But panic? The Giants are a long way from going there.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been a great preseason team, as far as I remember,” Manning said. “I know how things are going in practice and what we’re capable of doing. We’ve got improvements to do, but we’ve got a little time and we’re going to keep working on those things. I’ve seen progress over these weeks in practice and some of these concepts we’re getting better at, we’re getting a better feel for these things, better timing for everything. We’ll continue working on those.”
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The starters have produced just two touchdowns in 11 possessions against Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. In each game, the reserves rallied the team to victory. On Saturday, the Giants overcame a 26-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Colts, 27-26. Backup quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib led the offense on three touchdown drives (the fourth touchdown was scored by the defense).
“It’s always good that those guys, some young guys, are stepping up,” Manning said. “The other groups were moving the ball and scoring points, so it was good to have some excitement and win the game. But that first group, we’ve got to get better. We have to perform better and start doing our jobs.”
As the NFL enters its third full week of preseason play, the Giants might well have the league’s most-scrutinized offense. They have a new scheme this season, one installed by first-year coordinator Ben McAdoo. The football public is watching closely to see how the players, in general, and Manning, in particular, adjust to the new scheme. The players are convinced the Giants will have an effective, high-scoring attack, but admit the first three test runs have disappointed. Asked yesterday what the offense must do to improve, coach Tom Coughlin said, “We’ve got to basically work on everything.”
He got no argument from his players. Whether they touch the ball or play on the line, the offensive starters are dissatisfied with the product they’ve put on the field.
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The reconstructed offensive line is not trying to escape responsibility for the offensive struggles. Left guard Geoff Schwartz admitted he didn’t enjoy watching the tape of the game in Indianapolis.
“It was tough,” he said. “Personally, I didn’t play well. We just had no rhythm on offense. It’s kind of disappointing to see the way we played after all these weeks of working during camp.
“We just didn’t play well. I don’t know if it’s a step back or if it’s just one of those games, but we’ve got to improve this week and play well against the Jets. We’ve got to show something for all of the work we’ve put in for camp.”
The Giants have two preseason games to work out the kinks before the regular-season opener in Detroit three weeks from tonight. This week the starters will play longer than they did in the first three games, perhaps into the third quarter. That should enable them to get into a rhythm. And for the first time they might get at least a skeletal game plan when they face the Jets.
“Hopefully, it will help,” Manning said. “We’ve still got to perform better. No matter how well you game plan, it’s still the execution on the field that’s the most important thing. We know we’ve got to perform at a higher level and make some plays that are out there and be more consistent.”
The Giants are confident it’s just a matter of time before that occurs.
“I think there’s urgency just with the way we played the other night,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with it being the third, fourth preseason game. We’ve just got to come out and put on film what kind of offense we want to be.”
“There is still a ways to go,” Cruz said. “We still have a ton of practices before Week One in Detroit. We still have a ton of film to watch, a ton of things to change and things to get better at that we can get better at and things we can fix. I think it is only a matter of time until we get everything clicking. I think we will have it down pat and we will get things going by Week One, for sure.”