After a week of often heated debate over Daniel Jones the draft pick, Friday brings a new topic to publicly analyze and discuss.
Daniel Jones the player.
The quarterback from Duke, selected sixth overall in last week’s draft by the Giants, will make his on-field debut at rookie minicamp on Friday. From here on out, Jones and the draft capital used to pick him will be judged by football performance and not by banter over who would have drafted him where or what other quarterbacks made sense for the Giants in this year’s draft. Or last year’s. Or next year’s.
The Giants made their choice. Now it’s up to Jones to prove them right or wrong.
That begins with a baby step. The draft picks, undrafted free agents, tryouts, and a few other more experienced players reported to rookie minicamp on Thursday for orientation and their first meetings. That served as their introduction to the playbook and Giants culture… not to mention directions on getting to the cafeteria or restroom. On Friday afternoon, Jones will lead the Giants onto the field for their first practice.
“We're just going to get him started, put him through the paces,” Pat Shurmur said of his plan for the quarterback-of-the-future’s first days. “I think every time they go on the field, you want them to execute what we've given him to do that day, and so we'll start at square one with him and get him up and running and see how far he can take it and how quickly he can learn it. Our anticipation is he's going to learn quickly, and we've seen that he can perform at a high level.”
The bar for an opening number was not set very high by his predecessor (and current teammate). The last time the Giants had a first-round quarterback at rookie minicamp, Eli Manning was so awful that his errant passes hit more blocking pads than receivers. John Mara, co-owner of the team, says he came away from that workout nauseated by the idea that the franchise had made a terrible mistake.
Jones is unlikely to have as rough a time.
“It's just got to look like good football,” Shurmur said of his expectations. “That [means] make good decisions, throw on time, be accurate, execute well, be smart with the football. All the things you're looking for on Sunday, you want to see it in practice.”
Jones isn’t the only rookie the Giants and observers at the minicamp will be watching closely. There are 10 draft picks, and nine of them will be in attendance (Corey Ballentine, the sixth-rounder who was shot outside a party in Topeka hours after he was selected, will remain home to attend the funeral of friend and teammate Dwane Simmons who was killed in the same shooting incident). There are tryouts who are fighting for a job, either immediately or down the road. There are undrafted free agents who are taking their first leaps on the long journey to make the team in September.
All of them, though, will be circling around Jones at the center of attention.
The Giants drafted him so that he could learn from Manning how to be a professional football player and NFL quarterback before taking over the job from him. Ironically, he’ll make this debut without Manning around to guide him. The rookies and veterans don’t mingle for another two weeks. So this weekend, the Giants, as they are on the field, will be Jones’ team to run. Just like the Giants hope it will be in a year or more with the full roster.
For now, though, the Giants just want to see him function.
“You give him a little bit at a time,” Shurmur said. “As time goes on, it builds up, and you just hope he builds on that.”