Welcome to The Ringer’s weekly NFL rankings, where we’ll break down the good, the bad, and the absurd of the 2019 season. Every Tuesday, we’ll have a ranking of the moments, players, or story lines that are driving the conversation around the league. This week, we’re dissecting every pass attempt on Sunday from our new football savior, Giants rookie Daniel Jones.
We in the media were wrong. We called Daniel Jones an epic bust before he even signed his rookie contract. We derided him as an Eli Manning cloning project gone awry before he even put on a Giants uniform. We pretended it didn’t matter when he excelled in the preseason.
Consider this a mea culpa for the entire NFL draft media industrial complex. In his first pro start on Sunday, Jones led his team to a dramatic, come-from-behind 32-31 victory over the Buccaneers. While Jones had a little help from a missed Matt Gay field goal as time expired, he looked downright excellent at times. Jones, who took the reins from 16-year veteran Eli Manning, had 336 yards on 23-of-36 passing. And most of those 36 attempts looked pretty damn good.
We here at The Ringer know we need to eat some crow. And what better way to do it than chewing on all of Jones’s passes, plus a few extra plays. Here are all of Daniel Jones’s throws in his pro debut, ranked.
38. 06:19, second quarter: Deep pass to Bennie Fowler, incomplete
There aren’t a ton of bad throws to pick from, but this one stands out. On third-and-15, Jones has one of his worst passes of the day. He telegraphs his throw to Fowler, missing safety Mike Edwards, who makes a play on the ball and drops a sure interception.
37. 10:09, second quarter: Short pass to Saquon Barkley, incomplete
If Barkley had turned his head a second sooner, he could have waltzed in for a touchdown. It’s unfortunate that Barkley’s high ankle sprain could keep him out until after the Giants’ Week 11 bye, because these two could turn into a real threat if they can get more reps together.
36. 0:21, first quarter: Short pass to Saquon Barkley, loss of 1 yard
Jones fakes play-action before hitting Barkley for a short pass. Two Tampa Bay defenders closed in. The first negative pass play of the game for the Giants.
35. 06:29, third quarter: Short pass to Wayne Gallman, incomplete
This throw was originally ruled a fumble before the call was reversed. Jones got creamed as he threw. It had no chance, but Jones needs to work on his awareness in the pocket.
34. 01:30, fourth quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, incomplete
33. 01:26, fourth quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, incomplete
Jones and Engram failed to connect on back-to-back short passes late in the Giants’ final drive. The consecutive misses set up fourth-and-7. It’s not what you want, though you’d be forgiven for forgetting them because of what came next. (More on that toward the end of this list.)
32. 06:34, third quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, incomplete
One of the rare instances of Jones overthrowing Sterling Shepard.
31. 09:38, third quarter: Short pass to Russell Shepard, incomplete
Jones had Shepard open for a touchdown but held onto the ball for a second too long.
30. 06:13, first quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 6 yards
Jones converts an early third down. But that’s not because of his throw, which was way too high. Look at this spectacular one-handed grab from Engram.
No wonder Engram emerged as Jones’s favorite target on Sunday.
BONUS: 02:22, second quarter: Sacked, fumble
Jones coughs up the ball, which is recovered by Tampa Bay. It set up a three-play, 41-yard Buccaneers touchdown drive.
This was the first of two giveaways recovered by Tampa Bay—not counting the above play that was initially ruled a fumble. Jones looked great in his debut, but if there’s anything for him to immediately work to improve, it’s protecting the football.
29. 04:37, fourth quarter: Short pass to Russell Shepard, incomplete
Cornerback Carlton Davis made a great play on the ball, giving Shepard no shot. The Giants punted on the next play.
28. 02:20, fourth quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 1 yard
Engram quickly got out of bounds, so no harm no foul on this quick throw that went for only 1 on the team’s final drive.
27. 05:22, fourth quarter: Short pass to Rhett Ellison, 3 yards
The only time Jones targeted the team’s second tight end.
26. 04:59, first quarter: Short pass to Saquon Barkley, 3 yards
Jones targets Barkley for the first of the running back’s four receptions before he left with a high ankle sprain.
25. 04:15, first quarter: Short pass to Russell Shepard, incomplete
This was Jones’s first incompletion. He may have put a little too much juice on it, but he put it right on Shepard’s hands. The Giants would settle for a field goal on their first drive.
24. 11:32, second quarter: Short pass to Darius Slayton, incomplete
This pass was slightly ahead of Slayton, who may have had a chance at a catch if he weren’t blanketed by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
23. 01:26, second quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, 6 yards
Jones, who went 23-of-36 on Sunday, was especially efficient when targeting receivers in the middle of field, as he did Shepard on this play. Here’s his spray chart, courtesy Next Gen Stats:
22. 15:00, second quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 6 yards
A quick release for a strike over the middle to the tight end. Jones averaged 2.75 seconds a throw on Sunday, firmly middle of the pack in Week 3, but ahead of a handful of veteran pocket passers.
21. 03:16, fourth quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, 5 yards
This pass kicked off the fateful drive that brought us all to this blog here today.
20. 11:28, second quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, incomplete, DPI penalty
Looks like Jones is already getting ticky-tack pass-interference penalties like a veteran. This kid’s a pro.
19. 03:27, second quarter: Short pass to Saquon Barkley, 6 yards
This was a routine toss-and-catch, but it’s among the game’s most memorable—just for the wrong reasons. After taking the ball to the Giants’ 30, Saquon Barkley hobbles off the field with what was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain.
The Deep Incompletions
18. 00:57, second quarter: Deep pass to Russell Shepard, incomplete
Jones’s longest throw of the day. He missed the other Shepard by a foot or two.
17. 11:23, second quarter: Deep pass to Darius Slayton, incomplete
Jones’s first true deep shot of the game. Cornerback Carlton Davis has tight coverage along the sideline on Slayton, who gets a hand on the ball but can’t make the catch.
16. 07:30, second quarter: Deep pass to Sterling Shepard, incomplete
Jones throws this ball 40-plus yards to a streaking, double-covered Shepard. He misses the receiver by inches. Eli grew his legend on throws like this one. Jones may not be far off.
15. 09:47, first quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 18 yards
Look at our boy go! On his first pass attempt, Jones hits Engram with a short pass that the tight end takes upfield for a first down and then some. It was an auspicious start to Jones’s first pro start and signaled what was to come.
14. 09:04, third quarter: Short pass to Russell Shepard, 6 yards
This simple, short pass took the Giants to the Tampa Bay 7 and set up Jones’s best-looking throw of the day.
13. 02:00, fourth quarter: Short pass to Bennie Fowler, 5 yards
A simple pass to move the Giants to within the Bucs’ 10 on New York’s final drive.
12. 12:11, second quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, 12 yards
Sterling Shepard had seven receptions on nine targets for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He’s the team’s no. 1 wideout, and he’ll retain that position even after Golden Tate returns from suspension in Week 5.
11. 02:53, second quarter: Short pass to Darius Slayton, 15 yards
Jones stands up in the pocket and completes a dart to Slayton, the rookie fifth-rounder who had three catches for 82 yards on Sunday.
10. 02:48, fourth quarter: Deep pass to Darius Slayton, 21 yards
The Giants are now in a hurry-up offense, and on the second play of what ultimately became the game-winning drive, Jones hits Slayton for a deep pass near the sideline. Of all the promising things that we saw on Sunday, Jones’s ability to move the ball in a no-huddle situation late stood out.
9. 02:15, fourth quarter: Deep pass to Sterling Shepard, 36 yards
Tampa Bay’s defense broke down on this play, and there wasn’t anyone within 10 yards of Shepard. But this was a solid throw by Jones to bring the Giants to the Bucs’ 12-yard line.
BONUS: 14:23, second quarter: Scramble, 11 yards
See Swag run. On third-and-5 and facing pressure, Jones tucks the ball in and runs for a first down. This was the first indication on Sunday that Jones was the athletic QB the Giants were looking for when they drafted him.
8. 11:36, third quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, 8 yards
Tampa Bay brought five on this play, but Jones was unfazed by the blitz.
7. 13:08, second quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 7 yards
Jones rolls out and gets crushed as he hits the tight end for a first down.
No one can accuse the rookie of being shook.
6. 07:58, first quarter: Deep pass to Sterling Shepard, 26 yards
With his pocket collapsing, Jones hurls an off-balance pass to Shepard, who was cutting toward the sideline. An excellent throw under pressure—a theme of the afternoon.
5. 10:34, second quarter: Short pass to Saquon Barkley, 19 yards
Jones escapes pressure and hits Barkley to bring the Giants to the Tampa Bay 7-yard line.
BONUS: 10:06, second quarter: Designed run, 7 yards, touchdown
The first of two rushing touchdowns for Jones. The Giants used motion to trick the Tampa Bay defenders, who realized too late what was happening.
Here’s what happened on that Daniel Jones touchdown, courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats... pic.twitter.com/fv1qZVmR5C— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 22, 2019
If nothing else, this play showed us that Danny Dimes should consider calling himself Danny Wheels.
The Highlight Reel
4. 15:00, third quarter: Short pass to Evan Engram, 75 yards, touchdown
Hell yeah. This catch-and-run was all Engram, who was spectacular against Tampa Bay.
It was the most exciting play of the Giants’ season. At least until the fourth quarter.
3. 14:48, third quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, two-point conversion
A quick pass to Shepard to bring the Giants to within 10. This was the team’s first two-point attempt of the season—indicative of head coach Pat Shurmur’s trust in the rookie and belief that his team actually had a chance to win a game.
2. 10:20, third quarter: Deep pass to Darius Slayton, 46 yards
Because it was a Bucs-Giants game, Fox had twins Ronde (a former Buc) and Tiki Barber (a former Giant) in the booth on Sunday. “Man, this kid is awesome,” one of the brothers said after this beautiful pass. As far as I can tell, they have identical voices, so I’m not sure which Barber complimented Jones. Based on history, my money’s on Tiki.
BONUS: 01:21: Rush, 7 yards, touchdown
This is the play we’ll all remember from Jones’s debut. The Bucs bring four defenders, but back their secondary into coverage, leaving plenty of daylight for Jones. The rookie, who had 17 rushing touchdowns in his college career, recognizes this immediately and jogs into the end zone for what would prove to be the winning score.
The One That Made Us Realize We May Owe Dave Gettleman an Apology
1. 08:21, third quarter: Short pass to Sterling Shepard, 7 yards, touchdown
A truly great throw. Jones’s second career touchdown pass was, forgive the pun, an absolute dime along the edge of the end zone.
Operating in tight space, Jones times this pass perfectly and anticipates precisely where Sterling Shepard would wind up. It was a big-time throw—and an indication that Jones not only belongs in the NFL, but could thrive in it. The two rushing touchdowns and 75-yard pass to Engram are going to be what a lot of fans remember from this game, but this toss was the true first sign that we may have been wrong about Daniel Jones.