>> WATCH: COACH COUGHLIN ON PLAYING JETS
That’s hardly a surprise. Neither the first-team offense nor defense distinguished itself through the first three preseason games. The Giants won each of them largely because their second and third-stringers outplayed their counterparts from Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Last week against the Colts, the starters were largely responsible for the Giants falling into a 20-0 hole at halftime (a deficit that grew to 26-0 before the Giants rallied to win, 27-26). The offense punted on each of its four possessions and the defense allowed Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck to complete 12 of 18 passes, including a 5-yard touchdown to wide receiver Griff Whelan.
In practice this week, Coughlin has all but demanded a better performance from his starters in the game that traditionally serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. And the players have taken the directive to heart.
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Since training camp opened a month ago, Coughlin has not criticized his players’ effort or execution at practice. Eli Manning and his teammates have picked up the team’s new offense. But in the game they haven’t produced as well as everyone hoped for.
“We’re just going to keep working in practice, try to make improvements and hopefully the good things we’ve been doing in practice will carry over into the game,” Manning said.
“You can see kind of a renewed energy out there on the practice field,” Cruz said. “Everybody’s getting things done on the right pace, everybody has an energy about themselves to know that we’ve got to change the current mood that’s around here offensively. We’ve got to get things going, we’ve got to get on the right track. You can see a difference out here on the practice field. Everything was clicking; everybody was on the same page. There were a lot less mental errors out here and you can see a change.”
Several factors could contribute to the Giants improving their performance on Friday. First, they will enter the game with at least a skeletal game plan.
“The other weeks you kind of have one day where you’re looking at the opposing defense and you’re really just trying to run your base plays,” Manning said. “Even this week we’ll be kind of looking at the Jets all week, practicing plays that are designed to go in with certain personnel. Hopefully, that will help some. Really it’s just a matter of winning our individual battles and playing smart football.
“We’ve still got to perform better. No matter how well you game plan, it’s still the execution on the field that’s the most important thing. We know we’ve got to perform at a higher level and make some plays that are out there and be more consistent.”
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“The move right now is to go from say 25 to 30 snaps, so I would stick pretty much to that,” Coughlin said.
Finally, the opponent is the Jets, which should provide the customary extra incentive to defeat their local rivals.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “We’re going to play hard and they’re going to play hard.”
While most of the scrutiny has been on the offense, the defensive players are also determined to improve their performance.
“I think we’re going to step and play in harmony together,” Pierre-Paul said. “Right now guys are probably getting their technique down and seeing what they can do best or what they do best in the game situation .As far as lacking or slacking or whatever, I know the guys will pick it up. I’m not saying they do slack, but come the first game you’ll see a big different in the defense and the offense.”
“We have to approach it as if this is our game,” Cruz said. “We have to play to win and act like this is the last chance that we get to rehearse before Week 1.”
Coughlin expects nothing less.