EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – Daniel Jones wants to clean up his act this year.
No, the Giants' second-year quarterback hasn't behaved inappropriately. Actually, he's been an exemplary citizen since joining the team in 2019.
But Jones will be the first to admit he's been less than perfect on the field. Specifically, Jones is determined to sharply reduce his turnovers. He threw 12 interceptions and lost 11 of his 18 fumbles in his 2019 debut season. Given that, his answer surprised no one when he was asked on a Zoom call with the media today to pinpoint an area where he hopes to improve and how he intends to do it.
"I think the biggest thing is ball security, and particularly in the pocket, protecting the ball," Jones said. "That's a fundamental skill that for the quarterback position, that's something that's crucial but also to me a fairly simple fix in that it's a mindfulness, being intentional with securing the ball, having two hands on it. When you're moving, when you're having to adjust in the pocket, you're maintaining that security. I'm trying to emphasize that, doing different drills and making sure that I'm always cognizant of that and being very intentional in that."
But Jones currently has no teammates to aid his mission. The Giants' headquarters are closed due to the pandemic, the players and coaches communicate virtually and Jones is throwing to a group of friends close to his family's home in Charlotte. So how, exactly, can he work on eliminating fumbles and reducing his rate of interceptions?
"I've been working with a quarterback coach here," Jones said. "He's someone who has helped me with that and we've talked about it a lot. He'll make sure I'm staying on top of that while swatting at the ball and trying to simulate things that will happen in the game."
*On a separate call, Saquon Barkley was asked what it would be like to perform in an empty stadium if circumstances warranted.
"It would definitely be different," he said. "From playing in the NFL, playing around fans with the Giants, and then obviously in college at Penn State, which is an amazing place, amazing fans there, too. But at the end of the day, it kind of goes down to just playing ball. Kind of when you were a kid when no one's watching, in the backyard, or for instance when we're at practice. I know some practices we used to have fans there and have the media there, but most of the time no one is there. It's just us going at it every single day. I guess that's kind of the same approach I would take if that was the case."
*Jones was asked how the current unorthodox working conditions affect his development as a quarterback.
"This offseason is obviously different for everyone, including me being a guy who's trying to learn football, who's trying to make a step in my second year playing in the NFL," Jones said. "But everyone is dealing with these circumstances. Everyone is having to adjust. I'm no different from that. No one's going to be giving breaks to people who are working remotely because everyone is working remotely and having to do it. I understand that. I don't think it'll be a disadvantage if we approach it like we have, if we approach it like the opportunity it is, to use the time as well as we possibly can."
Saquon, your thoughts not only on the unprecedented situation but also your expectations for the team:
"It is a little stressful just like (for) everyone else," he said. "…At the end of the day, (we) need to make sure everyone's safe and healthy. With expectations, right now no one can see the forecast, no one can see what's going to happen for the season this year. The only thing that we can do as a team is try to take advantage of this time that we have. Yes, it's a little different and a little awkward because it's on iPads and phones and trying to do Zoom meetings. But, still try to take advantage of that and prepare as best as we can so when we are able to get back to what we know as normal, we're prepared."
*When Jones arrived last year, Eli Manning was beginning his 16th season as the Giants' quarterback. Jones replaced Manning three games into the season and suffered a sprained ankle that enabled Manning to start two games late in the season. Manning retired in January. Has it been different for Jones without him?
"It's been different because we're on the computer," Jones said. "But yeah, Eli not being there is different. The team is a little different, but we're adjusting and making it work, making the best of it. It's been good."
Manning said in an interview last week that it was awkward last year with Jones taking over while he was still there every day. He thought it would be easier for Jones with him no longer in the building.
"I think looking back, it probably was a little bit awkward at certain times," Jones said. "But we did a good job working together. I know I enjoyed working with him and certainly learned a ton from him and appreciate everything he did during that year. It certainly will be different, like we're saying. Different in the room. But I really enjoyed working with Eli last year. I thought it was a huge advantage for me to be able to learn from him and talk to him every day. It will be different, it will be an adjustment, but I'm looking forward to this year and this team we have."