Unlike some NFL teams, the Giants do not hold training camp practices against other teams. Nor do they have a traditional intra-squad scrimmage. The Giants also don't have live tackling in camp.
But Tom Coughlin is confident his squad gets all the work it needs prior to the regular season.
"I think we have four scrimmages," Coughlin said. "That's what we do with our preseason games."
The first of those scrimmages – er, games – will take place Friday night, when the Giants face the Jaguars in Jacksonville. For the veterans entrenched in their jobs, it's the first summer opportunity for live action. For young players and rookies fighting to make the team, it's the first chance in a game to prove they belong. For Coughlin and the coaches, it's a critical evaluation milepost as they construct the final roster.
"It is very important to us," Coughlin said. "We do need the work. We will, of course, build their playtime up as we go along (in the preseason), but we have a most unusual start to our (regular) season in terms of the Wednesday, Sunday, Thursday concept of the first few games. Hopefully, we will get our work here done in the preseason, build up, get everybody an opportunity, see how our team fits together, do a good job of how these kids will all be put together to the best of our team with special teams being a major consideration and we'll go from there.
As usual at this juncture of camp, the Giants' offensive and defensive players are tired of working against each other. It's an old NFL cliché, but they really do look forward to hitting someone wearing a different uniform.
"You're always looking forward to getting some live action and moving the ball down the field and kind of get into the game situation and thinking about first down, second down, third down," quarterback Eli Manning said. "What are you doing? Get a game plan and go out there and try to execute against a different opponent."
Coughlin said Wednesday the starters will play 15-18 plays. That would normally mean they'd be ending their evening just when they were breaking a sweat. But since the game will be played in sweltering Jacksonville, they'll likely be perspiring from the time they get off the bus.
"The objective is always to win, but it's all about personnel," Coughlin said. "We'll play them just exactly the way that I've talked about it. I will not sacrifice that part of it. Hopefully, we're good enough and deep enough that the guys will get in the game and respond and enjoy themselves. I want them to play hard and give us a chance to do some evaluating and trying to figure out how people fit."
Manning has some modest goals for his brief time on the field.
"Just moving the ball, execution and guys having a great understanding of what we're trying to do," he said. "Get some completions. Run the ball well. See if we can go down and get some points on the board."
Like Manning, right guard Chris Snee is a two-time Super Bowl champion entering his ninth season, so an opening preseason game is not a seminal event in his career. But Snee is wise enough to find significance in Friday's game.
"You look at the big picture and realize that the opener (September 5 vs. Dallas) is less than four weeks away," Snee said. "That should be the focus and the fact that we have plenty to work on. That should be everyone's mindset – to fix everything that went wrong last year and obviously for us, we need to start off in those games and establish the running game."
Chase Blackburn has a different perspective on preseason games than some eight-year pros. Because no one signed him when the lockout ended last year, he missed the August games. Now back in the starting lineup, Blackburn relishes the opportunity to play Friday.
"I look at it is as starting to get out there with guys you're going to be playing with throughout the year," he said. "Getting the rhythm going, depending on what the other team may come out in, the no-huddle offense or a different formation, different things – like a first 15 of a game. Just kind of getting back in a rhythm and getting the timing down between everybody."
Veterans like Snee and Manning could skip the preseason and still be guaranteed to start against the Cowboys. But second-year linebackers Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger are trying to prove they deserve playing time when the games count in the standings. To them, the Jaguars game is the biggest of the year – until they line up next week against the Jets and have to prove themselves again.
"I'm looking forward to this game so much," said Jones, who has played both inside and outside linebacker in camp. "It's something, personally, I've had circled on my calendar. This is a game that I want to play my best. I want to show what I can do. I want to show the confidence I have in myself to perform and I want to be able to help the team. I'm really getting excited for this game and the build-up to it. I can't wait."
"To get a chance to run down on the opening kickoff, I can't wait," Paysinger said. "I know the feelings will come back to me to last year when I had my first kickoff rundown. So I just can't wait to put back on the pads and go out there and get it. We get tired of hitting the same people at practice every day. The fact that we get to hit different jerseys now will be fun."
Among the Giants, it seems that feeling is widespread.
*The Giants were 2-2 in the 2011 preseason, beating Chicago and New England and losing to Carolina and the Jets. They are 16-16 under Coughlin in the preseason.
*The Giants-Jaguars preseason series is tied, 3-3. The Giants are 1-2 in Jacksonville with their lone win a 24-17 triumph on Aug. 2, 1996 – when Coughlin coached the Jaguars.
*12 Giants are not expected to play in Jacksonville due to injury: 24 Terrell Thomas CB (knee), 33 Da'Rel Scott RB (quad), 43 Jake Muasau LB (hamstring), 57 Jaquian Williams LB (hip), 59 Michael Boley LB (hamstring), 65 Will Beatty T (back), 69 Justin Trattou DE (ankle), 95 Rocky Bernard DT (knee), plus the team's four PUP players: 47 Travis Beckum TE (knee), 52 Clint Sintim LB (knee), 88 Hakeem Nicks WR (foot) and 99 Chris Canty DT (knee).
*The Giants travel to Jacksonville today for tomorrow night's game. The team has the day off on Saturday and will return to the practice field at the University at Albany on Sunday for the first of its final three training camp practices.