Two more until they count.
In preparation for Week 1 on Sept. 13 in Dallas, the New York Giants are midway through their four-game preseason schedule. They most recently defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 22-12, at home last weekend after dropping the opener, 23-10, on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As Big Blue plans for its dress rehearsal in the annual MetLife Bowl on Saturday night against the Jets before wrapping up the preseason in New England the following Thursday, here are three things we learned about the team from the first two games:
1. Offensive line forging its own identity.
The Giants have used two of their last three first-round draft picks on offensive linemen: Justin Pugh, the 19th overall pick in 2013, and Ereck Flowers, the ninth overall selection this past spring. In between, they took center Weston Richburg in the second round of the 2014 draft.
Now the three make up the core of an offensive line where all five positions are being manned by different players in 2015. With Will Beatty missing extensive time due to a pectoral injury, Flowers took over at left tackle, Pugh at left guard, Richburg at center, John Jerry at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle. Meanwhile, Geoff Schwartz, who is returning from injuries that limited him to five quarters last season, has rotated in and out on the right side at both guard and tackle.
"We don't have someone that's been to Super Bowls and won Super Bowls like a Chris Snee, David Diehl in the past," Pugh said recently at training camp. "So, really now, it's a lot of guys creating our own identity, because we're not the '07, we're not the '11 team. All those guys aren't here anymore, obviously, besides Beatty, who's hurt right now. So we have to create our own identity. Me, Weston and every other guy up front has to take their part in it, and really start to lead by example, and let our style of play do the talking."
2. New defense developing despite injuries.
Hoping to get back safeties Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor this week, the Giants won't be seeing Bennett Jackson (ACL), Justin Currie (fractured ankle and fibula) and Mykkele Thompson for the rest of the 2015 season. Rather, they all suffered season-ending injuries over the course of the first two preseason games. Meanwhile, starting middle linebacker Jon Beason is week to week with a sprained knee. Add in the ongoing Jason Pierre-Paul situation, and Steve Spagnuolo has his hands full in his first season back as defensive coordinator. In spite of all that, the Giants were pleased with their defensive effort against Jacksonville, following through on a goal to play tougher and faster than they did in Cincinnati.
"For us, it's unfortunate when starters and guys who you assume are going to be a big part of the equation for the season get hurt," Beason said. "But you know, that's a part of the gig. So we've had some really bad injuries and -- knock on wood -- we've had injuries that are just setbacks for guys that are probably going to come back and be fine. You just keep your fingers crossed, but it is the nature of the beast and it's like gambling. You just don't know what's going to happen. Day to day, anything can happen, so hopefully the injuries for us slow down, because they've been coming fast and furious over the past couple weeks."
3. First-team offense is a "little off."
Through two preseason games, Eli Manning is 8 of 22 for 68 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has not caught a pass despite being targeted seven times. It's not the ideal start for a first-team offense that managed 28 yards on 15 snaps in the opener and 76 yards on 22 plays in the second game, but that's why it's called the preseason.
"We've got to do a little bit better," Manning said. "Just moving in the pocket, finding lanes, a couple balls batted down. I think we had some opportunities for some big plays that we just missed, a little off. So we've just got to keep working with those guys getting on the same page, getting the right timing. We're dealing with some guys with some injuries and missing some time and missing some practices. We need all our guys out there so we're getting those quality reps, those quality times."