Daniel Jones stood out. He was impossible to miss.
There he was, his “no contact” jersey looking like a red dot at the center of a mass of blue and white, breaking down the team huddle before Friday night’s team scrimmage at gray and empty MetLife Stadium. Sometimes quarterbacks do this, but usually they do not. And they almost never did it around the Giants when Eli Manning was in the drivers’ seat.
Manning preferred to stand on the fringe of the amped huddle, looking very ready to get to the sideline and concentrate on the task at hand. Jones is going to be different. He already is.
“It was just an opportunity to get the guys together,’’ Jones said, breaking into a little laugh. “Getting everybody fired up and ready to go. It was the first opportunity to be here in the stadium. We had uniforms on and the simulation of a game, so I think guys were excited and just wanted to kind of continue that excitement and add to it if I could.’’
This was a strange deal. With the roster divided into Blue (offense) and White (defense), Jones’ attempt to pump up everyone meant he was also, inadvertently, trying to light a fire in the guys who wanted to disrupt his flow.
“Yeah, it was a weird dynamic,’’ Jones said. “You’re also hyping up your opponent.’’
Jones will not be asked to say a few words to the Steelers the night of Sept. 14. He has to hope his teammates can keep the Pittsburgh pass rushers off his back with greater efficiency than the way Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden infiltrated the pocket in the scrimmage.
Jones in five offensive series managed to produce only one field goal. His unofficial totals — 8-for-11 for 88 yards — also included five sacks in the one half he played. Other than hitting Darius Slayton on a 41-yard completion, there was not much there.
“Each of those plays, each of those situations in the first half are something we’re going to look at specifically and individually,’’ Jones said. “To kind of look broadly at a half overall and come to a sweeping, generalized statement about that, I don’t think that’s going to be helpful for our progress moving forward. As a team, as an offense, we’ll look to narrow in on certain situations and look to improve those. Also, we do the same thing in my evaluation of my play.’’
Coach Joe Judge says the way Jones comes to work, the way he practices and prepares and how he performs in competitive situations are all signs of a burgeoning leader.
“In terms of him calling up [in the pregame huddle], I don’t know if it’s new to somebody else to see,’’ Judge said. “For us, it’s no surprise. He’s in a position where he’s in front of the team on a daily basis. For us, it’s just business as usual.’’
This is no way was an unveiling of the Jason Garrett offense. Saquon Barkley said, “It kind of felt like a practice.’’
For someone who takes such pride in a physical style of running and his ability to break tackles, Barkley was quick to point out the scrimmage was not exactly true live action and, as such, not a true indication of struggle from the starting offense.
“It wasn’t even bringing down to the ground,’’ he said. “It wasn’t allowed. So, no, no concern for me. I know it’s no concern for our team.’’
Jones could not get into any rhythm, mainly because his protection was unreliable. It was a rough opener for rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas. The sacks were awarded and the play blown dead whenever the officials sensed Jones was under duress. In a real game, he might have wriggled free and kept the play alive. Of course, on a few of the sacks, he might have been driven to the turf, painfully.
There is another full week of practice and a final scrimmage on Thursday. After that, the roster cut-down and the beginning of regular season mode.
“I don’t think it’s anything to panic [about],’’ Barkley said. “There are going to be mistakes that were made that you go back and you watch on film and you’re able to fix it in practice. Those mistakes, if they’re not happening on that Monday night or that Sunday, then it really doesn’t matter.’’