Daniel Jones stepped up to the podium after practice today with a fresh grass stain on his pants.
Less than an hour earlier, cornerback Ronald Zamort intercepted his pass to end the two-minute drill for the second units. Jones, who will make his first NFL start on Thursday night, didn't sulk. He "didn't call his parents," as Pat Shurmur likes to say. He did something about it.
With Zamort surrounded by the cavalry as he ran back the pick, Jones crouched into a defensive stance reminiscent of his basketball days. He held his ground, waited for an opening, and took off in the other direction.
"Probably not the best idea, but just trying to finish the play," Jones said afterwards. "You hopefully don't have to be in that situation to begin with, but probably not smart."
Jones, who rushed for 17 touchdowns in his college career and had a 68-yard run last season, chased down Zamort and knocked the ball away as he hit the grass.
"That's the reaction of a good football player," coach Pat Shurmur said. "Now we obviously don't want him to get hurt, but yeah, he was trying to get the ball out."
Jones has stood out this summer not because he has been perfect. In fact, the rookie's best moments have come in the wake of bad ones.
He was seemingly perfect in the preseason opener, when he completed all five of his pass attempts for 67 yards and a touchdown, but Shurmur pointed out in his postgame press conference that he failed to motion the tight end on his first play.
In the second game against the Bears, Jones lost two fumbles but rebounded to lead a pair of scoring drives before halftime.
Last Thursday, he was welcomed to the NFL by Bengals defensive ends Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard, who sandwiched the 6-foot-5, 221-pound quarterback and caused him to fumble. The Giants managed to recover the ball and on the very next play, Jones threw a 27-yard strike to Darius Slayton to set up a first-and-goal that was eventually converted into a touchdown.
"I think I've done some good things, and I've done some bad things," Jones said. "More than anything, I have made progress, I feel like, and that's encouraging to me. When I look to where I was at rookie minicamp and OTAs, I think I've improved a good bit since then. Like I said, I think there are a lot of things to still work on. I am encouraged, but I realize there is still a lot of work to be done."
Thursday night will be another step in the development of the eventual successor to Eli Manning, who will sit out the preseason finale against the Patriots for the fifth year in a row. Shurmur announced Sunday that Jones will start in his place.
"I'm certainly excited, but I don't think the preparation changes a whole lot," Jones said. "I think going through the week we'll do the same things, and I'll certainly do the same things to prepare myself to play, so in these last three games I've obviously known I'm going to play a good bit, so just the same preparation going into this week."
Through three games, Jones has completed 25 of 30 passes (83.3 percent) for 369 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Among quarterbacks who have passed more than six times this preseason, Jones is first in yards per attempt (12.3) and second in passer rating (140.1).
"I think it's important that he goes in and executes well," Shurmur said of the finale. "For the amount of time that he's in there, it'll be good to be on the road, like we were last week against the Bengals. There's a lot to be learned going through how we do the cadence and whatnot. But just steady progress like he's really been doing here for all of camp."
*Rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton has been sidelined again after tweaking the same hamstring that kept him out of the first month of training camp. A fifth-round pick, Slayton made his preseason debut last Thursday in Cincinnati, where he had one catch for 27 yards on the aforementioned Jones throw.
"We'll just see where he's at," Shurmur said. "He's making good progress, so we'll just see how this little thing affects him."
*Wide receiver Golden Tate, who will be sidelined for the first four games while serving an NFL suspension, may have played his last game until Week 5 of the regular season. Shurmur said today there is a chance he will not play Thursday because he is coming out of the concussion protocol.
*After the Giants return from Foxborough, they have less than 48 hours to reduce their active roster to 53 players by the league's deadline of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 31.
"Right now, we really don't have a depth chart, so I wouldn't say who's at the bottom of the roster," Shurmur said of the upcoming decisions. "I will say this. We sort of know who's at the top of the roster. Everybody beyond that, and especially all of the guys that play in Thursday's game, certainly have a chance to impress us in a way where they can make our football team. I think that's still where we're at roster wise. We have a lot of guys competing for the 53 spots."