EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones opened the preseason by giving the Giants a glimpse of their future, but Pat Shurmur said he did nothing to change the team’s present.
The sixth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft, Jones dazzled in a brief appearance in his first NFL game. He completed all five of his passes for 67 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowler, in the Giants’ 31-22 victory against the Jets in their preseason opener in MetLife Stadium.
“I thought it went well,” said Jones, whose calm postgame demeanor suggested he had just purchased groceries and not played in his first pro football game. “It was good to move the ball down the field and score, so as far as expectations, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just wanted to play well and glad we were able to move the ball and execute.”
That was the only series Jones played. Before the Giants could put the offense back on the field, severe weather stopped the game for 59 minutes. When play resumed, Shurmur opted to keep Jones on the sideline.
But the quarterback’s debut certainly excited the Giants faithful, and perhaps left them wondering if he can challenge Eli Manning for the starting job. Shurmur’s response, almost literally, was, “not so fast.”
“I think, ‘Slow your roll,’” the coach said when asked what he’d say to those fans. “This is just his first go around. I think he did a good job. As I mentioned, all along he has done nothing to disappoint us, and certainly when you take the team down the field and score a touchdown, that’s a good start. It’s something good to build on. We have a lot of time left before we start playing games. Nothing at this point has changed.”
Perhaps to tamp down expectations, Shurmur showed little emotion when reviewing Jones’ performance.
“He got all completions and he got us in the end zone. That was a very effective drive,” Shurmur said. “He did a good job. He had a couple mistakes in there that we’ll clean up. I guess to the naked eye it was a good job.”
What mistakes could Jones have made in a performance that was statistically perfect?
“He didn’t motion the tight end across on the first play,” Shurmur said. “Those types of things. Things that we see. As I mentioned, to the naked eye, you possibly didn’t see.”
Moments later, responding to another question, Shurmur said, “He looked pretty good, didn’t he? We sort of knew that when we picked him. How rare is it or how frequent is it? I don’t know. We are just going to stay in the moment and coach the guys we have.”
Manning started and played only the first three-play series. Shurmur wanted to give Jones an opportunity to play behind the first-team offensive line, so the rookie took over in the team’s second series.
And play he did. Jones’ drive began on the Giants’ 21-yard line following a Jets punt. His first play was a five-yard pass to the right to Cody Latimer. After Wayne Gallman ran for nine yards, Jones threw left for Golden Tate and an 11-yard gain to the 46.
The rookie quarterback then picked up his biggest gain of the series, throwing a pass down the left side that Latimer hauled in for 31 yards and a first down at the Jets’ 23.
“(It was) off of play action, had him on a crossing route and the line did a good job holding up and (I) kind of just found a spot in the zone and he did a great job getting open there,” Jones said. “So, yeah, good play for us - something we’ve worked on during camp.”
Two Gallman runs netted three yards before a Jones-to-Fowler connection picked up eight yards to give the Giants a new set of downs at the 12.
They needed to use only one, as Jones immediately went back to Fowler, who got a step on safety Santos Ramirez and caught Jones’ perfectly-thrown ball in the end zone, inches from the right sideline. Aldrick Rosas’ extra point gave the Giants a 7-6 lead.
Jones looked as if he’d been doing it a long time at this level.
“Some advice I got was to be decisive and make quick decisions,” Jones said. “Trying to see what the defense is doing and trying to make quick decisions, but being decisive throughout was definitely a focus.
“(I am) just trying to go out and play the best I can for these guys in the locker room and trying to do my job with everyone else doing their job. If it works, we score points. I don’t know how that’s seen outside the locker room.”
Jones might have played more had it not been for that pesky weather.
“I think the weather kind of got us out of rhythm a little bit with the plan,” Jones said. “I don’t know exactly what the plan was, but I expected I would have played a little bit more.”
With three preseason games remaining, Jones will certainly get plenty of opportunities to impress.