Jones is a natural athlete: He's proficient in golf, basketball, plays ping pong in the locker room and, of course, football. So when Jones was asked by new center John Michael Schmitz (this year’s second-round pick) whether he was OK with the “dead snap” technique that Schmitz used in college, there wasn’t much to consider.
“As long as it gets back to me,” Jones told ESPN.
The “dead snap” is a way of snapping that doesn’t involve sending it back to the quarterback in a traditional spiral. Instead, it begins with the tip of the ball in the palm of the center’s hand, rather than his fingers hugging the laces, and sends it flying back to the quarterback.
The idea is for the center to put the nose of the football in the ground and use a pendulum-like motion to snap it, so that there is less room for error.
It isn’t anything revolutionary or new. The “dead snap” can be traced back to legendary coach Pop Warner, has been popular in college for years and has even been used regularly at times in the NFL. It’s believed that most of the snaps Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning took in his time with the Indianapolis Colts were of the “dead snap” variety from center Jeff Saturday.
It’s still new to the Giants. It’s not anything Jones has used at any point in his football career in his first four seasons with the Giants, during his time at Duke, at Charlotte Latin High School in North Carolina or during his youth football days. The Giants quarterback and his new center had a conversation before they first took the field together and Jones gave the experiment his blessing.
They’re hoping it’s the start of a beautiful working relationship. Jones and Schmitz have only been together now for several weeks. Last week marked the start of Phase III of the Giants’ offseason workout program, which allowed for the start of OTAs and 11-on-11, 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 drills with no live contact.
The “dead snap” was not a problem. Jones wasn’t jumping or contorting to catch snaps from his new center. In fact, the snaps were barely notable, which is generally a positive sign since it’s a part of the game often taken for granted.
“It's been good,” Jones said. “Yeah, I'm good with it. He's accurate.”
Schmitz started with the “dead snap” at Minnesota, where he said it began as an experiment from offensive line coach Brian Callahan. It ended up being their snap of choice during the four years he started. It went well enough that Schmitz was considered one of the top centers in this year’s draft. Only Wisconsin’s Joe Tippmann was selected ahead of Schmitz last month by the New York Jets.
“Yeah, honestly I felt it was a lot more controllable with that position,” Schmitz said. “Just felt comfortable, kind of just came natural when I kept doing it over and over again. Yeah, we'll see if I stick with it or change it up. We'll see what happens.”
The beauty of the “dead snap” is believed to be its simplicity. It’s what is often taught at the lowest of youth levels because of its ease to learn and execute. From a quarterback perspective, it’s even easier to catch because it comes in softer.
The flip side is that every millisecond could make a difference when it comes to the quarterback getting rid of the ball. Faster has always been considered better from the center-quarterback exchange, as long as it’s executed smoothly. The traditional shotgun snap can be considered better for the rhythm of the quarterback.
These are all things the Giants will be taking stock of this spring and summer before deciding if it’s worth sticking with the “dead snap” into the season. They have three-plus months to figure it out before the Sept. 10 opener against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
Schmitz has a chance to start at center Week 1. Even though the Giants are integrating their rookies slowly this spring, Schmitz is already taking some reps with the first-team offense.
“He's been great too. He's been great,” Jones said. “He's a smart guy. Been in here working hard. He's on it every day, working to learn and understand what we're doing in protections, what we're doing in the run game.
“Obviously, this is more of a passing camp. So, a lot of that run stuff's happening in meetings and then walkthroughs out here. But he's doing a great job, and it's been fun working with him.”