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Valentine’s Views: Rookie mini-camp impressions — Daniel Jones off to good start

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A few thoughts after seeing Giants’ rookies for a couple of days

NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp
Daniel Jones throws during rookie mini-camp on Saturday.
Sarah Stier-USA TODAY Sports

A few impressions for you after spending a couple of days watching New York Giants’ rookies go through their paces at mini-camp.

A good weekend for Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones
Ed Valentine [Big Blue View]

Some thoughts on Daniel Jones’ first weekend as the Giants’ quarterback of the future.

I don’t know how good or bad of a quarterback Jones will be. I am not even going to begin trying to judge that after two practices in shorts and t-shirts while throwing mostly to guys who won’t be NFL players just hours after getting his playbook. I do know that I thought Jones got off to a good start this weekend.

The media doesn’t seem to faze him. Jones was relaxed and smooth in front of the cameras. He is obviously already skilled at giving Eli Manning-esque non-answer answers when he’s asked something he would prefer to deflect. I loved his answers to a couple of questions about the scrutiny he is, and will always be, under.

Asked before the first practice about the raging debate over the Giants using the No. 6 overall pick on him, he said this:

“It would be hard to be completely unaware of a lot of that stuff and the way it works. I don’t focus on it. There is a lot to focus on and a lot to learn right now. Being here, learning the offense and trying to pick up a bunch of stuff. I am not sure I can really afford to focus on a lot of that stuff.”

Sunday, asked if he paid any attention to the various media critiques of his Saturday performance, he said this:

“No, I didn’t. I got up, got over here and opened up the second install. That’s what I needed to do.”

He was functional on the field. As should have been expected, things weren’t perfect on the field during the two practices we saw. Jones threw an interception Saturday, which was more a nice play by 30th overall pick DeAndre Baker than a bad ball by Jones. He did throw an awful ball right into the hands of linebacker Ryan Connelly in the flat — that Connelly dropped. He made some terrific throws, too. Mostly, to be honest, it looked normal. There were no dropped snaps and no throws that made you think “the Giants drafted this guy No. 6?” Pat Shurmur said he wanted players to be able to “function” during the mini-camp, and Jones did that.

He seems to have enough arm strength. I’m not Mark Schofield, Matt Waldman or a professional scout. Watching Jones for two days, though, it looks to me like he has enough arm to make every throw. He threw two beautiful deep balls down the middle, one Friday to Darius Slayton (that was dropped) and one Saturday to someone named Neheri Crawford. He looked fine throwing the out route. He had plenty of zip on some short throws into tight windows. He’s not Patrick Mahomes, but how many guys are?

He passed the ‘don’t blame his teammates’ test. One of the great characteristics about Manning is that for 15 years he has deflected blame from his teammates, even when they deserved it. As the quarterback and leader, Manning has always fallen on his sword, always taken blame even when it doesn’t belong to him.

Slayton dropped at least four Jones’ passes on Friday. Here is what Jones said when he was asked if he had talked to Slayton about his rough day:

“Yeah, I thought he did a lot of good things on the field. He definitely made some plays. You can see his speed on the field, you can feel that. I thought for everyone it was a good first day and we were all probably a little up and down. That’s the challenge on the second day, is making sure we are more consistent.

“I certainly made some mistakes there, too. I gotta protect him.”

His teammates will love Jones for giving answers like that.

He will work at his craft. After Saturday’s practice, Jones was still on the field with a couple of receivers, appearing to work through a couple of routes he may not have been happy with during the workout.

“This is the way Daniel operates,” Shurmur said. “I can see during the practices, a route doesn’t get completed he’s kinda clicking it off in his brain ‘OK, I’m gonna get that later.’ Really good quarterbacks are perfectionists, and he’s out there maybe trying to get some of the things that didn’t get completed in practice.”

He will be respectful of Manning. There is a transition that is going to take place with the Giants. Jones will eventually be the quarterback, and Manning will be pushed to the bench and — at some point — out the door. That’s not going to take three years. Depending how the season plays out it might not take one. Along the way, Jones will play the part of appreciative apprentice.

“I think the first thing that I have thought is to understand how awesome it is to have a guy like Eli. Keeping that in mind and making sure that every day I am learning from him,” Jones said. “Also, focusing on improving myself, which is a big part of that process as well. It is a huge opportunity to learn and I am certainly mindful of that. I am looking forward to learning.”

He was also asked whether he would have preferred to land in a place where he would have been expected to play immediately.

“I wanted to be in New York. I think through the process this is the place I wanted to be,” Jones said. “I think I connected with the staff and really enjoyed my time with them. I haven’t thought about that a whole lot. I wanted to be here, so I was thrilled.”

Other draft picks

As I said about Jones, it is really impossible at this point to make any real judgments about these young players. That said, a couple of brief thoughts.

  • Dexter Lawrence is a mountain of a man with a ton of confidence in his ability to be more than just a run defender. [5 questions with Shakin The Southland]
  • DeAndre Baker wants everyone to make sure they capitalize the ‘A’ in his first name. A member of the Giants’ PR staff stopped by the media room Saturday morning to make sure we knew that. Pat Shurmur doesn’t care about that. What Shurmur cares about is that Baker “is a very, very competitive guy. And he’s got ball production. He just has a feel when the ball in in the air of making plays.”
  • Julian Love was used outside, in the slot and at free safety during mini-camp.

“He’s (Love) more an interior guy, safety type, who can play outside. DeAndre is an outside corner who can play inside,” Shurmur said.

  • It was easy to pick on Darius Slayton for his four drops on Saturday. When Jones says, though, that you can “feel” Slayton’s speed you understand why the Giants are giving him a chance.

I just have to point out that when I tweeted on Friday about Slayton’s drops, this response made me laugh:

Undrafted free agents

There are always a few of these guys who emerge and land on either the 53-man roster or practice squad. In settings like Friday and Saturday it is virtually impossible to judge line play. One thing you do get a good look at is the work of the receivers.

It is readily apparent that the Giants like Reggie White Jr. (Monmouth). And, sure, go ahead and make jokes about him wearing the 13 jersey formerly used by Odell Beckham Jr. during the mini-camp. White, though, is a player to watch.

“We felt like he had the skill and ability to be an NFL player,” Shurmur said of why the Giants signed the record-setting wide receiver. “He runs good routes. He catches the ball well, and he’s got pretty good instincts. He’s smart. I can see just in the couple of sessions we’ve had here that he’ll be able to pick it up.”

A few things to read

  • I have enjoyed getting to know a little about George Asafo-Adjei. In you haven’t read it yet, you’ll learn to root for the young man once you read this post about the rookie offensive tackle.
  • Agree with him or not, I thought it was really valuable to hear from former Minnesota Vikings GM Jeff Diamond. He’s been in the chair Dave Gettleman now occupies, albeit with a different organization, and faced those difficult decisions.
  • Lots of good response to this weekend’s BBV Mailbag. Give it a read if you haven’t already.