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Can Daniel Jones push Eli Manning enough to keep Giants quarterback competition questions going?

Giants quarterbacks Daniel Jones, left, and Eli Manning

Giants quarterbacks Daniel Jones, left, and Eli Manning on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 8, 2019. Photo Credit: Brad Penner

Maybe Daniel Jones was a little too perfect in his preseason debut.

Had he thrown an incompletion or two against the Jets, had the weather delay not limited him to one scintillating drive, had he flashed some brilliance but also made some glaring rookie mistakes, it would have been easy to make all the pieces fit together in the Giants’ quarterback jigsaw puzzle. Sure, Jones has potential and promise, but he’s still green and clearly is slotted to be the backup.

Instead, Jones was 5-for-5, looked decisive and aggressive, threw a touchdown pass to cap an efficient drive, and left fans and observers wondering what the right decision at the most important position on the field should be when the regular season begins in less than a month.

Which is why, several times on a conference call on Friday, coach Pat Shurmur was forced to quell any notion that his team is considering a quarterback competition for this preseason. He kept going back to three words to hammer that home:

“Nothing has changed.”

Hasn’t it, though? Because to the outside world, it looked as if it did with that brief glimpse of Jones in action.

“This was the first game,” Shurmur said. “I expect Daniel to play well. I expect him to go out and improve and for the people who don’t know him, impress them. That’s what we expect from him. We expect that from Eli. We expect it from everybody. Our expectations for him have not changed, and in my mind, our situation has not changed.”

It is, however, developing. Just as Jones appears to be.

“Keep playing, keep improving,” Shurmur said of Jones moving forward. “I’ve said it all along: As well as he’s been trained in college, there have been many things that he’s doing for the very first time and those are things that need to get repped in both practice and in games . . . Try to expose him to more and more things. I’d like to see him at some point get into a two-minute drive, some of the things that you’re going to see as you play a full game.”

When asked if he will sit Eli Manning in the second preseason game as he did last summer, Shurmur gave a strong “Nope.” Asked why he played Manning at all on Thursday when healthy scratches such as Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram did not, Shurmur said: “He’s our starter. I think it’s important that he played to some degree.”

Even just the three plays, two of which were handoffs? “The idea was not to go three-and-out,” he said.

Clearly. Yet the Giants did.

So is Manning definitely going to start against the Cowboys on Sept. 8?

“In my mind, we’re getting everybody ready to play and our situation here hasn’t changed,” Shurmur said, leaving just enough room in case Jones’ perfect night becomes more than simply a brilliant debut.

As long as Jones keeps pushing, keeps improving, keeps playing the way he did on Thursday, the questions about who will start the season at quarterback will not go away. That might lead to more awkward or even contentious exchanges between Shurmur and the media.

Ultimately, though, it would be a very good thing for the Giants and their future.

Notes & quotes: Shurmur said LB Alec Ogletree (calf) and RB Wayne Gallman (foot) suffered strains in the game that will be monitored. RB Jon Hilliman suffered a concussion . . . Shurmur said WR Darius Slayton, CB Grant Haley and T Chad Wheeler are close to returning . . . The Giants will return to practice on Sunday.

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