The noise has followed Daniel Jones since the beginning, though he’s tried valiantly to block it out.
There were the fans’ cries of dissatisfaction when he was drafted, and now a turnaround: a desire to see him play as soon as possible. There are the constant questions of his progress and his comfort and his ability to carry this team one day, and in the midst of all of it, Jones has played the good soldier. Amid the noise, he concentrates on his mantra, and that doesn’t change now, as he finally gets a chance to start a game Thursday in the Giants’ preseason finale against the Patriots.
Is he excited?
“Certainly,” he said Monday, before going back to that mantra. “But I don’t think the preparation changes a whole lot.”
Does he want to get the most of this opportunity, given the fact that this might be the last action he sees in a while?
“Like I said, I don’t think the preparation changes for me.”
But does he feel ready? Does he think he can lead this team if sometime this season his number is called?
“There is a lot to work on, but my job is to be prepared.”
So goes the Tao of Jones, who has impressed the Giants both with his progress and his ability to stay above the fray in a volatile environment. This is still Eli Manning’s team, after all, and the Giants' rookie quarterback has remained on message throughout the spring and summer, while consistently impressing on the field. Pat Shurmur lauded Jones’ “steady progress" on Monday, something the head coach has mentioned throughout training camp. In three preseason games, Jones is 25 of 30 passing for 369 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I think it’s important that he goes in and executes well,” Shurmur said of Thursday's game. “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.”
Mistakes are to be expected at this stage, but the focus has been on not making them twice. And though Jones, 22, isn’t exactly the type to sing his own praises, he at least acknowledged on Monday that he’s made strides in that area.
“When I look to where I was at rookie minicamp and OTAs, I think I’ve improved a good bit since then,” Jones 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.”
And things have been going so well for Jones, that even when he screws up lately, it looks good.
Take his final throw of practice on Monday, when Jones gunned it around a collapsing pocket . . . and threw an interception to cornerback Ronald Zamort. As Zamort sprinted, Jones gave chase, knocking into Zamort and forcing the fumble.
OK, not exactly the type of risk you’d want your prized draft pick to take during a training camp practice, but it worked, right?
“Probably not the best idea, but just trying to finish the play,” Jones said, almost smiling. “You hopefully don’t have to be in that situation to begin with, but probably not smart.”
Shurmur looked at it another way.
“He was trying to get the ball out,” Shurmur said. “That’s the reaction of a good football player. Now we obviously don’t want him to get hurt, but yeah, he was trying to get the ball out, which I think he did, didn’t he? It was right over there near you guys [the media]. So, that would have been a really good play.”