EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Eli Manning and Unai' Unga are as far apart as two players can be regarding professional experience and achievement, but each is very eager to have a productive performance in the Giants' preseason finale tomorrow night in New England.
Manning, the 12-year veteran quarterback who has won two Super Bowls and started 167 consecutive regular-season games, would like to see proficiency from a first-team offense that has had one notable possession – an 85-yard touchdown drive last week vs. the Jets – in three games. He'll have to do it in a hurry, because the starters will make what amounts to a cameo appearance.
"Hopefully, (we) go out there, (and) work on getting a fast start," Manning said. "Haven't been (good) at that in the preseason. So in this game, we won't have many options - maybe one series or two. So, hopefully, go out there and get something going. Get some first downs, move the ball, get a little rhythm, and then start getting our focus for Dallas (their opponent in the regular-season opener on Sept. 13).
"I think you just have to go out there and try to run your offense and be efficient. You're always going to go against a good defense that has a good scheme. You kind of never know what you're going to get out of the defense, who's going to be playing and what their scheme will be early on. Whatever they do, we'll see if we can adjust and move the ball."
Playmakers on Patriot's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
The Giants have scored just one touchdown in the 12 non-kneel-down possessions in which Manning has played this preseason. That was a one-yard run by Rashad Jennings on the aforementioned 85-yard drive vs. the Jets. Manning has completed 20 of 38 passes for 159 yards, no touchdowns and an interception (that was returned for a touchdown).
Manning cares very little about statistics in the regular season, so he's certainly not going to concern himself with numbers in games that don't count in the standings.
"For me, preseason is just trying to grow within the offense," Manning said. "Just trying to get the timing of the game speed. Moving in the pocket, the rush, making adjustments. Some things that may come up that you don't see with your defense and talk about it. Just get on the same page, same direction, see if you can get better at things."
This preseason means much more to Unga, who is fighting to survive the final cutdown on Saturday and secure a spot on the 53-man roster.
The 6-1, 233-pound linebacker from BYU missed all of last season while recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in the final game of his college career. Unga joined the Giants' practice squad on Dec. 23, 2014, just before the season finale, and was signed to a reserve/future contract six days later. With Jon Beason (knee) and Jameel McClain (neck) each missing significant time this summer, Unga has taken advantage of his opportunity at middle linebacker. He has taken second-team reps throughout camp, made plays seemingly every day, and leads the Giants through three games with 17 tackles (12 solo).
"I've kind of put my family in a rough spot," Unga said. "I have three kids. I haven't had a job for who knows how long. So we've been going through the struggle. We've had help from my wife's family and my own. That's how we've kind of got through this. I'm just hoping this all works out. Telling my wife since I got hurt that we're just going to be in this no matter how long it takes, I'm trying to get my shot. I finally got in, and hoping it works out for the best."
Unga led the Giants last week vs. the Jets with eight tackles (five solo). He also played a more prominent role in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's sub packages. Coughlin is entering the final game and the decisions that follow with an open mind regarding the players who were considered longshots when camp opened.
"Some of the roster spots are definitely - decisions have to be made," Coughlin said. "It's spelled opportunity. When you get a chance to play like this, have a game in which you can amass 60 snaps or something along those lines, plus special teams, would be a good thing."
Unga believes he's made a favorable impression, but it would be a reach to say he's confident.
"I'm still confused on how all that works and what components go into the decisions that are being made back there," he said. "I'm just hoping.
"On my part, I feel like I've done my best. I mean, I guess that's what I got to say. I'm trying to do my part and, hopefully, that's as much as I can control."
- Coughlin said safety Stevie Brown, who was re-signed on Monday after his release by the Houston Texans, will play against the Patriots.
"I'd like to see the Stevie Brown we had the year (2012) he had, what, (eight) interceptions," Coughlin said. "That's what I'd like to see and that's what we're trying to get a feel for - where he is with his game and just see him play. Just put him in that position and see what happens."
- Because of injuries, safety has been a trouble spot all summer for the Giants. Coughlin was asked if he feels better about the group because of the recent arrivals of veterans Jeromy Miles (who has a groin injury), Brandon Meriweather and Brown.
"We'll see depending on how we do this weekend," Coughlin said. "I feel better with (second-round draft choice Landon) Collins getting some kind of routine going. He practiced, he played, and I feel good about that. And, to be honest with you, Cooper Taylor played well the other night. So I'm excited about seeing him this weekend, too. Some of these people that are starters are still going to play a little more. They're going to play more. Some will continue to play in the game for X amount of plays, others will come out. That's going to give us a chance to see a little bit what they can do."
- This is the 11th consecutive year the Giants will end their preseason with a game vs. the Patriots. The Giants won last year in MetLife, 16-13, and lead the preseason series, 15-9. The two teams first met in the preseason in 1971.
Photos of the Giants 2015 official roster