EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If he plays a full 16-game season, it is reasonable to assume some of the statistics Daniel Jones posted in his rookie season will rise, including 284 completions, 3,017 yards and 24 touchdown passes.
But Jones would like to see some of his numbers decline, notably his 18 fumbles, including 11 that were lost, and 23 total giveaways. The first two figures were the highest in the NFL and the latter tied for second.
Jerry Schuplinski, the Giants' new quarterbacks coach, is working with Jones on improving his ball security.
"The last thing we want is the ball on the ground," Schuplinski said.
That "we" includes head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
"Ball security is a huge thing that Coach Judge preaches, that Jason preaches, that we preach," Schuplinski said. "Just really understanding the importance of all that stuff, why that's important. Also understanding defenses, what that means. Is there certain tips or cues that we can pick up to helps play better, quicker, faster."
Schuplinski was one of several Giants coaches who today spoke publicly in their new roles for the first time via Zoom calls. on the offensive side of the ball, the group included tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens, who was the Cleveland Browns' head coach in 2019, and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, who was familiar with most of the reporters on his call since this is his third year in that position.
In a normal year, Schuplinski would have introduced drills in the spring workouts to help Jones secure the football. But the pandemic forced all offseason learning to be virtual and not even the NFL has devised a way for Schuplinski to reach his hand through a computer to try to bat the ball out of Jones' hands.
"It's been challenging in the spring," Schuplinski said. "But I think you have to approach it, kind of like I said before, part of ball security is understanding what you're looking at on the other side of the ball. Understanding what the defense is in and what they are trying to do based on their coverages. Whether they are a deep spot drop zone team or a tight man to man team, what that means and what that's going to mean for our reads and what we need to do.
"The spring we spent a lot of time diving into the system, learning the basics of it. Learning what our reads are on certain plays. We're kind of able to do some stuff on air, you're looking at timing, making the right decisions on air in terms of timing. Where we think the ball would go versus a certain coverage. When we get out there, we'll continue to work on it. I think it's a thing we do with all the quarterbacks, just harp on the little details all the time."
The Giants have returned to the practice field in training camp and will work in full pads for the first time on Monday. Schuplinski has studied every snap Jones took last season, spent hours with him in the springtime's remote learning and has gotten his first close-up look at the second-year pro in walk-throughs and Phase 2 workouts. He is confident Jones has both the physical and mental makeup to sharply reduce his turnovers.
"I admire his toughness, he's a tough guy," Schuplinski said. "He works hard, he's really passionate about the game. I think ultimately, we need to be smart with the ball as a quarterback room and as a quarterback in general. We have to make the right decisions. I think there is a time to get down and protect to ball and I think there is a time to go ahead and go forward in certain situations, a short yardage thing when you have to get a first down. I think the biggest thing when we do have that opportunity to go through is really covering up the ball and make sure we take good care of it."
Schuplinski will certainly emphasize that last point tomorrow, throughout camp and every day during the season.
View exclusive photos of the New York Giants from their 2020 Media Day.
*Anytime tight end Evan Engram is asked about his capabilities the follow-up question usually concerns the injuries that have prevented him from fully utilizing them. Engram has yet to play a full 16-game season since his arrival as a first-round draft choice in 2017. Last year, knee and foot injuries forced him to miss a career-high eight games.
So, it was neither surprising that Kitchens was asked how good Engram can be if he stays healthy, nor that he declined to directly respond to that query.
"I think Evan is in the mindset that he should be in, and that's just getting better today," Kitchens said. "We're trying to stay in the moment here with every position, with every player, with every coach, and keep our head down and just work to get better each and every day.
"Evan has done a good job up to this point in doing that. He did a hell of a job this summer in rehabbing and getting back to where he's at right now, and just kind of taking it day to day and getting better with his releases, his hand placement, with everything. Every aspect of Evan's game, we want to try to get better at each and every day. Evan's done an unbelievable job in staying focused and concentrating on, even more specific to every day, just every rep. He's done a good job and we're just going to stay in the moment."
*Last year, the Giants' top three wide receivers – Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton – played together in just five games, including the last four. What is the potential if that trio can stay on the field for all 16 games?
"I think it's a great potential," Tolbert said. "Coach Judge mentioned something earlier to us about the team with the best advantages is the healthiest team. We like all our guys to be as healthy as possible because when you have everybody healthy and everybody on the field at the same time, then you'll be able to use people in different ways. I'm looking forward to those guys being out on the field together and being healthy and having everyone contribute again, because we believe the healthiest team will be the team that has the biggest advantage. Health is priority number one right now."
*Slayton led the Giants with 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season. But Tolbert said while the knowledge Slayton gained is good, those numbers are now irrelevant.
"The difference for Darius is, it's year two, obviously, and it's game experience," Tolbert said. "He did get some game experience in the NFL last year. At this point of time last year, he hadn't played an NFL snap. Now, he has some game experience. He can go out there and he knows the speed of the game and how the defensive backs play in the NFL. That's, to me, the biggest difference. He's a smart guy.
"He's starting the new offense, as we all are. But we're looking forward to Darius getting to compete. Last year was last year. It's gone. This is a new year. He's out there competing with everybody else. Again, being healthy is the biggest thing. If we can stay healthy and have all our guys out there on the field, I think we'll go out there and we'll play pretty hard and play well. Let's see what happens."
*Jones isn't the only quarterback Schuplinski is enthused about. He also had high praise for backups Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush and Alex Tanney, who is beginning his third Giants season.
"I like these guys," he said. "I'm excited about what we have in the room. A lot of the discussion has been about Daniel today, and I certainly understand that. Those other guys are awesome. Colt is a good veteran, he's seen a lot in this league, he understands a lot. He works really hard in the meetings. He pays great attention, asks really great questions. He's probably the question-asker of the group, but I don't know if he's always asking it for himself. He's seen things and knows things might come up and so he's not afraid to asks questions. Cooper has a lot of experience in our system. He still comes to work every day, is learning and learning new things and growing, and opening up his communication. Alex, who has been here, is a really sharp guy mentally. Really understands the game of football.
"We're all learning about each other. Daniel and Alex were in the same room last year. The rest of us weren't, Jason, me, Colt and Cooper. We're all learning about each other while growing together. It's really fun so far. Those guys, we couldn't ask for anything more. Every chance they get, they are working hard and they are in there studying."