Josh Allen engineered Brian Daboll’s explosive Buffalo Bills offense. Patrick Mahomes made the Kansas City Chiefs’ attack tick when Mike Kafka was working under Andy Reid.
Now it’s up to Daniel Jones to meld Daboll’s and Kafka’s ideas with his own game to elevate his production and play in this make-or-break fourth NFL season.
“We’re working towards making it the Giants’ offense, not the Bills’, the Chiefs’,” said Kafka, the Giants’ first-year offensive coordinator, on Thursday. “Those are great experiences we can lean on, but this is the Giants’ offense.”
Jones, 24, isn’t dwelling on the Giants’ decision not to pick up his fifth-year option for 2023.
“That was certainly out of my control, out of my hands,” the quarterback said after Thursday’s third OTA practice. “It just kind of is what it is, and you’re focused on preparing to play as well as you can.”
Jones admitted a part of him wonders about the future, given the Giants’ lack of a commitment past 2022.
“I think it’s natural to think about a little bit,” he said.
But Jones knows it’s pointless to dwell on what ifs.
He takes responsibility for the turnovers and shortcomings that have brought him and the Giants to this point. And he welcomes the challenge to elevate his game and the team’s fortunes.
“I’m confident in myself,” he said. “I think it’s more about winning games. If we win games and have a good season, that’s gonna take care of a lot of things for everyone.”
Elevating the offense starts with constant communication between Jones, Daboll, Kafka and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney about how to tweak calls, routes and plays to maximize this team’s strengths.
“We’ve installed a lot of plays,” Daboll said. “I tell the players: the train is not slowing down, we’re just speeding up. The more we can install and the more they can learn, the more we can figure out what they do better.”
This is Daboll’s offense, at its core. It certainly sounds like Kafka, 34, came to the Giants to call offensive plays, though. The new OC said he left the Chiefs because he said this opportunity “was something that was special to me and my family.”
“It wasn’t just something I took on a whim,” he said. “I wasn’t just gonna go to any team. It had to be built the right way with the people: the Mara family, Dabes, Joe [Schoen], the players we had here. It was all of that encompassed.”
Kafka said he’s “calling plays with the quarterbacks at practice, and we’ll let Dabes evaluate that. He has every right to evaluate how he wants to handle that.”
He admitted “of course” he aspires to call plays in the NFL. This would be his first play-calling gig as the Chiefs’ former QB coach and passing game coordinator under OC Eric Bieniemy.
“I think every offensive coordinator aspires to call plays,” said Kafka, who landed the job once Bills QB coach Ken Dorsey opted to stay in Buffalo with a promotion to OC.
Daboll, 47, observed recently that Kafka is “kind of reserved” but “easy to work with, in terms of integrating and mixing systems … to come up with the best thing for the Giants.”
Jones said he’s processing all of it and trying to apply it on the field.
“They both bring a ton of new ideas from different systems that have had a lot of success, have quarterbacks that have had a lot of success,” he said. “It’s a lot of new ideas, new concepts, new plays. Just trying to pick up those little things here and there and listening to some of their philosophy on playing the position, playing offense, looking for opportunities to make plays at times when they aren’t there, but protect the ball.”
Thursday’s practice provided a glimpse of what to expect: a lot of passes into the flat. Opportunities to get players in space. Saquon Barkley catching a lot of passes. RPOs and chances for Jones to take off and run. Quick decisions required from the QB.
Jones’ most important job, outside of producing, is to provide his coaches with feedback on what he likes to tailor the offense to his own abilities and preferences.
He has deferred at times in recent years to coaches with more experience than he, but in this do-or-die year for his Giants future, he needs to be outspoken and participate. And Tierney said that’s exactly what he’s doing.
“He’s learning the offense, so the first discussion we have after we do something is ‘hey, what’d you think, what’d you see, do you like it?’” the quarterbacks coach said. “And he’s been very open about, ‘I like this, I need to see this more,’ or ‘no.’ He’s pretty clear about what he likes or dislikes. And that’s good. We need that communication and want to build that trust.”
Jones said “there’s a healthy balance between how I see it and how [Daboll] sees it,” too, and acknowledged the Bills have “had a ton of success,” so he’s still trying to be the sponge that soaks in what can help him improve.
A major difference in Daboll’s offense from the previous system under Jason Garrett, however, will be an emphasis on aggressive and downfield throws.
The previous regime tried to embrace Jones’ strengths and weaknesses and work within them. Daboll is encouraging Jones to let it rip.
“Be aggressive, take your shots and make something happen,” Jones said of the philosophy. “I think that’s kind of the mindset he has: to attack a defense, to attack downfield and as a quarterback and decision-maker, you’re a big part of that. That’s something we’ve talked about a lot and something he wants to see in practice.”
Jones appreciates this idea because he wants to be as productive as QBs like Allen and Mahomes, whose production got Daboll and Kafka to the posts they’re in now, trying to help Jones take the same leap.
“I think as a quarterback you’ve got to be able to be aggressive, take shots and also protect the ball. It’s finding the balance there, and the best guys can do that,” he said. “So I’m always working to improve that piece of the decision-making process and being smart in those situations.”
Granted, three weeks ago, the Giants were declining Jones’ fifth-year option and could have selected a quarterback in the NFL Draft. Jones wouldn’t say he was or wasn’t curious if the team would take a QB.
“I was just watching like everyone else was to see how it worked out,” he said with a smile.
Not that it matters now. This is Jones’ team for at least one more year, and after this offseason program, it should be his offense, too.
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