EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jerry Reese discussed numerous subjects in a 20-minute news conference today, but the pervasive theme of his meeting with reporters was that he expects the Giants to play better in the season's final nine games than they did in the first seven.
At various points in his question-answer session, the team's general manager said…
"It is time for us to gel and play like a good football team…We expect to play better, play more cohesive, play more as a unit, play as a team and gel a little better going into the second half of the season. And play a lot better football than we have played on the front half of the season…(During) the second half of the season, I expect us to play a lot better and be more comfortable in what we are trying to do…It is time for us to stop talking about having new faces, new this and new this. It is time to play good football…When odds are against us like that, we seem to play better and I expect us to play better, regardless of who we're playing. The second half of the season, all of the new faces are not new faces anymore. It's time for us to gel and play good football and look like a good football team."
Reese said it's no mystery how the Giants can do just that.
"Win the physical battle, play as a team and don't beat ourselves with bad fouls," he said. "If we do those things, we'll have a chance to win a lot of games."
They didn't win enough of them in the season's first seven weeks. The Giants come out of their bye with a 3-4 record. They lost their last two games, to Philadelphia and Dallas. The Giants will stand no better than in third place in the NFC East upon their return to action next Monday night, when they will begin to face what Reese called a "murderers' row" of opponents – Indianapolis in MetLife Stadium, at Seattle, and home games vs. San Francisco and Dallas. Every one of those teams is currently above .500.
"You have to go out there and execute and we have to play more consistent football," Reese said. "That is what is important, is for us to go out there and play as a team. We have to win or tie the physical battle."
In separate questions, Reese was asked to critique the offense and defense. And while it would be inaccurate to say he sharply criticized either of the units, he didn't back off from insisting they should be playing better. That notably includes an offense that has a new system and a new play-caller this year in coordinator Bern McAdoo.
"I just think, as an offense, we have to be more aggressive," Reese said. "I think at times we're a little bit almost too cautious with what we're doing offensively. This is the National Football League. You've got to go out there and you have to win the game. You can't think something's going to fall into your lap. You've got to go out and take the games. I think we have to be more aggressive offensively. I appreciate Eli (Manning) taking care of the ball and not turning it over because that correlates to wins a lot of the time, but you can't be too cautious. You've got to throw the ball down the field. You've got to score points in this league to win."
You also have to prevent the other team from scoring, and Reese believes the Giants' defense can accomplish that – but it must stop performing so inconsistently.
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"That's what we need to clean up," Reese said. "During this bye week, we had a lot of conversations about what's going on with our defense, why we can't make some stops in some big spots that we need to make. Hopefully, we got those things ironed out and we will be able to make those stops down the stretch because you've got to stop somebody at some point. At times the defense had played spotty, but that last game, there were some times we needed to make a stop and weren't able to do that."
The Giants have suffered injuries to vital players like Victor Cruz, Jon Beason, Walter Thurmond and Geoff Schwartz (who is expected back next month). The offense is currently ranked 23rd in the NFL, the defense 27th.
But Reese is still bullish on the 2014 Giants.
"You can never predict what's going to happen," he said. "That's why I'm saying that I believe by the end of the season that it will be a close race in our division and there will be two or three teams battling for that division. … We believe we'll be one of them."
Some other notable thoughts from Reese in his first public comments since training camp:
- On defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Manning:
"They have played pretty well, but they can play better. I really believe that. I think they can play better, and I believe they think they can play better. JPP has looked like his old self so far this season, but I think he is a better player than he is playing right now. The same with Eli. Eli is not turning the ball over with the interceptions like we saw the first half of last season, but I think Eli can play better than he is playing."
- On second-year defensive end Damontre Moore, who has 2.0 sacks in limited action.
"First of all, I think he needs to play a few more snaps. I think he needs to be more of a contributor with the amount of snaps that he plays. It seems like when he gets in the game, he makes something happen. I think he's progressing, but I think he needs to play a little bit more."
- On coach Tom Coughlin's willingness to install a new offense this year and what he expects from him in the season's second half.
"I think Coach has been able to evolve in a lot of ways ever since he's been here. One thing I'll never do, I'll never bet against Tom Coughlin. He always seems to, when his back is against the wall the most, that's when he seems to come out swinging and get his football team ready to go. I expect him to do the same right here going down the stretch. This is a big moment for all of us, the second half of this season. It starts one game at a time, one play at a time. I think Coach will get it done."