NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently joined host John Schmeelk on the Giants Huddle podcast to discuss the team’s 2019 draft class.
The conversation mostly revolved around quarterback Daniel Jones. Through his first four NFL starts, Jones has completed 60.7% of his passes for 921 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions. However, the rookie signal-caller has been without star running back Saquon Barkley for almost that entire time and has endured stretches without Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Golden Tate on the field.
Despite the Giants’ two-game losing streak, Jeremiah has been impressed with the play of the 22-year-old.
“The first couple of games were outstanding,” Jeremiah said. “You look at, unfortunately, all of the injuries around him and the weaponry that has disappeared, especially this (past) week. Short week on the road to play the best defense in football right now, and you’re missing your top two running backs and an assortment of other important players, (including) your number one target there in Engram. I don’t read too much into that, although even with the turnovers, I left encouraged that he was still attacking.
“A lot of times, you’ll see guys try and protect their stats. You’ll see them just check down and they’re not even going to try to get first downs or try to move the ball down field, just knowing, ‘Hey, we’re probably not going to win, but I’m not going to be too aggressive. I don’t want to make my numbers look terrible.’ He stayed in attack mode, which I think not only do I like to see from the outside, but I’m sure the people inside the building and on that team were appreciative of that, that this kid went up there and fought. I actually think that’s a good takeaway from that game.”
While the number six overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has led the Giants to a 2-2 record in four games, Jones has racked up eight turnovers (six interceptions, two fumbles) during that stretch. The turnover rate is clearly something that Jones will work on, but Jeremiah believes that his willingness to take chances down the field is far from the worst problem a rookie quarterback could have.
“Anytime with some younger players, there are going to be times where you have to say, ‘Hey, just give up on a play.’ He does not want to do that,” Jeremiah said while talking about Jones’ biggest weakness so far. “There are times to throw the ball away. There are times to maybe even take a sack just to protect the football. I’ve seen it on both sides, and I would much rather have to reign in somebody that’s a little too aggressive than to try and kick start somebody and try to get them to be a little more aggressive and push the ball down the field. I think given the choice, that would be a problem you would choose.”
Jones, who Jeremiah believes has the potential to develop into a more athletic version of former MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, was met with significantly less fanfare than the QB selected with the top overall pick following the draft.
In 2018, Kyler Murray took home numerous awards and honors, including the Heisman Trophy, and was selected as a first-team All-American while leading the Oklahoma Sooners to an appearance in the College Football Playoff. The first two quarterbacks taken in this year’s Draft will face off against each other this Sunday, and while Murray may have racked up more accolades than Jones in college, Jeremiah believes the former had a significant advantage over the latter.
“Kyler Murray had more NFL players on his high school team than Daniel Jones had on his college team. That’s a fact,” Jeremiah said. “Both of (Murray’s) tackles in high school were drafted. I think Kyler Murray had 23 FBS players on his high school team… He had better players (on his team) than what he was playing against, and it’s the exact opposite with Daniel Jones, who was really kind of fighting an uphill battle the whole time (he was at Duke). But you got to see him in real adversity on the field, how he functioned and how he competed. I think that has helped him so far early in his career.”
Jeremiah and Schmeelk went on to discuss how each member of the Giants’ 2019 class has looked through their first few NFL games. Here is what Jeremiah had to say about each rookie draft pick:
“You know what? It’s a great lesson in scouting, because I liked him as a player. He’s a freaky athlete. But he didn’t have much pass rush production, and a good reason for that is because he came off the field. They had so many linemen, obviously you saw all those D-linemen get drafted from Clemson last year…. The lack of pass rush production was partly because he just didn’t have the opportunities. Now you’re seeing a guy who’s out there, and not only is he just a push the pocket guy, he’s somebody that, at that size and weight, has got tremendous quickness, he can win with his hands, and he can get up field. He’s been impressive. I knew he’d come in and be a dominant point of attack guy in the run game, but he’s given you even a little bit more in the passing game. The way he’s playing reminds me a little bit of a young Shaun Rogers when he was rolling.”
“I haven’t seen a ton of him. I studied the other two (first round picks) pretty extensively. But I knew with him coming out of Georgia, to me, he was two different guys. I thought he was much better in off (coverage), where he could see through the wide receiver and to the quarterback and get more drive on the football and use his instincts. I didn’t know that he necessarily had just the raw tools to be up there in press and be able to perform at an elite level up in that role as a press man guy. I think that’s smart and wise of them to put him in a position where he can be a little more comfortable (in zone coverage).”
“He’s got the length and the athleticism that you love… Just watching him this year, you see those flashes. You see the burst, you see his ability to bend at the top of his rush. He has the length that you want. I think just continuing to get stronger, physically stronger. Being able to incorporate a little more power into his game. As a pass rusher, you have to have either speed or power. The elite guys have both. I think he has the potential to develop some more of that power. That’s kind of what’s next for him in line.”
“Yeah, he’s fun to watch. I kind of look at the way he plays and his game, (he has) a little bit of a different body type but he does kind of remind me of T.Y. Hilton when T.Y. was young. You see him make these plays over the top and he just has a different gear. I love watching when the ball is up in the air, can you find another gear? And that dude absolutely, 100%, can do that. What it’s going to do is it’s going to create a lot of easy completions for your quarterback, because you’re going to have to respect that speed. You see the same thing a little bit with Will Fuller. When he’s on the field for Houston, you not only see all of those home run plays, but you have some layups built into the system, because guys have to respect that.”
“Underrated athlete. I think in coverage, (he is) just very instinctive and aware. Come down and play the run, I knew he’d have a good opportunity to do that, but I thought just watching him this year, unfortunately like you said, the injury sucks. I just thought the instincts not only played against the run, but they played well against the pass. He’s putting himself in passing lanes and where he needs to be. He’s going to be a key member of this team going forward. When you start stacking up all of these names, if you find turnarounds in the NFL, we studied it one year, usually you have to have one draft… You always try to get three starters in a draft over time, which is a great draft. But when you can get a draft where you have four immediate starters, that can be kind of the impetus to really turn around an organization… You can turn teams around in a hurry in this league, especially if one of the four is a quarterback.”
“I compared him to Desmond King when Desmond was coming out of Iowa. We’ve seen Desmond King already emerge as an All-Pro nickel, and I thought Love had that same type of ability. I thought if you left him outside, he’d get exposed a little bit. But you have somebody that can play in the slot, I thought he could play free safety, somebody who’s a good blitzer, just a good tackler, good overall football player. Maybe he doesn’t have that elite top speed that you want, but somebody who has a feel for it. I think it’s about just finding that right role and right niche for him, and he’s going to be a productive player in this league. I almost forgot he was with the Giants, to be honest with you. That was a little bit of a shock to me, too, that he was available at that time (in the fourth round).”
“He’s very athletic. When you’re playing at that level (Division II), you want to see production, and that dude had tons of production. I want to say he was at the Senior Bowl. I can’t remember if it was the Senior Bowl or the East-West (Shrine Game), but he had a good showing down there. He was very competitive in the All-Star setting. When I’m watching guys at a smaller school, I want to see them dominate their level, and I want to see when given the opportunity, that they step up and are competitive. That’s what that kid did. You hate to see what happened there with the shooting, but I think he’s somebody that Giants fans are going to see a lot of in the future here.”