If we have learned anything over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s how quickly circumstances can change.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones understands this fact as well as anyone. In a year’s time, he has transitioned from being an NFL rookie learning under Eli Manning to the second-year leader of a team that is trying to adjust to the system of a new head coach under never-before-seen circumstances.
But Jones, having perhaps already learned how to maintain a calm demeanor from Manning, has remained level-headed and focused heading into the 2020 season.
“I’m trying to learn this new system as quick as I can, as efficiently as I can even though we’re not allowed in the facilities right now,” Jones said on SiriusXM NFL Radio Monday night with Gil Brandt and Alex Marvez. “To say it’s similar to last year would be, uh ... in no case is it at all similar.”
Jones started 12 games for the Giants in his rookie campaign. He threw 284 completions of 459 attempts for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also recorded 12 interceptions and was sacked 38 times.
Though Jones is the first to admit that he has areas of his play that can be improved upon - he called 2019 an “up and down season,” he continues to feel lucky to have been able to learn from Manning during his first year in the league.
“To be able to go in and sit next to Eli in the meeting room every day, to watch him prepare, practice,” Jones began. “I’m not sure there could have been a better way for a young quarterback to learn. You have a guy that is a legend of the game, but also a genuine, really good guy who would answer any questions that I had. I can’t thank him enough. Being able to watch him every day was the most valuable piece of what I learned through it all.”
Jones hopes that the lessons he learned from Manning continue to stick with him as he prepares for his second year. He went back to Duke at the end of January to work out with his former head coach, David Cutler. After surrendering 18 fumbles (11 lost) last season, Jones said that a point of emphasis for him this offseason has been protecting the ball.
“One of the things I’ve tried to focus on this offseason is my ball security, so that was a topic of conversation for us,” Jones said. “Being more intentional on how you hold the ball and secure the ball.”
In addition to improving on certain weaknesses, Jones is also using the offseason to learn a new system under head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
“Coach Judge is talking constantly about the opportunity this can be for us to make progress and get ahead if we’re using our time as valuably as we can,” Jones said. “I think guys are responding to his message and his sense of urgency. I think we’re making the most of it.”
And from Garrett, Jones has learned more about the intricate details that make up an offense.
“He wants every position to understand why we’re doing things and the purpose behind each concept,” Jones said.
One can only expect that the Giants new offense will feature more plays between Jones and breakout wide receiver Darius Slayton, who recorded 48 receptions for 740 yards last season. Slayton made his NFL debut in Week 3 of the 2019 season - the same game in which Jones made his first career start.
“He showed up time and time again making big plays,” Jones said of Slayton. “We were together from rookie training camp to minicamp on into the season, so we developed that chemistry. He has all the tools that you look for at the receiver position. I’m excited to continue to grow with him”
As a whole, Jones insists that there continues to be a great energy amongst the Giants despite the distance apart.
“I think when you look across the board, we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” Jones said. “I’m excited to get back to football hopefully pretty soon.”