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Daniel Jones’ sizzling start should breed optimism for the future

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Reality is, though, that the future is still not now

NFL: Preseason-New York Jets at New York Giants
Bennie Fowler and Daniel Jones celebrate after hooking up for a touchdown pass.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Five throws.

Five complete, enticing, tantalizing throws, ending with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Bennie Fowler. That’s all it took from rookie quarterback Daniel Jones on Thursday night to make Giants fans, and some in the media, swoon. And for the hyperbole to start.

Can the inevitable quarterback controversy be far behind?

Coach Pat Shurmur was asked after the game what he would say to excited Giants’ fans already dreaming of Jones taking over from Eli Manning.

“Slow your roll. This is just his first go-round,” Shurmur said. “I think he did a good job. As I mentioned all along he’s done nothing to disappoint us. Certainly when you take a team down the field and score a touchdown it’s a good start. Something good to build on.

“We’ve got a lot of time before we start playing games. Nothing at this point has changed.”

By “nothing at this point has changed,” Shurmur, of course, meant there is no competition at quarterback. Eli Manning is the starter.

Still, there was no denying the impression Jones made. The electricity among the sparse crowd changed as soon as Jones completed his first pass, a quick hitter to Cody Latimer. By the time Jones hit Fowler for a touchdown, Twitter had, if not fallen into full bloom love with the rookie from Duke, worked itself into a frenzy.

“I thought it went well,” Jones said. “It was good to move the ball down the field and score, so as far as expectations, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just wanted to play well and glad we were able to move the ball and execute.”

Jones has consistently said the questioning of his selection by many analysts and fans is something he has not paid much attention to. Asked about “opening eyes” around the league with his play Thursday, Jones deflected.

“I don’t know, I’m not sure I thought about opening eyes, just trying to go out and play the best I can for these guys in the locker room and trying to do my job with everyone else doing their job,” Jones said. “If it works, we score points. I don’t know how that’s seen outside the locker room.”

Jones justifiably wore a huge smile after the game, but said the praise won’t affect him any more than the criticism of his selection has. Nor will he make waves about taking Manning’s job.

“I think I will just continue to do what my job is, and that’s to do what I can to prepare myself to improve as much as I can every day,” Jones said. “I trust the plan and I’m a part of this team and I’m trying to make sure we are in the best position to win games this year. I try to do that the best I can.”

Having watched Jones in practice since rookie mini-camp, the fact that he was successful on Thursday night was no surprise. As I said in a previous post on Jones, he has looked like a professional quarterback and shown the ability to make every throw right from the beginning.

Jones’ play didn’t surprise Shurmur, either.

“There weren’t any incompletions. I’d say that’s a pretty good job,” Shurmur said. “He’s been checking off the boxes as we’ve went along. It seems to be surprising to people outside our building, but it’s not to us. I keep saying that. We’ll just see how far he takes this. But with regard to what’s going on, nothing has changed.”

The post-game locker room scene was unlike anything I have seen in the time I have covered the Giants. There was a mob around a quarterback, but that quarterback wasn’t Eli Manning. The 16-year veteran, who lockers just a couple of stalls away from Jones, was nowhere to be seen as a mob of cameras, cell phones, digital recorders and notebooks descended upon Jones.

The rookie was the story of the night. Period.

Here is part of what I wrote pre-game regarding expectations for Jones’ debut:

... if Jones plays well that doesn’t mean he should be anointed as a star and Eli Manning should immediately be sent to the bench. Conversely, if he plays poorly that doesn’t mean the Giants made a mistake taking him No. 6 overall, he should be labeled a bust, and the Giants should immediately begin planning to dip back into the quarterback pool in the 2020 NFL Draft.

What am I looking for from Jones?

I’m not looking for him to set the world on fire. I am looking for the young man to simply look like an NFL quarterback. I want to see that the stage doesn’t look too big. That he doesn’t look overwhelmed or in over his head. I want to see him make some NFL caliber throws and perhaps use his athleticism once or twice to make plays with his feet.

Jones did sort of set the world on fire. At least the Twitter world. Want to go off the deep end with your hyperbole? Maybe you think Jones brought the thunder, lightning and torrential rain that caused a 59-minute delay and perhaps ended his night prematurely. Maybe you believe God wanted Jones to end his night with perfect numbers.

The fan base — and some in the media — did sort of go off the deep end with the Jones love in the immediate aftermath.

At least one of his teammates was duly impressed.

“I think he did an unbelievable job, understanding the offense, reading the defense, putting the ball where it needed to be,” said Saquon Barkley, who was only a spectator on this night. “He did an amazing job of going down and putting points on the board.”

Our own Mark Schofield was already busy breaking down the five throws Jones made before the lightning had subsided at MetLife Stadium. Read his full report to relive each throw, but here is the intentionally hyperbolic part of Schofield’s writing — which I remind you comes from a person who wasn’t high on Jones prior to the draft:

The Era of Unbridled Optimism is upon us.

After a tumultuous draft season that saw the New York Giants turn some heads by selecting Daniel Jones with the sixth overall selection, Jones finally got a chance to take the field under the bright lights of an NFL stage on Thursday night. Much was made of the decision to select the Duke University product that early in the draft, including some questions raised by yours truly. But on his opening drive as an NFL player, Jones for one night pushed back the storm clouds that were hanging over this franchise.

Jones completed his first five throws, finishing his opening drive five of five for 67 yards and a beautiful touchdown throw to Bennie Fowler for a touchdown, capping off a great series of plays. Let’s look at each of those throws, and bask in the warm glow of potential.

As I wrote Thursday morning, let’s not start sizing Jones for a Hall of Fame jacket after five throws in his first preseason game. Let’s not write off Manning after a three-and-out that included a head-scratching 2-yard dump off to Scott Simonson when Rhett Ellison was running wide open 20-25 yards down the field.

Jones will hit bumps in the road. One perfect preseason drive does not make a career. I can’t stop anyone from expressing the belief that the Jones era needs to start sooner than it actually will. Like now.

What I will say is that Giants fans should simply be happy that Jones is off to a good start, and that this was the first of what you have to hope will be many signs that Dave Gettleman was right to stake his legacy on this unheralded young man from Duke.