EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones is confident he will succeed in his new assignment.
“I certainly feel good about how far I have come in my preparation and my progress since I got here in the spring, through camp and through these first couple weeks,” Jones said today. “We’ll try to make sure we have the best week we can, and I’ll certainly do all I can to be as prepared as possible. Yeah, I feel ready and I’m certainly looking forward to the opportunity.”
That opportunity, of course, is Jones’ first NFL start, which will take place Sunday in Tampa against the Buccaneers. The 22-year-old rookie will be the first quarterback to make his pro debut in a Giants uniform since the player he is replacing, Eli Manning, did so in 2004. Coach Pat Shurmur informed the principles yesterday they would be switching roles, and today all three spoke publicly for the first time since the change.
“I haven’t played a regular season game, and I’m certainly aware of that,” Jones said. “All I can do is prepare as hard as I possibly can, and that’s what I’ll do. I think I’ve gotten some sense of that in the preseason and certainly it will be elevated during the regular season. All I can do this week is make sure I’m prepared, the team is prepared, and I do all I possibly can.”
The Giants are 0-2 after losses to Dallas and Buffalo and Shurmur believes Jones, the sixth-overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft, is best-equipped to help the Giants crack the win column.
“Daniel Jones is ready to play, and we are going with him,” Shurmur said. “The reason I say that is we do everything we can to win football games and at this point we feel like he’s the guy we want to move forward with.
“We are trying to win a football game, and we feel like along the way here, Daniel Jones has showed us that when he gets his opportunity he is going to play well.”
Shurmur dismissed the notion that if the Giants brought Eli back for a 16th season to play in only two games, perhaps they shouldn’t have brought him back at all.
“I don’t understand that narrative because Daniel Jones is going to have the benefit to start here 14 games, of a guy who is what being a Giant exemplifies - not only as a player, but as a person,” Shurmur said. “He’s going to have the benefit of this guy’s assistance as we go through it. My gut told me it was the right time, but that narrative that you don’t bring Eli back, I think that’s just something for us all to talk about.”
Manning has been a mentor to Jones since the youngster’s arrival and that assistance has intensified this week. Soon after receiving the news yesterday, they retreated to the quarterbacks meeting room and began watching tape of the Buccaneers’ defense.
“As you all would expect, as anyone who knows Eli would expect, he was nothing but supportive of me,” Jones said. “Obviously, I understand the circumstance and it’s a difficult one. But he’s very supportive of me and I can’t say enough about who he is as a person, as a teammate, and he’s been that way since I’ve gotten here. We had that conversation and then we went about our Tuesday preparing and watching film like we have the first two weeks. I’m certainly very grateful and appreciative of his support since I’ve gotten here.
“Through the week, and his help through the preparation, is certainly very valuable to me. In terms of general advice, I think his support and his confidence in me gives me the confidence (that I need).”
Shurmur also rejected the idea that by inserting Jones into the starting lineup, the Giants are focusing more on preparing for the 2020 season than winning in 2019.
“I don’t want to steal somebody else’s phrase, but we are on to playing Tampa Bay and that’s where our focus is, in the 2019 season,” he said. “We all realize there’s a lot of football left to play, and you can see the uncertainty a team faces each week. You get a little juice, you win a football game, who knows what’s going to happen?”
Jones had a stellar three-year career at Duke and an outstanding preseason in which he completed 85.3% of his passes and did not throw an interception. His performance in practice helped convince Shurmur he is ready to be the starter.
“The bulk of his work, in our eyes, happens behind the scenes,” Shurmur said. “Just like the bulk of all of work happens behind the scenes. … I think that’s what we are doing as coaches and as players and then we evaluate it, we put the guys out there and go play.”
Aside from experience, the major difference between the two quarterbacks is that Jones has a greater ability to run. In 36 collegiate games, he rushed for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns. Manning has run for 568 yards and seven touchdowns in 234 NFL games.
“I’m not sure the offense will change substantially,” Jones said. “I think it’ll be what we do, it’ll be what we’ve (practiced) since the spring and what we’re used to. I don’t see it changing a whole lot. We’ve got a good system. We’ve got good players who are used to the system. I think it’ll stay pretty consistent.”
Shurmur was asked if Jones opens up sections of the playbook that were off limits with Eli taking the snaps.
“No, and again you try to run plays against the team you are going to face,” he said. “We did some things against Buffalo that we didn’t take full advantage of that would have helped us win that football game. Every play that goes in, the quarterback that’s running that play has a little bit different interpretation of it. His eyes sometimes go to a place slower or quicker than others. To answer your question, he’s got the ability to run our full offense.”
So then, what can we expect from Daniel Jones, starting quarterback?
“He’s a young, competitive guy that is going to fight,” Shurmur said. “I think he is going to display the toughness, skill and ability that we saw when we drafted him.”
The Giants hope that will be enough to win their first game of the season.