EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The spotlight will be on Daniel Jones, but it will take a village of Giants to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
"It's not an easy task, and I think it's going to take all of us," Tackle Nate Solder said today. "It's never one guy. It's always a group effort. It's always all three phases of the game. It's all working together. That's how you help a guy out like that. We take that very seriously protecting him and running the ball and all of the things that we need to do to be successful as an offense."
"We're rallying around him," center Jon Halapio said. "We need to pick him up and have his back, just like how he has our back. He understands that he has a job and we have a job too. We're going to go in there with clear communication, and we're going to have Jones' back."
Jones will make his first NFL start for the 0-2 Giants when they visit the 1-1 Buccaneers. The Giants today practiced for the first time since Pat Shurmur announced yesterday that Jones had replaced Eli Manning as the Giants quarterback. The switch left the locker room with distinct, though not conflicted, emotions. The players have enormous respect for Manning and his many accomplishments. But they are excited for Jones and the opportunity he now has.
"It's just mixed emotions," Halapio said. "But we're here supporting both guys in this time. We're here supporting Jones going into the starting lineup, and we're here to support Eli as well."
"He's an absolute pro," Solder said of Manning. "I'm so thankful to get the opportunity to be with him and see how he goes about his business."
Asked what kind of respect he has for Manning, tight end Evan Engram said, "Through the roof. I wouldn't be the player I am today, I wouldn't have had the growth I've had without Eli. Eli is a true professional, a great teammate and definitely a brother for life. I definitely owe him a lot of credit for how he plays and how he handles himself through everything the past two years I've been here."
But Engram quickly segued into expressing his admiration for Jones.
"I've seen a lot of ability," Engram said. "Obviously, his arm is really loud and he makes great throws. He's mobile and can move. But his confidence has definitely grown through training camp, OTAs and the preseason. He's been preparing for this moment. We need to make sure we do our job to be ready and be successful."
"Daniel is very capable," safety Antoine Bethea said. "He's very capable of making all of the throws and making the plays. It's just a decision that the coaches made. I don't think it's one of those things where, 'Oh, we're going to just try to see where our future is,' even though he is the future of this franchise. I just think it's one of those things where you put him in there, see if we can get a spark and see where it can go from there."
The Giants are certain they can win with Jones as their quarterback.
"He's going to come in and let it rip," Engram said. "Coach (Shurmur) is going to do a good job of putting together a good game plan and putting him in spots to be successful. He just has to come out and play, play football and try to go win a ball game."
"We're all confident in him," Halapio said. "Just the way he approaches every day and the way he prepares. It'll be exciting to see."
*Three Giants did not practice today: cornerback Grant Haley (illness), wide receiver Cody Latimer (concussion) and guard Kevin Zeitler (shoulder). Three more were limited: wide receivers Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Darius Slayton (hamstring) and tight end Garrett Dickerson (quad).