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Week 4 Game Preview: Film breakdowns of key Giants offensive difference-makers

Hogs Haven does a film rewind to the 2018 season to evaluate key players in the Giants offense

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the offseason, we evaluated the major players on NFCE teams in order to rank the teams in the division by position group.

Here’s a link to the entire “Ranking the NFC East” series

Since the Redskins are facing one of those division rivals this week, now might be a good time to revisit those player evaluations as a preview of the upcoming matchup. This article covers a few of the major players on the Giants offense we reviewed this past off-season, plus a quick evaluation of Daniel Jones based on his week 3 debut against the Bucs.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

Daniel Jones is the starting quarterback of the New York Giants.

Jones started at QB for 3 years at Duke under QB guru David Cutcliffe, who previously mentored Peyton and Eli Manning. As a result of both his starting experience and his mentor, Jones shows a lot of polish in many nuances of the QB position.

Although he did not put up impressive passing statistics or win-loss record while at Duke, a look at his game film shows that he was often the primary reason his team was competitive in games at all. Many of his passes were dropped by a bad WR corps and Jones faced constant pressure behind a talent-poor OL. Jones went on to show extremely well at the Senior Bowl and was drafted at #6 overall by the Giants.

For this analysis, I watched some film of Daniel Jones in the preseason, but primarily relied on film of his one regular season NFL start last week against the Buccaneers.

The impression I got is that Jones is very technically advanced considering his starting experience in the NFL. He has excellent footwork, calls protections well, is able to quickly read defenses and go through his progressions, and he throws with touch to the short and intermediate parts of the field.

Stylistically, I would describe him as a “game manager”, but that is not meant as an insult as Tom Brady is also a game manager. By “game manager,” I only mean that he is best at reading the defense, going through progressions quickly to find an open receiver, and making short or intermediate high percentage throws for safe, positive gains.

Although he is capable of making deep throws, he doesn’t have a big arm and deep throws are not a big part of his game.

He also functions much better on script in a well-designed offense that gets receivers open quickly rather than having to improvise. When none of his receivers are open, he sometimes tries to force the ball into an impossible window or stands too long in the pocket, not sensing pressure around the edge and taking a sack (resulting in some ball security issues). However, he has very good athleticism, and is able to make plays with his legs as well as his arm.

In a lot of ways, Jones is a very good fit for this Giants offense. The Giants have a lot of quick pass catchers (Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and even Saquon Barkley) who are excellent threats to get open early on short and intermediate routes and get lots of Yards After Catch (YAC). Indeed, in Jones’ NFL play so far, only 188 of his 353 passing yards have been air yards (53%), the rest were gained after the catch by his receivers. The Giants have built their offense around YAC to complement Jones’ skillset in the same way that the Chiefs have stacked their offense with deep threat WRs to complement Mahomes’ big arm and accurate deep pass.

While watching tape of Jones, I couldn’t help but think that he reminded me a lot of Kirk Cousins. They both have good mechanics and are able to make all the throws, though they’re much better in the short and intermediate area of the field than with deep passes. They both work best within a good system that gets receivers open quickly, as they are excellent at going through progressions and working within structure, but prone to mistakes when their receivers aren’t open and they still want to force a play. Also, both of them tend to over-focus on making plays, even when the plays aren’t there to be made and they should throw it away, sometimes resulting in turnovers.

However, Daniel Jones is far ahead of where Kirk Cousins was at this point in his career in terms of technical ability, and there is no telling how much better Jones will get with experience. Also, Jones is much better at improvising than Kirk, and I think he has the “clutch gene” that Kirk lacks.

Giants @ Buccaneers Week 3 Highlights | NFL 2018 YouTube

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, September 26, 2019

[3:31] This play is a read option red zone play for Jones, leveraging his athleticism. The fact that Pat Shurmur has designed run-option plays for Jones inside the red zone shows that the Giants believe in his dual-threat capability and intend to feature it in the offense.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, September 26, 2019

[4:18] Daniel Jones throws a near pick into double coverage as he’s getting pressured by a free rusher.

It’s difficult to tell exactly what Jones saw from the camera angle, but it looks to me like none of his reads got very open, so when he saw a free rusher coming at him, Jones decided to take a chance throwing into an impossible window rather than throwing it away or taking the sack. It’s nice that he always wants to make a play, but Jones needs to recognize that punting the ball is preferable to an interception here.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, September 26, 2019

[5:07] The pocket around Jones collapses very quickly, but Jones keeps his eyes downfield and goes through progressions quickly, winding up to throw without sensing the pressure and getting hit for a sack fumble.

On the one hand, it’s admirable that he maintained poise in the pocket and cared more about making a play than getting hit. On the other hand, he displayed very little pocket awareness and this is yet another example of him risking a turnover trying too hard to make a play.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, September 26, 2019

[6:37] Jones goes through progressions well on a play designed to get Evan Engram open early. Jones makes the 12 yard quick strike, and Engram turns it into a 75 yard return for a TD.

This play shows how well schemed the offense is to get receivers open quickly, and shows Jones’ ability to take advantage of those easy, high-percentage throws for important first downs. It also shows how his passing statistics can be inflated by YAC, as a 17 yard throw becomes a 75 yard TD score due to Engram’s ability after the catch.

From the video I saw, the offense is built around intermediate distance, high-percentage throws like this, and Jones is very good at finding and hitting his open receivers.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, September 26, 2019

[7:36] Jones does a good job recognizing and evading pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, making the long pass to Darius Slayton for a big gain.

This was the deepest pass I saw Jones make in this game, and I did see several missed attempts at deep balls earlier in the game.

Jones does a good job setting his feet quickly on this play, which allows the power in his legs to get transmitted through his torso to the ball for the big throw.

Jones doesn’t have a big arm like Ben Roethlisberger or Patrick Mahomes, but he has excellent technique and footwork that allow him to make deep passes like this one when he sets his feet. Still, he is not nearly as accurate on deep passes as he is on short and intermediate passes.

Golden Tate, New York Giants

Golden Tate has consistently been one of the NFL’s most underrated WRs. Drafted by the Seahawks in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL draft, Tate signed with the Lions in FA in 2014, was traded to the Eagles in 2018, and signed with the Giants in free agency this offseason.

Undersized at 5’10” and 199 lbs, Tate doesn’t quite have the measurables of a WR1, but excels as a WR2. Tate is a good route runner, an extremely reliable catcher (2nd fewest drops among WRs in 2018), and most importantly is one of the NFL’s best WRs at getting yards after catch (YAC). In addition to that, he is experienced running routes from any WR position, though he favors the slot.

Watching tape of Tate really reinforced what a YAC monster he is. There doesn’t seem to be just one reason he is so good at this, but rather a combination of factors that all work together.

He is a nuanced route runner, so he excels at running his routes in such a way that he has leverage over DBs and can get quick separation after his break. Although his deep speed is only good (not great), he has elite quickness/acceleration and change-of-direction ability. He often uses his quickness to get immediate separation once the ball is in the air, and uses his change-of-direction ability to juke an initial tackle attempt and turn uphill for extra yards. Lastly, he is more physical than one might expect from an undersized WR and never gives up on a play, so he will often drag a tackler for several yards and excels at improvising after a play breaks down to get open when other players thought the play was dead.

Tate is rarely asked to block in the run game, but is a willing and physical blocker when put in that role.

Golden Tate

Lions @ Cowboys, Week 4 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube

Everyone can ignore this (and more to follow). I just needed a place to publish some GIFs that I want to embed elsewhere.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, July 11, 2019

[1:53] Tate lines up in the slot, but maintains outside leverage on the CB Jourdan Lewis (stays on Lewis’s outside shoulder) so that he can break outside uncovered on a comeback route to get open for the catch.

He then changes direction uphill so suddenly that Lewis overshoots him on the tackle attempt. Tate then stares down safety Jeff Heath and fakes inside to set him up before cutting outside, breaking another tackle attempt as he accelerates quickly to the endzone. This play shows Tate’s nuanced route running, elite change-of-direction ability, elite quickness, and ability to shake tackles to get YAC.

ignore this

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, July 11, 2019

[9:18] Tate lines up outside this time, fakes an out route, but then redirects to run deep and accelerate quickly while CB Anthony Brown’s head is turned to the QB, allowing him to get yards of separation and an easy catch that he turns into a TD.

Tate only has good speed, but has elite quickness, and plays like this highlight his ability to get separation quickly when in tight coverage if the DB doesn’t maintain constant eyes and leverage on Tate. Tate also does a good job maintaining awareness of the QB and tracking the ball almost the entire time it’s in the air.

Golden Tate

Eagles vs Redskins, Week 13 highlights | NFL 2018 on YouTube

Everyone can ignore this (and more to follow). I just needed a place to publish some GIFs that I want to embed elsewhere.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, July 11, 2019

[1:05] Tate lines up in the slot on a crossing route, but sees the play break down as Wentz breaks the pocket and changes directions so quickly that CB Greg Stroman slips on the grass trying to cover him.

Tate gets wide open and signals Wentz for the TD. In addition to showing Tate’s change-of-direction ability yet again, this play shows his improvisational ability and persistence. He never quits on plays.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Thursday, July 11, 2019

[6:10] Tate lines up outside and runs an out route, changing direction uphill immediately after the catch so quickly that Stroman whiffs on his tackle and Tate gets tons of YAC.

Tate freezes safety DJ Swearinger with a subtle fake inside before finally being brought down by HaHa Clinton-Dix, dragging him several yards before going down. Once Tate has the ball in space, he is truly hard to bring down.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

I had a lot of preconceived notions about Saquon Barkley coming into this film analysis.

Because he plays for a division rival, I didn’t want to like him.

Because the Giants were bad last year and took him at #2 overall, I thought he was overrated.

Because he was known as a boom-or-bust player in college, I thought he lacked vision between the tackles.

But I tried to approach the film analysis with as much objectivity as possible. After studying several of Saquon’s games, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a truly rare talent who may very well be worthy of his draft position.

He is probably the best all-around athlete in our division, and may be the best all-around athlete in the NFL. Tyreek Hill is faster, JJ Watt is stronger, Aaron Donald whoops more ass, but I can’t think of another player who combines all three as much as Barkley.

He doesn’t really have “weaknesses”, just some things he’s not as good at as others. Unless “being surrounded by inferior players” is a weakness, in which case he has that. So I’ll just list his traits from “elite” to “good”:

  • Elite: acceleration, top-end speed, change of direction ability, body control, toughness, motor
  • Very good: pass catching, pass protection, elusiveness, contact balance
  • Good: route running, vision, power

Note that most of his elite traits can’t be coached, and most of his non-elite traits can. The one area where I’m surprised he’s not a little better is his power. For such a big, strong, athletic RB, he’s not that hard to bring down once he’s wrapped up. He relies on elusiveness more than power to break big runs. Still, if he ever gets a good OL blocking for him, I think he has the potential to be the RB equivalent of Lawrence Taylor, tormenting division rivals for years to come and forcing them to gameplan against him.

2018 - Giants vs 49ers, Week 10

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[0:52] Barkley sees that there are no real openings (note the 2 unblocked LBs waiting for him in the middle), so he bounces the run outside for a big gain.

Even when the defense gave him nothing, he got a big play.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[3:12] Very nice pass protection by Barkley. He quickly sees the hole in the OL, sees the blitzers, and runs up to plug the hole and stop one of the blitzers.

He has good technique in holding the blitzer off as well.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[9:53] Barkley runs a short crossing route and the 49ers have two players trying to defend him. Despite that, he makes the catch and immediately breaks away from the players guarding him for a huge gain before eventually being forced out of bounds across the field.

Just forcing double coverage is a win for the offense, but beating double coverage to make a big play is what the truly great players do.

2018 - Giants @ Buccaneers, Week 11

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[0:28] Barkley gets the handoff, runs it up the middle, following his blocks and exploiting a big hole, and gets the 1st down, though it only takes 1 defender to bring him down after contact.

On the one hand, this play shows he has good vision between the tackles since he followed his blocks well. On the other hand, I think some other RBs would not have gone down so quickly on contact, especially when that contact was so high on the body.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[3:58] Barkley does a much better job here of powering through contact, staying on his feet (good contact balance), and getting quite a few yards after initial contact.

Maybe it’s because the defenders couldn’t wrap him up at first?

Posted by Bill Horgan on Sunday, September 22, 2019

[5:32] This play kind of summarizes my feelings about Barkley’s elite athletic traits and elusiveness, but less-than-impressive power given his build and athleticism. Barkley does an amazing job of avoiding a tackle despite immediate penetration in his backfield.

He shows great agility and speed breaking a big gain to the side, but then goes down to the first player able to wrap him up. Maybe I’m just being too hard on him given how amazing he is in every other aspect of the game.

Having reviewed these players, how do you think the Giants offense stacks up to the Redskins defense? What has changed since the preseason to affect your confidence?


Which of these players presents the greatest threat?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Daniel Jones
    (25 votes)
  • 10%
    Golden Tate
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    Sterling Sheppard
    (4 votes)
  • 20%
    Evan Engram
    (14 votes)
  • 26%
    Saquon Barkley
    (18 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now


Who has the better offense?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    (42 votes)
  • 37%
    (25 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now


If you could force the Giants to trade one player (contract included) on offense to the Redskins for a late round pick, who would it be? (Saquon excluded)

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Golden Tate
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Sterling Sheppard
    (1 vote)
  • 42%
    Evan Engram
    (29 votes)
  • 8%
    Nate Solder
    (6 votes)
  • 15%
    Will Hernandez
    (11 votes)
  • 24%
    Daniel Jones
    (17 votes)
69 votes total Vote Now