EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning has some very basic goals for the Giants' offense when the team plays its preseason home opener tomorrow night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Put some points on the board and get some drives going, sustain some drives," Manning said. "Hopefully, be able to get out there, set the tempo, play fast with the offense, get some first downs and get into a good rhythm with the offense."
In other words, everything the offense did not do last week in a 23-10 loss in Cincinnati. Manning and the first team were intact for four series, covering 15 snaps. Their final numbers included 28 net yards, one first down and zero points (figures that could have looked better had Preston Parker not dropped a third-down pass).
The coaches and players expect more production and better execution when they line up against Jacksonville.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Jaguars on Saturday
"We're not out there to chase numbers, that's not good offense," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "We're out there to execute, put ourselves in position, to take care of the ball and put puts on the board.
"We were disappointed in our performance last week. We had two productive days of practice, got to the game, and it seemed like we were a little flat. The details, the play speed wasn't there, and we addressed the issue head on and we're working to fix it. You don't fix mistakes overnight, it takes time to do that, and we're working at it every day."
This is McAdoo's second season as the coordinator. He installed the system in 2014, has expanded it this year, and calls the plays in practice and in games. The assumption was that the offense would be more proficient this year, because most of the players had worked in it for a year. But Tom Coughlin said this week he hasn't noticed much of a difference.
"I don't see enough right now, to be honest with you," he said. "I don't see enough yet, but I'm looking forward to it." A day later, Coughlin did say, "it's been a good week of practice."
Manning believes the offense has made significant strides, and will continue to do so before the regular-season opener in Dallas on Sept. 13.
"(We're) just sharper, playing faster, making changes in the plays," Manning said. "We don't have as many mental mistakes. Last year, a lot of mental mistakes, lot of people thinking new concepts are going in and messing up those concepts and forgetting about the old concepts that were already put in and everybody was new to it. Obviously, this year only a few guys are new. You have the rookies and you have the new guys making a few mistakes, but for the most part, the veterans are doing things correctly and playing fast."
The Giants have put together what appears to be an exceptional collection of players who will touch the football, including Manning, Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen, to name a few. With that talent and the players' enhanced familiarity in what they are asked to do, the potential for the offense this season seems limitless.
"We met a couple times as an offense on this, in the offseason, and now in training camp," McAdoo said.
"We set our expectations very high. We set parameters, I'm not going to spell those out for you … but we do set them high. We have high expectations for ourselves. There is one goal in this business and we all know what that goal is, but you can measure the parameters each week as you go to make sure you're on track."
When the 2014 season opened, the Giants were learning the nuances of the offense, Beckham was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Donnell was an unknown commodity, Williams was an untested rookie and Vereen was playing in New England.
As the season progressed, Beckham missed four games, Cruz missed 12 and Jennings sat out five.
Injuries are inevitable in the NFL, but if the Giants can keep them to a minimum and continue to grow in the offense, they should score more points early in the season than they did a year ago. In 2014, they tallied 14 points in each of their first two games and averaged 28.3 points over their final 14 games (including a shutout loss in Philadelphia).
"I think we should be better off early on in the season and have a better understanding of what we're trying to do," Manning said. "Some of the adjustments are playing faster, making adjustments, changing plays, getting different checks, changing protection. Everything should be a little smoother operation."
That can start tomorrow night against the Jaguars.
"What we hope to get out of the second preseason game is a little bit more consistency," Jennings said. "Everything, as far as protection for the quarterback, consistency in the run game, and making sure we ID everything how we need to move the ball and put some points on the board. I think we need to put enough points on the board to have excitement and getting out relaxing and playing ball."
"My confidence level is growing," Coughlin said. "But we've got to test ourselves in these preseason games. This weekend will be an outstanding test, because you have a team that's trying to be very physical and wants to run the ball, has a good run defense, so it'll be a good test."