How Daniel Jones is Staying Ahead of the Curve in an Unusual Off-season
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones’ NFL career hasn’t exactly unfolded according to a script many thought it would take.
Jones, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft, figured he would come into camp and learn everything he could from veteran Eli Manning. Then, when the time was right, take charge of the Giants’ offense.
Unexpectedly, former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur decided that the time was right to turn to Jones after just two regular-season games in which the Giants got off to an 0-2 start.
While Jones handled what was thrown at him as best as possible, now that he’s had a chance to get a full off-season under his belt, the hope is that his sophomore NFL season will run a lot smoother.
“I think going into last year, my expectations were to come in and try to learn as much football as I could,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Late Hits hosts Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt Monday night.
“I wasn't sure when I’d play, but I knew I needed to come in and learn and try to end the respect the guys on the team.”
Jones got off to a good start in that regard, winning his first-ever NFL start during a Week 3 game against the Bucs. But while his rookie season was mostly encouraging, there were still some glaring concerns, most notably his ball security and what appeared to be a lack of awareness of pressure while int he pocket.
Jones, who has been working to address all aspects of his game, finally gets a chance to go through a full NFL off-season this year in which he knows where he’s going to be.
However, whereas his second season should be one where things are familiar, the global COVID-19 pandemic combined with the Giants hiring a new coaching staff has created almost just as much unrest for Jones as he prepares for Year 2.
“Yeah, (this off-season) has been different with all these adjustments we've had to make through this pandemic and figuring out how we're going to do it,” he said.
Under NFL rules, players aren’t allowed to talk football with their coaches until the start of the off-season program. During that period, Jones was in Charlotte working with Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe on improving his game.
“I made it down to Duke (in January), and a couple of our receivers came down,” Jones said. “We watched film, and we're on the field for a good portion of that, talking through things and working together.
“One of the things I've tried to focus on this off-season is my ball security and my ball carriage in the pocket. So that was a topic of conversation for us, and you know, just being more mindful of that being more you know, intentional on how you hold the ball and how you secure the ball.”
But just as restrictions on the NFL calendar were about to end to where players could begin working with their NFL coaching staffs, the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.
Jones, who in addition to his work with the Giants coaching staff had also planned to do additional work with Cutcliffe, has since been working out with a former Duke football player, Anthony Boone, who played for Cutcliffe at Duke and who has picked up in his tutoring of the young signal-caller where Cutcliffe left off.
“We talked through and worked through with Coach Cut early on this off-season, trying to try and work on ball security, trying to be mindful of that,” Jones said of his work done with Boone. “I'm also working on a number of other things and trying to get better in every area I can.”
The workouts have been the easy part. Learning the Giants' new offense being installed by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, which head coach joe Judge said was different than what the Giants ran last year under Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula, has been a little more challenging than usual.
“I’m trying to adjust to what we're having to do, trying to learn this new system as well as I can pick it up as quick as I can and as efficient as I can,” Jones said, adding that Garrett's system is in no way similar to what the Giants ran last year under Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula.
One of the biggest adjustments for Jones to pick up in the new offense has been the level of detail.
“You can tell (Garrett) is a guy who wants—not just the quarterbacks but, but every position—to understand why we're doing things, the purpose behind them, behind each play, each concept and the details that go into that,” Jones said.
Ultimately, Jones, like everyone else in the NFL, is hoping that pandemic-related restrictions ease so that the critical on-field work can resume, even if it’s before teams are scheduled to report to training camp.
“Yeah, we'd certainly like to get together at some point if we can. I think you know, it's tough right now, but we're trying to hopefully work to that at some point,” he said.
“But obviously everyone's dealing with, with this pandemic right now, we're all trying to find ways to, to work and to improve you know, on our own. So when we do get together, make the most of it.”