Don’t tell Daniel Jones he was perfect.
He may have been 5-for-5 in his preseason debut. He may have zipped his first career touchdown pass into the hands of Bennie Fowler III in the corner of the end zone. He may have had an unblemished passer rating of 158.3 in the Giants’ 31-22 win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
But that first play?
He forgot to send the tight end in motion to aid in the protection.
“I missed that,” Jones said with a smile. “Luckily, Wayne [Gallman, the running back] stepped up and went on the defensive end and gave me some time. I was thinking. I just missed that.”
There weren’t many other misses. About the only flaw in Jones’ night was that it was too short. He likely would have played longer had the game not been delayed for about an hour by lightning just as he was preparing to take the field for his second drive.
Jones put forth a dynamite debut, leading the Giants on a crisp, efficient touchdown drive against what was mostly the second-team Jets defense. He completed all five passes on the drive for 67 yards, including a dart to Golden Tate on a slant, a 31-yard gain to Cody Latimer, and a 12-yard TD pass to Fowler.
Jones had never set foot on the field at MetLife Stadium before Thursday night. When he did so in his uniform for the first time, he was met by cheers at the Giants’ home game. That reaction was far different from the shocked surprise that accompanied his selection as the sixth overall pick in April, or the boos he heard when introduced at a Yankees game this summer.
And that was before he completed a pass.
The eight-play, 79-yard drive stood in stark contrast with the three-and-out that starting quarterback Eli Manning headed on the opening possession.
Was it enough to spark a quarterback controversy for the Giants? Probably not.
They already have promised the starting job to Manning as he enters his 16th season with them and have dangled the prospect of playing Jones only as an incentive to spur Manning to a quick start to the season. Manning has taken every first-team rep in training camp this season, with Jones working with the backups, and the Giants trust him.
But it certainly made the gap between the two seem much smaller than it had seemed in practices.
More importantly than impressing a fan base that had been fretting over the draft choice since April, Jones showed his teammates what he is capable of. Many had never been in a huddle with him before Thursday night. Jones had run exclusively with the second-teamers in training camp.
“He made some great throws, he made some great decisions,” starting guard Kevin Zeitler said. “Good first drive. About as good as you want it to be.”
Added left tackle Nate Solder: “I thought he did a great job and has been doing a great job. It’s a preseason game and what can you take from it? I don’t know. But you’d rather have good than bad, so that’s excellent.”
The linemen were new to Jones. The receivers? They’ve been working on their relationship with the rookie quarterback all summer. Especially Fowler.
He said he knew Jones would be just fine when he entered the huddle for his first drive and greeted him with a quirky phrase that the two share regularly (and which he and Jones refused to share publicly).
“I didn’t think he had any jitters once he said what he said to me,” Fowler said. “I knew he was ready to go.”
Maybe too ready. Jones tried to break his first huddle prematurely, calling the play and sending his teammates to their assignments while the broadcast of the game was still in a commercial break. A minor false start.
“That was something to learn from,” said Jones, who apparently keeps a keen eye for such imperfections.
Those are the micro matters that can easily be fixed. In terms of the macro, Jones seemed as if he fit in with the Giants, well, perfectly.
“None of it surprised me,” Fowler said. “He was poised, calm, confident. That’s the way he’s been since he got here in OTAs. I’m very happy for his success. It’s just the start.”