In the wake of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ poor start to the 2018 season, it’s time to acknowledge his three-year contract extension this past February was a mistake, and the Jaguars must begin to look for his eventual replacement as the team’s signal caller.
That’s right, baby. It’s time for NFL Draft scouting reports. And today, we’re starting with Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.
Now, before we get started, let’s assume the Jaguars make no staff changes this offseason, even after what appears to be a massive disappointment of a 2018 season following contending in the 2017 AFC Championship. It isn’t possible, or fair, to predict any big staff changes at this point after GM Dave Caldwell, EVP of Football Ops. Tom Coughlin, and head coach Doug Marrone received extensions in February. While that sounds contracting to the lede of this article, it’s safe to assume that the Jaguars won’t necessarily move on from Bortles this offseason, and rather will likely draft his eventual heir and/or competition this upcoming April.
Given that assumption, one would think the Jaguars will continue to feature a power-run with RB Leonard Fournette as the focal point, and that offensive coordinator will maintain West Coast passing concepts as a way to move the ball through the air: A round hole that the team has tried to shove Bortles – the square peg – into for the past two years.
Jones, a redshirt junior who appears to be on track to graduate this year, is the best West Coast style of quarterback in this upcoming QB class, albeit it isn’t the strongest QB class to come out in recent years. The terms you’ll see thrown around Jones’ name this draft season will include “quick-release”, “smart decision making”, “touch passes”, and something along the lines of “lack of elite velocity”. All of these buzzwords match what the traditional West Coast offense looks for in a QB, with velocity not being a must-have trait.
On top of the WCO fit, Jones is on pace to match most of the Bill Parcells rules of QB scouting, a method in which Coughlin stated he utilizes in his book Earn the Right to Win. These rules include:
- Be a senior (redshirt junior is likely a fair bending of the rules)
- Be a graduate (Jones appears to be on pace to do so)
- Three-year starter (check)
- Start 30 games (32 and counting, check)
- Win 23 games (Jones has 15 career wins in games he’s started, and missed two wins this year with a broken collarbone. Duke has three more games left, plus a bowl game, so even if Duke wins out he will come short of 23 wins)
- Post a 2:1 TD:INT ratio (Jones currently posts a 1.72:1 ratio, but has a 2.6:1 ratio this season and is on pace to post a career high in TDs and low in INTs with four games remaining, so we can revisit this)
- Post a 60%+ career completion percentage (currently at 60.1%, another stat to revisit in January)
All in all, Jones will leave Duke with at least four of the seven Parcells QB scouting rules checked off, with five being likely and six being the maximum.
In seven of Duke’s nine games this year, Jones has completed 135-218 passes (61.9%) for 1587 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is a two-time team captain (2017-18) and two-time Academic All-ACC (2016-17). Entering the 2018 season, he was listed as a candidate for the Maxwell, O’Brien, and Manning awards. Jones only missed two games this year due to a broken collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder, and that tough mantra is evident when he takes hits as a runner on tape.
Jones’ head coach David Cutcliffe is the former college coach of three former first round quarterbacks in Peyton and Eli Manning, as well as Heath Shuler. The Manning brothers have been key to Jones’ development as they have trained with him and the Duke football team since 2013, and Jones has attended their summer QB camp for the past two years.
Let’s get to the film (2018 games vs. Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech) to see what Jones has to offer as a quarterback prospect.
NFL Traits: Pre-snap awareness and post-snap baiting
Daniel Jones may often be labeled with the previously mentioned buzzwords, but the most important, and advanced, part of Jones’ skill-set are his eyes, in how they pick up openings in the defense pre-snap, and also create openings post-snap.
The most immediate thing that stands out in the Northwestern game, the first game of Jones’ that I watched, is how many RPO’s and play action and Duke runs. That should automatically catch the Jaguars’ eye, as play action/RPO’s are a big piece to a West Coast passing offense in order to stretch the field and catch defenses off guard.
Note: Bear with the bad drawing here, it gets better as we go on. I had just downloaded new video editing software and was learning how to draw with it.
Pre-snap, Jones sees two creeping defenders turning this into a six-man blitz, and knows that the middle of the field is going to open up as long as he sells the run. He does so, forcing the weak-side linebacker to creep up as well. That was a fatal mistake by the LB that Jones took advantage of with the slant route opening up, and Jones let the ball fly on the top of his one step drop in unison with the top of the receivers route. This opens up a ton of extra yards to gain after the catch, which is the bread and butter of the WCO.
Jones’ awareness and ability to read defenses pre-snap is one of his more polished abilities as a signal-caller, which is something more worth deeming as “pro-style” than the bland under-center = pro-style narrative that’s been around for ages.
In the play before, Jones baited the coverage linebacker into opening the field. Here, Jones does the same with the single-high safety to open up the deep post. Keeping his eyes modest on the left half of the field, Jones is patient before he declares where he’s going and draws the high safety to the 12 yard dig route by the tight end, and boom: The outside receiver has all of the inside leverage to get open on the deep post. While Jones doesn’t have a cannon arm to get this ball to the WR as fast as Patrick Mahomes can, his timing and touch on the ball makes up for the lack of arm strength, and this ball gets placed perfectly for the long score.
We get a taste of both pre-snap awareness and baiting in one play here, and it’s so nice you can view it twice (there’s a second angle). The defense lines up with what almost looks like a three-safety prevent-look with two corners playing man underneath. However, the middle safety drops pre-snap and this turns into what appears to be a split-field Cover 2 on the top and man/off-man responsible for the TE and WR on the bottom. All in all, it’s a complex, unique coverage call.
Jones catches the top half Cover 2 with two 8+ yard off-safeties. He already knows his left slot will be wide open on a deep slant, and yards-after-catch potential if he baits the deep safety and middle linebacker through the fake handoff. In the second half of the clip, Jones does just that by keeping his eyes in between the two mid-field defenders, despite knowing he’s going left. Both defenders false step, and the slant is open for business.
This is one of the more impressive bait throws Jones made in the four games I watched. With pressure coming off both edges, Jones keeps his eyes down field at the slot WR on the seam that draws the safety and cornerback deep. As Jones steps up to avoid pressure, the flat-defending linebacker fills the intermediate zone for the cornerback and turns his back to the sidelines to read Jones’ eyes, which are still focused on the seam but notice the outside receiver coming back on a steep hitch, totally unnoticed by the linebacker. Jones’ deception of the coverage defenders looked easy and lead to a big third down conversion.
The last bait-play I want to touch on is Jones keeping his eyes directly in the middle of the field to draw the free safety into the tight end post, with the H-back running a wheel route outside of the free safety’s peripheral vision. The outside linebacker disguises as a fifth rusher but is actually in man on the H-back, but misses a chance to jam near the line of scrimmage. The wheel opens up as soon as the FS commits to the post and Jones wastes no time to release a nice touch pass, resulting in a 27 yard gain.
Before we get into the West Coast and primary reads, it’s worth noting Jones is developed enough to make full-field progessions and isn’t going limited to primary reads and checkdowns. Jones quickly scans his options from top through the right hash and identifies the opening skinny post as the receiver makes his break and, after putting the safety on skates, can walk the perfectly placed deep ball in for six.
Jones has five potential receving options here, and even with pressure beginning to form in the pocket, Jones scans and eliminates the two top receivers as they are well-covered, and begins to roll with a TE check-down on an out-route. The right slot receiver takes the outside cornerback with him deep, and with Jones eyeing the TE out-route, the outside receiver becomes open on the sideline as the fourth read with the slot stretching out the defense to open up the underneath. Jones gave every route worth consideration a shot before making the smartest decision with the ball while also baiting the safety into coming down on the TE to open up the sideline.
Jones once again scans the entire spread field in a timely manner before throwing a touch pass over a jumping defender near the first down marker. The throw is really nice; The patience and movement in the pocket in order to move the ball without abandoning the play and running is perfect.
West Coast fit
Here’s where Jones really starts to look the part for Jacksonville, as things stand.
The most important aspect to a West Coast QB’s game is his release. Blake Bortles doesn’t fit this mold because he has a naturally elongated release that often leads to passes getting batted at the line or defenders jumping routes. On top of that, Bortles often needs his primary read to be schemed open and a check-down option because his mental processing of the field isn’t quick enough to match what the WCO wants. Bill Walsh, former 49ers coach and the mastermind behind the WCO, believes an ideal WCO passing play ends with a release at the top of the QB’s 3-5-7 step drop in the pocket, and Bortles just can’t do that consistently whatsoever.
However, Daniel Jones can. Jones plays out of the shotgun a solid 95%+ of the time at Duke which in itself is at least a three-step drop, so immediate/one-step releases count towards being WCO-style.
Is this complex? No. It’s a simple play-action play with and eight yard slant as the primary read on a three-step (one-step gun) drop throwing with power off of the back foot. However, this ball is out as soon as Jones gets pointed the receivers way off of the fake handoff fresh out of the WRs route-break. This quick release taking advantage of the primary read’s spacing is another example of bread and butter West Coast concepts that Jacksonville builds it’s passing game off of.
Another really simple, yet effective, WCO style throw, taking advantage of zone with about an eight yard cushion to the bottom WR. At the top of the route, the WR has about four yards of separation and the ball is already off the tip of Jones’ fingers. Not to mention, this ball is placed in a perfect spot for the WR to spin his body back downfield and gain extra yards. Just, the WR doesn’t appear to have the explosiveness to take advantage. If Dede Westbrook catches this pass, he very well may take this the full 80 yards to the endzone.
The WCO calls for window passes in the short field when things aren’t schemed open, and Jones squeezes this ball right in between the nickel cornerback and the closing linebacker off the top of the receivers route.
Along with timing your throws, accuracy is the most important aspect of West Coast passing. If the ball isn’t put in the most ideal position for the receiver to win the rep, it most likely isn’t accurate enough. Here, Jones rolls to his weak-side and throws this ball off of his back foot – yet, the ball is low and away where only the receiver can play the ball and Duke adds six to the scoreboard.
Jones perfectly squeezes this slot fade to the back corner better than, quite frankly, Blake Bortles has ever thrown a fade pass in his five-year Jaguars career. Way out of reach of the man coverage nickel cornerback, Jones also keeps this ball nice and outside of the boundary cornerback who tries to save the play post-release.
The sideline route opens up after Jones scans half of the field, and Jones clears the two underneath defenders with plenty of altitude and gets this ball in the receivers hands while he still owns about five yards of separation, despite this toss only going about 23 yards. The ability to get the ball as high as it was to avoid any acrobatic play by the underneath defenders and still hit the WR with plenty of separation is the definition of touch.
Jones has been the victim of plenty of drops in the games I’ve observed, with three TDs/near TDs dropped in the Virginia Tech game alone. This one may have been the worst: Jones steps up through interior pressure and launches this ball 45 yards where only the receiver make a diving catch, and it falls right through his hands. This wasn’t a difficult diving catch to make, either. The ball had plenty of loft that gave the receiver time to track and was perfectly led with two defenders closing in.
On the run
There’s no need to post a bunch of different clips of Jones running the ball because he’s obviously tasked with being a passer, but when things breakdown as well as designed options, Jones has the mobility to break loose once in a while. This is also evident on his roll-out passes, a key to play action in a West Coast offense.
General Pros and Cons
- Clean footwork through drop and scanning
- Short to intermediate accuracy is strong
- Touch throws make up for lack of strong velocity
- Not fast, but mobile. Can make plays on his feet and throw on roll-outs
- Advanced in reading defenses pre-snap
- Generally makes smart decisions post-snap
- Uses eyes to bait defenders at a pro level
- Tough as nails, played two weeks after breaking left collarbone
- Occasionally throws off back foot when going deep, leads to too much air under pass
- Arm strength isn’t there to run a consistent vertical offense
- Fumble issues: Nine in three years
- Thin frame may frighten teams, played through injury redshirt sophomore year
- Lack of explosion lowers “ceiling” and ability to grow at NFL level
- May be limited to West Coast offense with short game as strong suit
- Doesn’t slide when running the ball, often takes hits he doesn’t need to
Daniel Jones seems to be a true West Coast, pro-ready QB who makes disciplined reads and has advanced eyes that can bait opposing defenses into giving him a chunk play. His footwork could use some polishing through his release, but he is relatively accurate, espeically in the short and intermediate field and has the mobility to make plays of his own in a power-run/WCO style of offense, making him a perfect fit for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I view Jones as a late first round/early second round prospect, but considering how light this QB class is at the top, Jones may skyrocket into the early 20s and maybe even the teens come draft night. As of 11/6/2018, the Jaguars are currently projected to pick 12th overall, so they may have to reach to select Jones if they stay around the same spot, but if they believe he fits what they want in a quarterback the way his film suggests, they should have no problem selecting Jones as the heir to Blake Bortles.
Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith apparently fined by team
The Jacksonville Jaguars have apparently fined LB Telvin Smith for missing three days of mandatory minicamp. This amount, according to Telvin Smith on Instagram, was for a total of $88,650. Telvin Smith decided to leave the game of football for a year last month and has not shown up to any team activities since the season ended in January.
Smith stated in his Instagram post “Oh y’all thght [sic] it was a game!!! You say you wanna sit & get ya life right. . . they say nah […] you pay me!!!” also stating “It’s still love!!”
The Jaguars have every right to fine Smith under the current CBA signed in 2011 regarding mandatory participation in team activities. Smith has not yet informed the Jaguars officially of his intentions for the 2019 season, thus he is still considered a part of the team and on the 90-man roster.
It is not yet known whether or not the team has opted to fine DE Yannick Ngakoue who was also missing from mandatory minicamp last week as he resolves his contract with the team.
REPORT: Jaguars sign WR Tre McBride and DT Kalani Vakameilao
The Jacksonville Jaguars announced today the signings of WR Tre McBride and Rookie DT Kalani Vakameilalo. Both players had a tryout during yesterday’s minicamp practice. They have waived LB Nick DeLuca and LS Christian Kuntz to make room.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 13, 2019
McBride has played for the Tennesee Titans, Chicago Bears, and the New York Jets during his time in the NFL. In 2017 he hauled in eight receptions for 144 yards. His lone touchdown came in 2015 with the Tennesee Titans. The Jaguars currently have 12 WRs on the roster including McBride. They will enter training camp for a battle for possibly five or six spots. Currently, it would be a surprise if McBride makes the team.
Vakameilao went undrafted out of Oregon State where he posted 75 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss.
Jaguars finalize draft class with signing of LB Quincy Williams
The Jacksonville Jaguars have officially wrapped up their 2019 NFL Draft class with the signing of third-round pick Quincy Williams the team has announced today. Williams played college football at Murray State as a linebacker and safety and will be playing LB with the Jaguars.
Following the departure of WLB Telvin Smith, the Jaguars needed to find a replacement, and they hope Williams can eventually develop into that role. During OTAs and mandatory minicamp, Williams has taken some first-team reps at LB along with LB Ramik Wilson. The WLB battle will be one to watch during training camp later this summer.
Williams spoke briefly following the signing of his contract stating, “I’ve been dreaming on this and waiting on this moment my whole life,” Williams said. “I’m just here to answer the question of, ‘Who is Quincy Williams?’”
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