EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Daniel Jones was almost all smiles for the first five minutes of his weekly news conference with the New York Giants media.
It was really easy. All the questions were about his predecessor, Eli Manning, and the halftime ceremony the Giants plan to retire the two-time Super Bowl MVP's No. 10 jersey.
There was nothing asked for a while about the Giants' 0-2 start and the now crucial game against the winless Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. It's a big game for two teams that have not been to the postseason in at least three years. Atlanta last went in 2017. The Giants were in the playoffs in '16. Atlanta comes into the game with the NFL’s worst scoring defense. It has given up 80 points in two games.
That's why “Eli” was an easy topic to discuss. Jones called the ceremony cool, saying Manning was a legend for the franchise. He said he was excited to spend his rookie season in 2019 learning from the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Manning retired after that 2019 season and has done commercials and started working for the Giants. He also does a television show with his brother, Peyton, in which the two retired quarterbacks discuss the game during “Monday Night Football.”
“I think he’s pretty good,” Jones said of Eli. “He’s pretty funny. He’s got some good one-liners and some good commentary. It’s been fun to watch him and Peyton go back and forth.”
The same can't be said of watching Jones and the Giants. The sixth pick in his draft class, Jones has an 8-20 record as a starter in two-plus years.
While the Giants dropped a 30-29 decision to Washington on Sept. 16, Jones had one of his best games as a pro. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. He probably should have had two. He also ran for a career-high 95 yards on nine carries and scored on a draw play. He had no turnovers.
Some Giants fans might wonder why he can't play that way every game.
“I think every week’s different, and my goal is to prepare as well as I can and play as well as I can every week,” Jones said, getting back to his football mode. “I try to be prepared and ready to go every week.”
Jones was hesitant to call his performance against Washington one of his better games.
“We didn’t win the game, so we didn’t do enough,” he said. “I didn’t do enough and didn’t make enough plays, so we’ve got to look at that and improve.”
Jones said consistency was missing at times. He said the offense attacked well and controlled the tempo of the game and he felt the unit created some explosive plays and plays that kept drives.
“I think that was productive,” Jones said. “I think at times, a couple of those drives stalled and whether it was penalties or whether it was negative plays or situations that kept us from continuing drives on the fringe, in some of those spots we’ve got to be better.”
If something has emerged the past two-plus seasons, it's Jones' ability to run the ball and extend drives. Manning rarely ran.
In his 16 seasons spanning 236 games with the Giants, Manning carried 315 times for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 1.8 yards and his longest jaunt was 18 yards.
Jones has played in 29 games and carried 125 times for 824 yards, five TDs — two this season — and a 6.6 yard average. His career long was an 80-yard run, a play on which he tripped over his own feet with no one near him and didn't score.
“I enjoy that part of the game,” Jones said of being a threat as a runner. “I think that’s been a big part of this system in the past and was part of what we did last year. I enjoy that part of the game and when those opportunities are there, I certainly look forward to taking advantage of them.”
What the Giants need to do is turn their opportunities into wins.
“I think we look at this week and the goal is to win this week, to be 1-0 this week, so that’s where we’re focused.” Jones said.
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