EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's foolish to read anything into preseason results or even stats, for that matter. But there are aspects of these games that can ring alarm bells. For the New York Giants so far this preseason, penalties have been a major issue.
The Giants were called for 10 penalties for a total of 109 yards in Saturday's exhibition victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That brings their two-game preseason total to 16 penalties for 158 yards.
Of those 16 flags, eight have been thrown downfield in the secondary, where the Giants were hit Saturday night with two defensive holding penalties, two pass interference penalties on Jayron Hosley and an illegal contact penalty on Prince Amukamara that was declined. With officials emphasizing downfield contact this year, it's clear the Giants' defensive backs are going to have to alter something about the way they're playing.
"There's no contact allowed at all," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You bump into each other shoulder to shoulder, and it's going to be a penalty. We've got to do a better job of coaching it. There are a couple of situations I think the officials are going to have to get sorted out as well, but it's something we're going to have to address."
Earlier in the week, Giants cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta said the coaches were spending time reviewing practice tape with the defensive backs and addressing plays that are going to be called as penalties this year that may not have been in the past. Amukamara said the officials have told the players "there's not going to be a 'healthy five,'" anymore -- meaning that officials will strictly enforce the prohibition against contact more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, as opposed to letting things go at maybe six or seven as they have in the past.
Now, to Coughlin's point about the officials, it's preseason for them too. And NFL games are increasingly difficult to officiate in real time. When new rules and points of emphasis are installed each year, the preseason is the time for the officials to figure out how to enforce and administrate them. Just because so many of these calls are getting made around the league in these preseason games doesn't automatically mean you're going to see flags flying on every play come the season. But the Giants' defensive backs are playing an aggressive style, and this year it's one that might get them in more trouble than it used to.