EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There was the 2.1-yard average on the 22 rushing attempts that weren’t 68-yard touchdowns. Overthrown passes that could have been touchdowns, or given the Giants a chance to extend the game on a late fourth down. Missed blocks and penalties by the offensive linemen.
The Giants’ offense was far from perfect in the season-opening 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. That’s hardly surprising. With starting units – particularly those with so many new acquisitions - getting so little playing time together during the preseason, it can take time for an offense to jell. But the Giants did enough good things to give them confidence they will improve in Game No. 2 Sunday night against the Cowboys in Dallas.
Eli Manning was asked today what the one thing is that the Giants need to “clean up.”
“I don’t think there’s one thing,” Manning.
That was not meant to sound an alarm, but to emphasize that progress must come from several sources.
“I think it’s just everybody understanding their assignments just a little bit crisper – just execution,” Manning said. “Just make sure everybody knows exactly what’s going on. You just never know when that one mistake or little route here or assignment here can make a difference in a game. Just doing every little thing right. That’s on everybody, starting with me and the things I can do better.”
Dallas coach Jason Garrett, a former Giants backup quarterback, spoke on a conference call of his respect for Manning and his ability to utilize his teammates.
“I just think Eli’s a great player,” Garrett said. “He has been for a long time, certainly the leader of that football team and still capable of making so many plays. He’s so smart, he knows how to use his weapons, and he’s just been an outstanding player for a long time and a great challenge for us every time we face him.”
One play that Manning has been asked about repeatedly is a third-quarter overthrow to an open Odell Beckham, Jr. in the end zone.
“A little more to it than (simply being a bit too strong on the throw),” Manning said. “He kind of got bumped off the safety a little bit. So, it’s harder just to get the exact angle. He did a good job and kind of adjusted based off his route. That wasn’t his exact route. We were just improvising there a little bit, and we just missed it a little bit.”
Beckham did catch 11 passes for 111 yards, and coach Pat Shurmur prefers to accentuate the production and not dwell on the missed opportunities.
“We had a couple opportunities to score points that we didn’t,” Shurmur said, “but I think the fact that they’re producing, that that’s a good a thing. Scoring points is what you want to do.”
The Giants strongly believe they will do exactly that, particularly since their most dangerous weapons, Beckham and Barkley, showed flashes of what they can do after very little warmup. Beckham did not play in the preseason. Barkley played only in the opener because of a minor hamstring injury, so he went a month without game action.
But in the fourth quarter, the second overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft scored the Giants’ only touchdown on an electrifying 68-yard run.
“I thought Saquon did some good things,” Manning said. “He had a great run, which we needed. There’s some things we’ll work on, improve on, and find different ways to get him the ball, and see if he’ll continue to make some big plays.”
Of course, the Giants expect Barkley will not be the only player making them. As the opener demonstrated, the entire offense has plenty of room for improvement.
“I think the mindset is keep working, keep grinding,” Manning said. “The way you look at it, it’s the first game of the season with a new coach, new players, new schemes. Not everything is going to be perfect. There’s some good things. Obviously, a lot we’re cleaning up, as well. We just got to play better ball. We got to make some plays here and there, clean some things up, get on the same page with how we’re doing things. I think each week we’re going to learn a lot. We’re going to learn how to clean up this offense, how to clean up the mistakes that were made, and we’ll get better. There’s enough good things to build off, and know we can go out there and play better football.”
*Four Giants players were on the first injury report of the week. Linebacker Olivier Vernon (ankle) did not practice. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (back), running back Wayne Gallman (knee), and linebacker Tae Davis (hamstring) were limited.
*Five Cowboys did not practice: center Travis Frederick (illness), defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence (groin) and Randy Gregory (concussion), defensive tackle Datone Jones (knee), and safety Xavier Woods (hamstring).
*The Elias Sports Bureau has made a scoring change on the Giants’ only sack in their game against Jacksonville. On the play, which occurred with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter, Kerry Wynn and Kareem Martin were each credited with a half-sack. It has been changed to a half-sack for Wynn and B.J. Goodson.
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