One phenomenon that has returned along with fans to training camps this summer is their propensity to watch practices and scrimmages as if they are rooting for one side and not the other. When a wide receiver catches a big touchdown, the play is almost invariably met with loud cheers even though he had to toast a cornerback to make the catch. Conversely, a cornerback can make a terrific interception, and the takeaway elicits groans over the quarterback’s mistake rather than an appreciation for the defender.
That’s life in the NFL.
“I’d say defense wins championships,” Giants safety Xavier McKinney said with a laugh about being on the perceived-to-be villainous side of the ball in such preseason settings. “The game is obviously an offensive game. Obviously, people want to see a lot of touchdowns.”
It’s why Friday night’s Giants Fan Fest at MetLife Stadium, which drew a crowd of about 20,000 for a workout and scrimmage, was in theory about the introduction of a new regime and newish roster early in this new season. But for many who schlepped to the Meadowlands, the reality was it served as a chance to see and judge quarterback Daniel Jones for themselves.
After reading all about his physical status and contract situation since early December, when he last played in this building, and following second-handedly his early struggles in camp for the past two weeks or so, the 2022 version of Jones finally was unveiled in a large public setting.
Defense wins championships, but quarterbacks with less-than-stellar track records win or lose early August scrimmages.
Friday night was a win for Jones. He was 12-for-23 for 112 yards and a touchdown in two offensive possessions against the first-team defense. He certainly got better as the competition moved along, and his night was capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end/fullback Andre Miller. But there were just as many moments early on when he looked shaky, such as his first throw of the night, which very well could have been a pick-6 by Adoree’ Jackson. And some of his completions, including a 28-yarder to Wan’Dale Robinson, likely would have resulted in sacks rather than positive plays in a real game.
Coach Brian Daboll said early in camp that he wanted to see Jones improve each day. On Friday, he said he thought that was accomplished in this hour and a half of action.
“I thought he operated well,” Daboll said. “I’m sure there are plays he would want back, but he did a good job with the decision-making process and made some good throws. But there is certainly a lot to work on.”
“We’re still early in the process,” Jones said before Friday’s event. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re eager to do it. But I’m comfortable and continuing to work to get more comfortable.”
Over the past week, there has been noticeable improvement from Jones and the offense. Touchdown drives have reached the end zone (cheers!), turnovers (and the groans that accompany them) have been drastically reduced, and things generally have looked crisper and smoother.
“I think a lot of it is specific to this offense, to the scheme we are installing and plays we are running,” Jones said when asked where he believes he has made the biggest strides since the start of camp a little more than a week ago. “Personally, you’ve got things you are working on, but I think collectively as a unit in the pass game and the run game, you’re getting on the same page. I’d say from a chemistry standpoint, from an overall understanding of the offense, of seeing things the same way, I think that’s where we’ve made the most progress, and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.”
At this point, it’s what everyone is focusing on.
Notes & quotes: Rookie OL Marcus McKethan injured his right leg and had to be carted off the field, a bad break for him but one that puts the Giants in a more dire situation with their offensive line depth. The Giants signed veteran OL Will Holden before the scrimmage on Friday, adding to a position that has been thinned with two players on PUP and another, Matt Gono, recently leaving the team with what could be a career-ending neck injury. To create room on the roster for Holden, the Giants waived DL Niko Lalos.