Faced with a quick turnaround following Monday night's loss, the Giants were back on the practice field Thursday as they continue preparations for Sunday's game in Miami.
Giants coordinators Wink Martindale, Mike Kafka and Thomas McGaughey met with the media Thursday prior to practice, while players spoke afterwards in the locker room. Here are five things we learned:
1. Saquon 'taking it one day at a time'
The Giants have been without star running back Saquon Barkley ever since he injured his ankle late in the Week 2 win in Arizona. Barkley was enjoying a big game against the Cardinals, as he ran for 63 yards and a touchdown and added another 29 yards and an additional score through the air. In the two games since then, Giants running backs have combined for just 61 yards on the ground.
Barkley was a limited participant in practice Thursday for the second consecutive day. The sixth-year back participated in team drills this week for the first time since suffering the injury, and told the media that he is continuing to improve each and every day.
"Each day it gets better…" Barkley said. "I'd definitely say I'm in a better spot than where I was last Thursday. So, definitely encouraged, but I don't want to make any guarantees. Continuing to trust in my body and trust in the training staff and go from them."
Through the first four games, the Dolphins have surrendered 494 rushing yards (22nd in the NFL) and six touchdowns (26th). Buffalo totaled 104 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against them last week.
"I would love to be out there," Barkley told the media. "I feel like I can help. I feel like I can help us get back on track. I know there's some people out there that wouldn't agree with that, but that's why I believe in my mindset. I'm fighting, I'm trying to do everything I can in my power to get back and be there for my teammates…
"As a competitor, you want to be out there, and you go back and look at film every game whether you play in it or you don't. You think, 'Is there anything else I could have done different if I was in this play or if I was here or there?' That's not any diss to (running back) Gary (Brightwell) or (running back Matt) Breida, those guys have been doing a great job coming in and making plays for us. But as a player, you want to be out there, and I'll try my best."
2. Third-down defense improving
Through the first three weeks of the season, the Giants' defense struggled to get off the field on third down. The Cowboys, Cardinals and 49ers were successful on 19 of 39 third down attempts (48.7 percent), including several third-and-long conversions from the 49ers. Wink Martindale put an emphasis on this area heading into the Week 4 matchup against the Seahawks, and the defense saw results. The Giants limited the Seahawks to just three conversions on 12 third down attempts (25 percent), in addition to stopping them on both of their fourth down tries.
"I think we're making progress defensively as you saw in the Seattle game," said Martindale. "The biggest thing that stood out for us defensively was the improvement on third down, and I like where we're headed. I like that we've stayed positive throughout the tough time we're going through right now and we have a tremendous challenge coming up down there in Miami on Sunday. It's going to be a great a challenge for us. It's going to be exciting. Fun to watch."
Miami enters this game with the league's top offense in points, total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. Miami has converted on 42.1 percent of their third-down attempts, which ranks 12th in the league.
3. Kayvon 'wants to get better every day'
Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux has seen his production increase over the last two games. Thibodeaux picked up his (and the team's) first sack of the season against the 49ers in Week 3. He then followed that up with another two sacks of Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith on Monday, along with four total pressures.
"I think that Kayvon wants to win, and Kayvon wants to get better every day," Martindale said. "Kayvon will get better, he'll continue to get better every day, because that's his personality. I want to see Kayvon every day. He's a good dude. You know what I mean? So, yeah, that's one of the greatest things about coaching. That's why you've been at as long as we have, because you want your guys to have success, so you're excited to see that. I think that he knows what's expected of him. I just told him keep being himself and keep trying to get better. Do everything the best you can do it and as fast as you can do it, and I think that's what you saw against Seattle. I thought he played well."
Miami has allowed just five sacks of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this season. However, four of those sacks came in last week's loss following the departure of left tackle Tarron Armstead. The Pro Bowl left tackle suffered a knee injury late in the first half and did not return. Armstead has not participated in practice yet this week, and Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said it would likely be "weeks not days" before the tackle returns.
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
4. Kafka on O-line injuries: 'Next-man-up mentality'
The Giants are dealing with their own set of injuries along the offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Thomas has been sidelined since Week 1 with a hamstring injury. Center John Michael Schmitz then injured his shoulder on the first drive of Monday's loss, which forced Ben Bredeson to move to center while Shane Lemieux took over at right guard. Not long after, Lemieux suffered an injury himself and was unable to return.
Neither Thomas, Schmitz nor Lemieux have been able to participate in practice yet this week. However, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka told the media that the unit will have to be ready to go this weekend, regardless of who's out there on the field.
"I think right now it's just part of being in the National Football League," Kafka said about the injuries. "There's injuries everywhere, we have to be able to adjust and have the next man up mentality and our guys have been great. That's why we've kept them all through offseason, OTA's, training camp and building that foundation with the guys so the next guy who's up, he's ready to rock and roll and that's who we give our trust into."
5. Dolphins remind Wink of 'The Greatest Show on Turf'
Miami has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on offense this season, but the most impressive accomplishment from Mike McDaniel's team is easily their Week 3 performance against the Broncos. The Dolphins scored 70 points, among the most in NFL history, along with 726 total yards of offense. Perhaps even more impressive than the total yardage is the near exact split between the run and pass game. Miami finished with 376 passing yards and and 350 rushing yards, along with five touchdowns through the air and five scores on the ground. Martindale could not help but applaud the Dolphins for their historic performance.
"It's unbelievable," the defensive coordinator said about the Dolphins' Week 3 win. "But that's where this league's heading with some of the other scores. The points have been up pretty high. I told our guys, not the players, I told our staff because we're all old enough to remember 'The Greatest Show on Turf'. This is like that, 2023 supersonic. I mean, they are fast. Faster than that. That's the whole thing that in preparing a team going into this environment, that's not even turf there. It's grass and they're still faster.
"This quarterback is playing at a high level. I've got a lot of respect for the kid. He knows where to go with the football. He's accurate. He gets rid of it quick. I can't say enough about Mike because of the situations that he puts him in where he can get rid of the ball quick, and he's got those receivers and the right route concepts and everything else to get it to them quick. I'm not just saying quick like three-yard routes. He's throwing them before receivers come out of breaks and it's just put right there on them. So, in this game, I told the defense, there's going to be plays made. You've got to just have that mentality that's like, 'Here we go again.' Let's just try to get a stop. Every play, let's just try to get a stop. The more we can get them in third downs, the better off it is for us."