EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After 11 active players were sidelined by injuries for their preseason finale last night, the Giants didn't need more uncertainty about player availability with their regular-season opener just 13 days away.
But that's what they have in the wake of their 22-20 loss to the New England Patriots after wide receiver Darius Slayton (foot/ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (calf), two key targets for quarterback Daniel Jones, each left the game early. The Giants hope they will be ready to face the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12, but coach Joe Judge didn't have the data today to make a definitive statement.
"In terms of Darius, we'll have to see how he moves around the field this week as far as going forward," Judge said. "The trainers don't have a ton of information right now, but we should be able to get him out there this week and be able to take a look at him. In terms of Evan, he's still going to see a doctor, they're going to look at some things and kind of measure the severity of whatever it may be. Obviously, two weeks out leaves a little bit of a different window than it normally would be in the preseason track as far as getting ready for the opener, so we'll have to see where he's at in terms of how we manage him."
The Giants already have several ballhandlers recovering from or rehabbing injuries. The group includes running back Saquon Barkley (who worked out hard on the field before the game last night); wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross III and Austin Mack; and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Other players who missed the game included guard Shane Lemieux, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, linebacker Elerson Smith, and cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Josh Jackson.
Now Slayton and Engram have joined the list. But as always, Judge won't dwell on those who are unavailable.
"We have two weeks to get ready for Denver," Judge said. "Our focus really is on ourselves and getting polished up and building chemistry and getting going. This time of year, there's obviously a lot of roster movement on our roster and others, guys being added, guys being (let go). Things of that nature always happen. We've just got to get the guys who are available ready to play.
"In terms of that, one thing to focus on going into the season is you're never a finished product Week 1. You need to understand that, keep building, keep improving week to week from how you operate in September to keep improving as a team and build towards those long stretches of the season. We're going to coach whoever is available and it's our job to have the entire team ready and the entire team progressing, and that's what we're going to focus on."
View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands heading into Week 1.
Judge has another important element to factor into his player deployment decisions. The Giants will play their Week 2 game in Washington on Thursday night, Sept. 16. With two games in five days to start the season, the players missing the opener won't have the usual week to prepare for the second game. But it doesn't preclude players who miss Week 1 from being ready for Washington.
"There's definitely some consideration that we've talked about leading up to it," Judge said. "I think being two weeks out, we've got to get a better look at where these guys are. I wouldn't say being only four days apart from game one and game two eliminates anybody at this point, nor does it lock anybody in at this point either. After game one, there's going to be some bumps there, as well. That's just the nature of football. You've got to keep on building your depth and use all the rules available to you to make sure your roster stays as fluid as possible."
The Giants are looking for much more successful early season results than they've had recently. They have been 0-2 in each of the last four seasons and started 0-5 in 2017 and last year in Judge's debut season.
After the game last night, second-year tackle Andrew Thomas said, "that is the thing coach Judge has been harping on this year is starting fast." Today, Judge disclosed all that encompasses.
"I'd say the emphasis on starting fast with me is fluid on all elements of our program," Judge said. "So, that's about starting the day fast, coming to games prepared, it's starting practice fast by being physically ready to take the field, being prepared for the install that we worked on, starting the period fast by executing on the first play, starting scrimmages or games fast by executing early on. To me, there's an element of just being prepared, and executing and starting fast has to be an emphasis of everything we do. I wouldn't single that out to any one specific thing. To me, starting fast is just a mentality and an attitude about how you approach things, showing up prepared and ready to go and then executing when your number is called."
Speaking of Thomas, Judge was asked twice today about him, specifically about the 2020 first-round draft choice's performance last night and if he has any concerns entering the season. Each time, Judge steered his response away from the individual and toward the entire line and offense.
"Like I said last night, it's never one person's deal, a lot of things tie in together," Judge said. "It's all 11 working on execution, so we've got to make sure as all 11 we execute. In terms of the offensive line, I saw some things that were very encouraging and obviously things we've talked through as a staff that we've got to make sure we focus on and really improve these next few weeks going forward to give our team an opportunity."
Responding to another question moments later, Judge said, "I think across the entire line, these guys did a lot of things that were positive and a lot of things to clean up. Playing together on the field for the first time since the Jets game (two weeks ago) early on, good to go out there and get some chemistry. There were a lot of things that happened (with) New England last week in practice, things that showed up in the game last night that were positives, that were learning experiences and then some other things that obviously we've got to narrow down and focus on these next days of saying this is something that we've got to fix and clean up across the board. I saw positive things from a lot of the young guys, Andrew, (tackle) Matt (Peart), getting those guys in there and doing some good things, and obviously there's some things too that we showed and really have some good teaching tape.
"The importance is really taking whatever's on tape, positive or negative, and make sure we build on the positive and eliminate the negative things going forward. We know that Denver and Washington and Atlanta are all watching the same tape we are right now, so we've got to make sure we're sharp and efficient and correcting it."