Daniel Jones took the shotgun snap midway through Wednesday’s first practice of Giants training camp, looked to his right, and threw the football high into the corner of the end zone, where Kadarius Toney made an acrobatic grab for a touchdown. Everyone was thrilled, including coach Brian Daboll, who sprinted onto the field to join the celebration.
Two plays later another shotgun snap, another look right, another pass to the end zone. This time, though, cornerback Darnay Holmes stepped in front of it before Saquon Barkley could make the catch. Interception.
Daboll wasn’t celebrating that one, though defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and the rest of the secondary certainly seemed to enjoy it.
It is the juxtaposition of such plays, not just in this early dawn of this preseason but over the last three seasons, that makes it so hard to evaluate Jones as a quarterback. It’s why as he enters his fourth year the Giants still have no real idea what he is, what he can be, and what they will do with him.
At some point this season, though, they’ll have those answers. They’ll have to.
Jones is in the final year of his contract and as the next few months play out his place with the organization will ideally become clear based on what he does on the field. The more plays he makes, like the touchdown pass to Toney on Wednesday, the more likely it is he’ll return in 2023 and beyond. The more picks he throws, like the one to Holmes, the more likely the Giants will move on and find someone else to play the position.
Every snap he plays — in practice and games — will be placed on a slide under a microscope for in-depth study. Every snap on Wednesday certainly was. Given the small sample size of the first workout of the summer, these ones in particular seemed to carry a lot of weight. But the team’s decision-makers insist they will not draw their conclusions based on any single day’s work . . . certainly not this one.
“We’re at Day One here,” general manager Joe Schoen laughed when asked about the rubric he’ll use to make an eventual call on Jones. “Right now it’s just about building continuity with the guys who were missing reps in the spring, him coming out and executing the offense . . . We look forward to seeing him get better each day.”
More important, determining whether he does get better each day. Each week. Each month. Until the season is over and the offseason decisions can be made.
Jones is still learning the offense installed by Daboll, Schoen added. It will take time for him to master all of the checks and motions and complicated jiggering that it utilizes. That process, too, is being watched closely.
“You teach, they go out there and have to perform, and then you evaluate them,” Daboll said. “There are mistakes in every practice and mistakes in every game and you keep a cool, calm head, correct them, then let them go out there and do it again.”
Jones knows all of this, perhaps even better than he knows the complicated playbook at this point.
“My approach is the same [as it has been in previous years], to come in and make sure I’m prepared as well as I can be, trust that, and go play,” he said after practice. “My focus is to prepare as well as I can and to win games. That’s all I can focus on and that’s going to lead to the best results. If I do those things the rest of it will take care of itself.”
It will take a while for the Giants’ new management to make a determination on what that path looks like. It’s a long-term process that will progress just as Wednesday’s practice did: one touchdown at a time, one interception at a time.
Notes & quotes: Jones said Toney’s touchdown grab over defensive back Aaron Robinson was “a heck of a catch.” After not scoring a touchdown and battling through injuries as a rookie, Toney had perhaps the most productive and impressive practice of his career. “That’s what he can do as an athlete,” Jones said. “He brings that element to our offense . . . It’ll be huge to have him healthy and out there practicing and playing. He’s in a good spot, I think mentally he knows the offense, he did a good job this spring staying locked into what is going on, and I’m excited to continue to grow in this offense with him and with the whole group.”