Let’s start by ruling out the ridiculous: No one is going to high-five Daniel Jones for throwing an interception during Giants practice.
But there are certain circumstances under which an interception will be noted as more than it seems.
“I tell him to try to fit tight throws in there,” coach Brian Daboll said. “You throw a few picks at practice? No sweat. That’s why we do this — to see what we can do and what we can’t do.”
Imagine if Kim Kardashian became too private or Kevin Hart became too serious. That kind of drastic overcorrection is similar to what happened with Jones, who had it drilled into his head from every corner that his promising rookie season under fired head coach/play-caller Pat Shurmur was tainted by a disregard for ball security.
While Jones’ annual percentage of interceptions per pass attempt (2.6 to 2.2 to 1.9), his fumbles-per-17-games (24.8 to 12.1 to 10.8) and his percentage of Turnover-Worthy Plays (5.5 to 3.1 to 2.7) all are on the decline over his three-year career, so is his aggressiveness.
Jones made a tight-window throw (when the defender is within 1 yard at the time of the completion or incompletion) 22.4 percent of the time as a rookie, compared to 17.6 percent in 2020 and 18 percent in 2021, according to NextGenStats. He made a Big-Time Throw — Pro Football Focus’ contrast to the Turnover-Worthy Play — on just 1.8 percent of his attempts in 2021, down from 4.1 and 5 percent earlier in this career.
“The facts were we were turning the ball over a lot, and I was turning the ball over a lot,” Jones said. “As a quarterback you have got to be able to do both — be aggressive, take shots and also protect the ball. It’s finding the balance there. And the best guys can do that.”
Daboll’s Bills offenses certainly found the middle ground.
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“I don’t think it’s like a big overarching mindset you apply aimlessly every play,” Jones said.
The Giants have the fewest 30-point outputs (nine) in the NFL over the past six seasons. Eight happened under Shurmur, including three quarterbacked by Jones, whose four highest-rated single-game passing performances came as a rookie.
The messaging now is similar to then. The catchphrase in quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney’s meeting room is, “Be aggressive, not reckless.”
“I love that mentality for him,” Tierney said. “That’s what we are trying to emphasize as we get going here. If the throw is there, we’re taking it. He’s done a good job with that. You saw [last Thursday] he threw a couple downfield, and that’s what we want.”
Sure enough, when one of those passes was intercepted by safety Julian Love, no one looked discouraged.
“If he’s got a shot on the right read, let it go,” Daboll said. “There’s going to be things that happen in every game. The defense is going to make a good play. There might be a tipped ball. We’re going to have to do a good job of taking care of the football, but I want him to turn it loose.”
Jones wasn’t operating in a vacuum the last two seasons.
Despite professing a desire to do otherwise, former head coach Joe Judge managed conservatively, playing to a strong defense and his background in special teams. Former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s play-calling leaned safe, especially in third-and-longs.
“I think he has improved [ball security] tremendously since his rookie year,” Tierney said. “We’re always going to stress that’s the most important thing. Regardless of whether he has had turnovers or not, we’re going to say that.”
The Giants’ offensive line allowed less time to throw than Jones had as a rookie — 2.76 and 2.78 seconds, which ranked No. 19 in 2020 20 in 2021, respectively. And Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and Kenny Golladay all ranked among the bottom-12 receivers in separation yards in one season or the other, according to NextGenStats.
Aggressiveness only works if the blocking holds up and the receivers make plays.
“We kind of let the receivers know that we’re going to give you all opportunities to make plays, and we’re counting on you to make plays in situations,” Jones said. “That’s a mindset” [Daboll] has to attack a defense downfield. As a quarterback, a decision-maker, you’re a big part of that. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot, and something he wants to see in practice.”