CINCINNATI — The Giants have spent most of the summer with a told-ya-so grin after being lambasted for their selection of Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. And after each preseason game, it seems, questions tinged with surprise about Jones’ abilities or characteristics are brought to Pat Shurmur.
Thursday night was no exception.
"You can ask me all you want about why I like him,” Shurmur said in response to this particular round of queries. “I think it’s time to start asking the people that didn’t like him what they think, quite frankly.”
There are plenty of those. Though they may be dwindling with each successive display by the rookie quarterback. These preseason games have each felt like a tutorial that allows the rest of the world to catch up on what the Giants saw in Jones when they made the draft pick.
Midway through the second quarter of Thursday night’s 25-23 preseason win over the Bengals, Jones was hammered from behind while dropping back to throw a pass. Linebacker Carl Lawson beat starting left tackle Nate Solder and rammed Jones just as he was readying to uncork his throw. The hit thrust Jones forward into a second Bengals defender as the ball sprung loose and squirted away from the line of scrimmage.
Heads-up receiver Brittan Golden recovered the fumble for the Giants, but Jones was on his feet from the clobbering before the play was even resolved. The Giants called a timeout before the next snap to avoid a delay of game penalty, but when they returned to action Jones dropped what has become a routinely perfectly-placed pass into the hands of fellow rookie Darius Slayton for a 27-yard gain to the 1.
Two plays later running back Rod Smith scored on a 1-yard run to give the Giants a 10-7 lead with 6:22 left in the half.
“That was awesome, but we’re hoping that’s the last time it happens,” RT Mike Remmers said of Jones’ reaction to getting drilled. “He’s a fighter. He’s a great quarterback and a fighter. That was big time there.”
It was the second preseason game in a row that Jones has shown the ability to overcome some sort of obstacle. Last week against the Bears he fumbled twice before leading a touchdown drive to illustrate his mental toughness. This time he took the blast from behind and on the very next play threw a gem of a ball to show his toughness toughness.
Physical grit is, of course, a big element of any position in the NFL, even one like quarterback where the rules wrap those players in a cocoon of comfort. It’s something that the Giants have enjoyed during just about all of Eli Manning’s tenure with the team. His ability to absorb hits and just get up, straighten his shoulder pads, and go back to work, has been a cornerstone of their successes in the past decade and a half. Whether it was not missing starts with shoulder or foot injuries that should have landed him on the sideline, or getting pummeled in the mud in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers only to lead the Giants to a Super Bowl, one of Manning’s greatest assets has always been his somewhat understated physical toughness.
Now, it seems, his successor may have that same gene.
It’s just another in a long list of ways that Jones seems to be a clone of Manning’s.
Jones played four series in the first half, the last one cut short by halftime. He completed 9 of his 11 passes for 141 yards. One of his incompletions came on a fourth-own conversion attempt.
Jones’s best throw of the night may have come just before the hit. He looked left, pumped left, then came back to the right and zipped a 35-yard completion to Brittan Golden to bring the Giants to the 22.
Manning started and led the Giants on a 15-play, 66-yard opening drive for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. He was 4-for-8 for 41 yards before handing the starting group over to Jones.
This week’s episode of “What Have We Learned About Eli Manning?” was, in other words, another rerun. New ones will air in September. But that’s fine. The spinoff has been more entertaining this summer anyway. Maybe even enough to make a push for the starting job. The Giants have seemed committed to Manning as their starter all summer, but Shurmur suggested on Thursday that Sept. 8 could be a big one for Jones as well.
“Daniel, when it’s his time, he’s going to be ready,” Shurmur said. “We’re going to continue to get him ready and we’ve got a couple weeks left before we play Dallas.”
Notes & quotes: Tight end Evan Engram made his preseason debut and caught a 9-yard screen pass from Manning on the opening drive … Offensive guard Will Hernandez had a rough night and was flagged for three penalties, though two were declined … Smith left the game with a groin injury immediately after scoring on the 1-yard touchdown run … Rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine started in place of DeAndre Baker and had a nice pass break-up on the opening drive … Rookie linebacker Oshane Ximines had two sacks in the first half to give him three in the preseason ... Golden returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.