Five takeaways from the latest Giants practice and media hour:
1. SPAGS TEACHING GRADUATE-LEVEL DEFENSE
Steve Spagnuolo is entering his third year back as defensive coordinator of the Giants, but there's nothing junior about what he's teaching his players. Returning the core of the No. 2 scoring defense from a year ago, the Giants remained just as dominant in the preseason, highlighted by a trio of pick-sixes.
"I think I made this statement to them the other day, I'm skipping years when you say freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," Spagnuolo said. "In the third year in the system – not all the guys have been here three years – but I expect them to think if they are in graduate school with the scheme. And I believe that they think that way.
"It allows you to do a little bit more. It puts the pressure on all of us to make sure we get it right. There's no margin for error now. We're getting ready to play an NFC East team, the NFC East champion."
2. OPTIMISM FOR OFFENSE
While the defense allowed almost 10 points less than it did in 2015, the offense went the other way and dropped a touchdown in points per game. With notable additions like veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and first-round pick Evan Engram, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was asked what gives him optimism that this is a better offense as the opener is just three days away.
"I think a lot of the cumulative reps that we've had," he said. "I think a lot of the challenges that we gave them in the preseason. Preseason objectives are different than the regular season. We are trying to evaluate our personnel, we are trying to put our guys in some difficult situations to see how they respond and I think in looking at the entire body of work, both from most recently in the preseason all through training camp, all through the spring, we have a great deal of confidence going into the game on Sunday."
3. GIANTS INJURY REPORT
Did not practice: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
Full participation: CB Eli Apple (ankle), DT Jay Bromley (knee), CB Michael Hunter (concussion), WR Tavarres King (ankle), TE Shane Smith (quad)
4. COWBOYS INJURY REPORT
Did not practice: LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle)
Limited: CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)
Full: CB Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring), DE Taco Charlton (shoulder), DE Tyrone Crawford (ankle), G Chaz Green (ankle), TE James Hanna (hamstring), FB Keith Smith (knee), S Xavier Woods (hamstring)
5. FIRST TEST COMING FOR ROSAS
For the first time since Matt Bryant in 2002, the last Giants open the season with a kicker who has no prior experience in the regular season. That player is Aldrick Rosas, who beat out veteran Mike Nugent with a perfect preseason that included a 50-yarder as well as the game-winner as time expired in the finale at New England.
"You're trying to see how he comes in in the spring and how he responds and takes coaching and then he's gotten better and he's very coachable," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "Then you progress into training camp and more live reps and then the game. So it was nice to see him keep getting better with that. So yeah, it's been encouraging."
His first test might come sooner rather than later. The Giants won their two games against the Cowboys last year by a combined four points.