jones and the Giants’ offense

It’s time to see more Danny Dimes. Daniel Jones was, statistically, one of the best deep passers in the NFL last season. NFL’s Next Gen Stats listed Jones as the top-ranked deep passer in 2020. Next Gen Stats notes that Daniel’s CPOE (completion percentage over expected) on deep passes was +14.8%, the highest percentage in the league.

According to Pro Football Focus, Daniel Jones was the third-highest graded quarterback in the NFL on deep passes in 2020. Jones’s 95.6 deep-passing grade ranked behind only Russell Wilson and Derek Carr last season.

As the Giants’ offense moves toward a more vertical passing attack in 2021, this could be huge for Daniel Jones in his make-or-break third season. Daniel Jones is an efficient deep-passing quarterback. He has not thrown the deep ball very often in his first two NFL seasons. But when he has, he has proven to have elite downfield accuracy. Freddie Kitchens will work to increase the volume of deep passes that Daniel Jones throws this season, leading to a more explosive New York Giants offense.

New York Giants: Eli Manning injects inspiration into Daniel Jones debate

New York Giants, Eli Manning, Daniel Jones

With expectations that New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will take a step forward in his progression this upcoming season, the offense should experience growth alongside him. Jones is coming off a troublesome 2020 season at 23 years old, throwing for 2,943 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also threw 10 interceptions and fumbled 11 times, compared to 18 during his rookie season in 2019.

Jones has all the tangible traits to be a fantastic quarterback at the NFL level, and the Giants finally spent significant capital on bolstering the unit, adding the likes of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and of course, the return of Saquon Barkley.

But Jones has more positive variables set to expedite his improvement, including experience in Jason Garrett’s scheme and his comfort level behind the current offensive line.

The OL is one of the more prominent catalysts in Jones’s development, considering they ranked near the bottom of the NFL in pass-blocking last season. The hope is that better coaching and consistency, including in-person training and preseason, will inspire growth among the young players.

Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning spoke about Jones and his momentum, inspiring optimism into the debate:

“I think also just the fact that from your first year to second year, Jones had a new offensive coordinator, a new coach, and everything going in,” Manning told NFL Network. “Now, at least going from [year] two to three, he has the same offense and the ability to grow within the offense. It’s not just the quarterback getting comfortable; it’s the offensive line, the receivers, everybody getting on that same page. I’m excited for him, I’m excited for the team, and I look forward to good things.”

As we saw during Daniel’s rookie season, he’s capable of throwing 20+ touchdown passes per season and deploying fantastic mobility to pick up yards on the ground. Last season, he tallied 423 yards and one touchdown with his legs but desperately needs to improve with his ball protection and decision-making in the passing game.

The acquisition of Golladay will provide an efficient deep target for Jones, who was one of the most accurate passers 20+ yards downfield in 2020, despite fewer than 10% of his throws traveling that distance.

In addition, signing Kyle Rudolph will provide a safety net in the middle of the field, where Evan Engram was connected to six interceptions last year off tipped passes. The Giants seem to finally be realizing their weaknesses and filling them with players who have those exact strengths. Jones should benefit tremendously, as long as his protection scheme can hold strong in 2021.

New York Giants: NFL’s Gil Brandt has ‘faith that Jones will answer the doubters’

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The pressure is mounting for New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones entering his third season in the NFL, but there is hope he can take his game to the next level with the bolstering of the offense. Last season under coordinator Jason Garrett, the offense sputtered to a minimum, as Jones posted less than 3,000 yards and only 11 touchdowns.

While Daniel saw his completion percentage increase from 61.9% to 62.5%, his production was mostly disappointing, but the variables that had a negative impact held him back considerably. Ranging from the lack of preseason and in-person training to an arsenal of weapons that would best mimic a Monty Python movie, he was set to fail from the beginning.

However, despite failing to increase the talent levels on the offensive line, the Giants spent an exorbitant amount of capital bolstering the wide receiver corps, adding Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, and John Ross. On paper, the Giants have a much-improved unit, which Jones should benefit from, especially in the passing game.

NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt is confident that Jones will take a big step in 2021 after the bolstering of the offense:

I have faith that Jones will answer the doubters and settle his spot as the Giants’ long-term QB in Year 3, thanks in no small part to the massive improvements made around him in the lineup. The additions of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph, along with the return to health of running back Saquon Barkley, mean Jones will be working with the most firepower he’s ever had at his disposal. Don’t be swayed too much by Jones’ lackluster TD-to-INT ratio (11:10) last season; the fact that he completed 62.5 percent of his passes despite working with pass catchers who had a hard time hanging on to the ball (the Giants ranked 12th in the NFL with 30 drops, per Pro Football Focus) is a good sign. I think the former top-10 pick has a chance to put up 20 TDs and complete over 64 percent of his passes in 2021.

The return of Saquon Barkley should have a major impact on the attention defenses allocate toward Jones and the receivers. It will force teams to operate with more defenders in the box, opening up the deeper portions of the field and shifty route runners like Toney and Sterling Shepard to dominate in space.

Jones has all the tangible traits to be a fantastic quarterback, including mobility, accuracy, and downfield prowess. If he can click on all cylinders and gain confidence as the season progresses, Jones could see that Year 3 jump we desperately need, otherwise the Giants will once again have to revert to the drawing board. Luckily, they have two first-round picks next year they can utilize as a last resort.

Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley raves about Daniel Jones

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Saquno Barkley

The New York Giants have made it a priority to inject the roster with high-quality people, let alone players. When they drafted Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018, they saw generational talent that coupled with a fantastic human being. Upgrading the roster also meant elevating the locker room and the leadership that quietly makes an impact behind the scenes.

While Barkley has been rehabilitating from a torn ACL, MCL, and partially torn meniscus, his spirits have been as high as ever. He spoke with Rich Eisen this past week, avoiding questions of his return and timetable for recovery, but was quick to rave about one of his teammates, quarterback Daniel Jones.

“I really don’t want to speak for Daniel, but just knowing Daniel, it is what it is. He has an amazing work ethic,” Barkley said. “I think anyone in the facility can see that clear as day. He’s a guy that’s going to come into work and is a guy that’s going to lead you and is a guy that’s going to compete. So I think that’s his mindset, is come in and try to get one percent better every day and lead this team.”

Jones had a bumpy start to his NFL career, showcasing his arm talent with 24 touchdowns in his rookie season before dropping to 11 this past year with a lack of playmakers and a debilitating hamstring injury.

The Duke product is hoping to take a step forward in the upcoming season after the Giants spent an egregious amount of funds to acquire Kenny Golladay in free agency and drafted Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.

Jones’s future success entirely relies on his protection scheme in the trenches, and the Giants didn’t do much to upgrade the unit aside from hiring two new couches consultant Pat Flaherty and OL coach Rob Sale. The expectation is that their young players on the line will see an increase in efficiency, specifically in pass blocking. If that ends up being the case, Jones will reap the rewards, with more time in the pocket to spread the ball to his playmakers.

Of course, the return of Barkley will have an immediate impact, drawing more attention from defenders in the box and allowing Jones to operate without additional blitzers being sent his way. If there’s anything we can guarantee, it is that his work ethic has helped him improve in various categories, but until we see him apply his talents during live-action, it’s all just hearsay.

New York Giants: Michael Strahan impressed by Daniel Jones’ athleticism

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

It’s hard to see an interview with a former New York Giants player this offseason that doesn’t bring up the question of Daniel Jones. Of course, it’s understandable why. Jones might be the most important variable for the Giants this year when it comes to taking a step forward. The success, or failure, of the offense may rest largely on his shoulders.

More than there was last season, there’s a bit of an optimistic feeling about Jones from many of the figures that have been asked about him. That includes Hall of Fame pass rusher Michael Strahan, who confirmed his belief in Daniel Jones as “that guy” for the Giants in an interview with USA Today.

“You know what? I love Daniel. As a person, absolutely. I think he has the perfect temperament, perfect everything for the position as a Giant. Physically? I’ll be honest with you, what an incredible athlete,” Strahan said when asked whether Jones could be the guy for the Giants.

The compliment about Jones’ physique is impressive coming from a player that spent his career at one of the most physical positions in the game. It’s not the kind of remark that’s often associated with Giants quarterbacks – but that’s changed with Jones coming in during the past two seasons and adding another dimension to the offense with his mobility.

“I think he could be that guy. He is the guy. Now I think you’re giving him what he needs, and I think Jason Garrett is going to do the right job setting himself up in this system so he could be successful and lead the drive to a Super Bowl, which I’m hoping is very soon,” Strahan would continue.

Giving Daniel Jones what he needs

As Strahan pointed out, the Giants have made plenty of additions to help Jones this offseason. From Kenny Golladay to Kyle Rudolph, Jones will have a number of new options and the passing offense won’t look like it did last year.

However, an interesting thing to note is Strahan bringing up Jason Garrett. Garrett was much maligned this season but it’s possible that he isn’t being talked about enough this offseason. Most of the focus has gone on Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley for understandable reasons, but Garrett has a large role in whether those players succeed or fail.

For both players, a personal step forward might not matter that much if the Giants still run an uncreative offense and fail to take advantage of their full talent.

We’ll find out soon enough this season whether or not Garrett has adapted enough to avoid that pitfall, with his job potentially on the line right now. The Giants are trying their best to give Jones what he needs, but one thing that can’t be understated on that list of needs is better playcalling than last season.

New York Giants: How Saquon Barkley is going to make Daniel Jones better in 2021

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

When the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley 2nd overall in the 2018 NFL draft, they expected him to be far more than just a running back. They anticipated him being a bonafide superstar, running the ball with prowess while also offering receiving skills out of the backfield. Let alone is qualities as a leader.

During his rookie season, Barkley lived up to expectations, amassing 2,028 yards from scrimmage, including 1,307 on the ground, 721 through the air, and 15 total touchdowns. However, over the last two seasons, Barkley has played in just 15 games and is currently rehabilitating from a torn ACL, MCL, and partially torn meniscus. The Giants are still extremely high on the 24-year-old Penn State product and believe he will elevate the offense this upcoming season after the injection of more wide receiver talent.

How will Barkley impact Daniel Jones, though, increasing his production and efficiency in the passing game?

Barkley brings one underrated factor to the offense, attention. Defenses are forced to allocate multiple eyes and players on Saquon, who can break to the second level and take the ball to the house at any given moment. With his breakaway speed and incredible strength at the point of attack, Barkley is considered one of the most dynamic runners in the NFL when healthy.

Last season, when the Giants faced off against the Cleveland Browns, Kareem Hunt demanding attention from Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan. In fact, multiple defensive plays were dismantled due to the attention Kareem commanded. When you have a singular player that has an influence on the game such as that, it opens up the field for the alternative playmakers, and the Giants have plenty of them after signing in Kenny Golladay to a four-year deal and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round.

So how will Barkley help Jones elevate his game?

Well, he will force defensive linemen and linebackers to always have his whereabouts in mind, which will take blitzers out of the box and force linebackers to stay at the second level. In addition, strong safeties will have to mirror Barkley’s movements, following him into the flats and on legitimate routes in the secondary (similar to how Jabrill was forced to cover Hunt last season). This will open up the field for players like Evan Engram, who love to dominate the seams and attack mismatches in the secondary. It should allow Jones more time in a pocket and weaker coverage on his receivers, theoretically increasing his completion percentage and WR catch rate.

Barkley will also impact the game on the ground, not just for himself but for Jones as well. The Giants loved using DJ on read-option plays last season, as he totaled 423 yards over 14 games. Creating confusion for defenses will be a priority next year in Jason Garrett’s scheme, and it starts with forcing defensive backs to step forward and play the run, baiting them into making premature decisions post-snap. This will also open up the play-action pass, and vertical threats with speedsters like John Ross and Darius Slayton — commanding attention at the line of scrimmage should force defenses to play with liabilities in the secondary — one deep safety, Cover-1 (expose verticals), and Cover-3 looks (attack seams and flats).

Defenses that are looking to play Cover-2 man will have a handful in the shorter portions of the field with Saquon as a running back and receiver, but also shifty pass-catchers like Sterling Shepard and Toney.

There is little doubt the offense will take a step forward and 2021. It is simply a matter of how much, which is entirely dependent on the performance of the offensive line.

New York Giants: New additions Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney will be an elite deep-threat duo

new york giants, kenny golladay

The New York Giants had one of the worst offenses in the NFL last season. They averaged a putrid 17.5 points per game, ranking second-to-last in the NFL. Part of the Giants’ major struggles offensively was their failure to get the deep-passing game together.

Daniel Jones attempted only 43 passes 20+ yards downfield in 2020. Jones is a conservative quarterback, but this low attempt total is unacceptable in the modern NFL. The Giants also did not have a ton of vertical receiving talent, nor an offensive coordinator that emphasized deep passing. But in 2021, all of that should change.

The New York Giants made plenty of big moves this offseason to improve their offense. Some of the Giants’ acquisitions seem to indicate that New York will emphasize the deep-passing game this upcoming season. In particular, new additions Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney will be a huge boost to the team’s vertical offense, creating an elite deep-threat duo.

Golladay and Toney going deep

Kenny Golladay is one of the best deep-threats in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants’ new alpha dog as the third-best deep-threat in the league. Golladay was a huge addition to the Giants’ offense as a receiver that will open up their vertical attack on offense.

Per PFF, Golladay ranks fourth among NFL wide receivers in deep receiving yards over the past three years, and he was just nine yards behind third-place despite playing in only 5 games in 2020. Kenny Golladay’s 628 yards on deep passes ranked second in the league in 2019 (PFF). KennyG’s production on deep receiving is incredible, but the Giants’ first-round pick Kadarius Toney isn’t too shabby going deep either.

According to Pro Football Focus, 10.7 percent of the Kadarius Toney’s targets in college were on passes 20+ yards downfield. Toney earned an insane 99.6 grade with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted on those deep passes.

Kadarius Toney is one of the most dynamic rookies entering the NFL this year. Not only is he a great deep receiving threat, but he is also a YAC monster that will open up the intermediate passing game, along with the return of superstar running back Saquon Barkley. Kadarius Toney forced a missed tackle on 35% of touches since 2018, which was first among the 2021 wide receiver draft class (PFF). Toney forced 32 missed tackles on 80 catches the past two seasons (PFF).

Daniel Jones was PFF’s third-highest graded passer on deep balls in 2020 with a 95.6 passing grade. Jones did not throw deep that often, but when he did he made it count. Now, with this influx of talent in Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay, Daniel Jones should start slinging it deep more often and the Giants’ offense should enjoy an elite deep-threat duo in 2021.

New York Giants: Daniel Jones and Eli Manning still close in 2021

New York Giants, Eli Manning, Daniel Jones

New York Giants quarterbacks Eli Manning and Daniel Jones didn’t get to spend that long on a team together. While the plan was for Manning to start during Jones’ rookie season, that was quickly thrown off as the Giants got off to a bad start and Jones took over. The Giants didn’t look back. Manning retired, and Jones continued as the starter. However, that doesn’t mean all contact between them was lost when Manning walked away from football.

He’s still been a factor in Jones’ development, and Jones himself recently spoke on that while talking to SiriusXM.

“I think we’re friends and we certainly have stayed in touch. It was a little different this year with COVID. He wasn’t around as much. But yeah, no, we’re friends and I’ve certainly learned a lot from him and he’s helped me a ton,” Jones told SiriusXM.

Manning is finally back with the Giants in an official role for the first time since his retirement. That role, however, seems to be with the business side of the front office instead of one dealing with the team directly. Despite that, it’s hard to imagine Manning’s presence with the organization won’t have any impact on the current roster.

The Giants have a very different looking offense this year, with Jones entering his third season and receiving new help in the form of additional receivers and a returning Saquon Barkley. At a time like this, the experience of someone that’s been a winning quarterback for as long as Manning could prove invaluable.

In the kind of high pressure season that’s to come, that kind of leadership can be the difference between the step forward that everyone expects from Jones and failure.

New York Giants: Phil Simms details what Daniel Jones’s success relies on

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Success for the New York Giants during the 2021 regular season relies on a variety of important factors. Ranging from the performance of the offensive line to putting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, there might not be a more important factor than Daniel Jones’s development. Heading into his third season in the NFL, the 6’5″, 221 pound QB was gifted with serious weapons this off-season. The Giants made it a priority to build around their quarterback, producing Kenny Golladay in free agency and drafted Kadarius Toney.

The players the Giants added help in different ways — Golladay is a 6’4” possession receiver who can attack the deeper portions of the field, while Toney can operate in the middle, exposing mismatches and creating plays after the catch. However, Jones himself is a unique quarterback, providing a team that has traditionally relied on pocket passers with a more athletic option.

There are kinks in Jones’s armor that need to be worked out, such as pocket awareness and protecting the football. If he can smooth out these struggles, Jones can become an adequate quarterback in the NFL who produces regularly.

Former Giants QB Phil Simms spoke to CBS Sports about Daniel Jones and his progression:

“I feel safe in saying this, he’s got experience, now he’s got to show a little more awareness, be a little more assertive — physically, emotionally, all those things. Just in my opinion,” Simms said. “I think (the Giants are) all in on Daniel Jones. That’s what I think. When you look at what they’ve done — they go out and draft in the first round, Kadarius Toney — that tells you something. They sign John Ross, they paid Kenny Golladay all that money. Saquon Barkley’s coming back, they’re trying to fix the offensive line, hope it comes through to what they believe it will be.