It is difficult enough taking a second-year quarterback leap under ordinary circumstances.
But here’s the word from highly respected Peyton and Eli Manning quarterback guru, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe: Daniel Jones’ second-year leap will not be compromised by learning a new system under a new coaching staff, and it will not be compromised by a virtual offseason program.
“I think we will see a much better Daniel Jones,” Cutcliffe told The Post. “I think he’s gonna be a much better product than what he was a year ago.”
Cutcliffe believes Jones will flourish under new Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
“I know Jason a little bit. I think the world of him,” Cutcliffe said. “He’ll do a great job with Daniel. I think Jason and Daniel are kinda similar people, really smart, analytical people. I think they’re gonna be a good pair.
“I sat with Jason and [Tony] Romo before, and talked football, and I saw his approach to coaching Tony Romo and the relationship they had. That’s why I’m making the assumption that I’ll see a similar relationship between Jason and Daniel.”
The young franchise quarterback of the New York Football Giants, who turned 23 on Wednesday, is driven in a Manningesque way.
“Trust me, he’s working 10 hours a day on his own mastering this,” Cutcliffe said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody more eager. … He’s every bit the worker that Peyton and Eli were their entire careers.
“I think he’s really starting to understand what they’re expecting or what they want to do offensively, and that’ll help him be successful in this transition.”
“He certainly knows what lies in front of him. I do like the fact that he’s been very positive in conversation about the intensity of the meetings with the new staff, the accountability. He feels really good about that.”
Cutcliffe raved about Jones’ accuracy and toughness and fearlessness as a rookie, and sat down in February with him for a comprehensive constructive-criticism review.
There were three main areas of needed improvement covered:
Ball security. Pocket movement. Arm angle.
Former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone has been working diligently with Jones on the issues that led to fumbling 18 times and losing 11, and on pocket movement.
“Anthony Boone is the winningest quarterback in the history of Duke football,” Cutcliffe said, “and Anthony is not 6-5. Anthony just has a great understanding of the game, a great understanding of the fundamentals and the mechanics, a great work ethic as does Daniel. And so they’re a perfect fit together.
“Pocket movement is different than pocket presence. Daniel’s got great pocket presence. He’s tough, he’s courageous, he keeps his eyes downfield. But one of the things you have to learn in the pocket is quit moving away from what you’re reacting to feeling, and move more to what’s secure in the pocket, move more to what you see. Don’t move away from what you’re really not seeing, you know, a guy on the edge. I think when you overreact to edge pass rush which is what happened to him, a couple of things will happen — one, you move to one you don’t see; the other is that sometimes you drop the ball, it’s just a reflex.”
Cutcliffe teaches his quarterbacks pre-snap read and post-snap alarm.
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“What pocket movement is is about one second max,” he said. “It’s very subtle, and sometimes the more athletic guys are, the more they want to escape … The other thing is when you’re running the ball as a quarterback in the NFL, quit running like a back. Some of his fumbles were getting hit with good runs, or just getting tackled.”
Cutcliffe has impressed upon Jones that navigating the violent NFL pocket demands what he terms a tight stroke.
“It’s just getting the ball up and out, keeping it up, just tighten your motion a little bit,” Cutcliffe said. “You gotta do that naturally, but everybody has to work on that. And he has done a really good job of doing that.”
Jones always embraced the leadership role at Duke and will be comfortable stepping up into that role even more this season.
“I know in talking with Eli that Eli thinks Daniel’s a very special person that cares about other people, cares about football,” Cutcliffe said. “It means a lot to me that Eli saw those same qualities. You’re not a leader if you’re not respected. And I think he has the respect of all his peers.”
I asked Cutcliffe about the awkward period at the beginning of the 2019 season, when Manning and Jones both acknowledged knowing a quarterback change was on the horizon.
“It was beyond awkward for me, all of it was painful because of having such a close relationship with both of ’em,” Cutcliffe. “I thought that not surprisingly, Eli was not good, but was amazing in the process, and Daniel was very respectful of Eli during that process. That may have been as good as it’s ever been done in that type of setting.”
Jones will not be fazed following in Eli Manning’s giant footsteps.
“One of the things I love about Daniel, and I believe this is the best way to be a quarterback in that type of setting — and Eli was the same thing — they never really concerned themselves what other people think about their work,” Cutcliffe said. “They are so focused on the quality of their own work that they don’t have time for it.”
If he was Danny Boy as a rookie, expect him to be Danny Man in 2020. Maybe even Danny Mann one day.
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