EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones today took a significant step toward returning to the field, but coach Pat Shurmur characteristically declined to say if the rookie quarterback will start the Giants' game Sunday in Washington.
Shurmur said Jones took "most" of the first-team snaps in practice and will "take as many as he can take" this week. That pushed Eli Manning, who started the last two games, including last week's emotional victory against Miami, back to the scout team working against the Giants' defense.
"He's been making improvements," Shurmur said of Jones. "He got better last week, and then he was able to do much more today. He looked fine."
But when asked if he is "moving forward" with the idea that Jones will start, Shurmur said, "We don't know yet. We just need to see how his ankle responds to the added work he did today, and then we'll just take it from there. In the event he can't start, certainly, we have a very experienced backup behind him."
Shurmur said he will consider just one factor before making his decision.
"Strictly based on (Jones') health," Shurmur said. "That's been the case all along. When we committed to Daniel to be our starter, he was our starter. The last couple of weeks, he couldn't start, so Eli went back in there … Let's not overthink it."
No offense to Manning, but Jones would like to see the 16-year veteran return to the reserve role he assumed in Week 3.
"I felt good through (last) week and obviously it's a process," Jones said. "I feel better this week. Through it, I felt like I've progressed every day and every week. Hopefully I'll continue to do that through this week and I'll feel even better Sunday.
"Missing any time is tough and you want to play obviously. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to be out there. I'd much rather play than watch, I'm excited to hopefully get back out there. There's a process to this and it's part of the game to be able to handle this, be able to recover and get back out there. I understand that and I'm looking forward to getting back out there."
Jones started 10 consecutive games before injuring his ankle on a short run against Green Bay on Dec. 1. The Giants won the first two games Jones started but lost the next eight. Jones' top priority is leading the team to its second consecutive victory.
But he has secondary goals as well. Jones has thrown for a franchise-rookie record 1,374 yards and his 18 touchdown passes lead all NFL rookies. On the debit side, Jones has committed 21 turnovers – 11 interceptions and 10 lost fumbles.
"Ball security is obviously the big thing and making sure that I'm doing my part in protecting the ball," Jones said. "Making sure as an offense we're protecting the ball. That way it gives us the best chance to win. That's the most important thing in these last two weeks, is to win games. My role in that, ball security plays a big part in that. I think that's the one thing (he hopes to achieve)."
Every offensive ballhander wants to eliminate turnovers. But they also want to make big plays and those two objectives are sometimes at odds with each other, because the former can at times require caution while the latter sometimes involves calculated risks.
"Understanding that fine line and being able to play with that, being able to protect the ball but also being aggressive is our job and what you're trained to do, what you're coached to do," is how Jones described it. "That balance and that skill in being able to do that is what you have to do to be good at this level. I've worked on it, but I think you have to be able to do both."
If he plays, Washington will be the first team that Jones faces twice. On Sept. 29, he completed 23 of 31 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 24-3 victory in MetLife Stadium. It remains Jones' most recent victory, a fact he hopes to change in FedExField.
"It was tough stretch for us through the middle of the season," he said. "We've done good things here and there and we have to build on that and do it more consistently and build off the win on Sunday."
What must happen for him to reflect after the season and call it a successful rookie year?
"I think win two games and making sure we're in position to win the games," Jones said. "I'm doing my job in preparing to do that. I think that's the biggest thing, to win the games."
*Safety Antoine Bethea was the only Giants player to miss practice today, but his absence was not injury-related. Guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) was limited. He did not play against Miami, ending his streak of 85 consecutive starts.
In addition to Jones, tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion) and rookie linebacker Oshane Ximines (ankle) practiced fully. Ellison, who has 18 receptions this season, has missed the last four games.
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