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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Cruz: Giants' offense showing progress

By Kieran Darcy

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' first-string offense has looked terrible thus far in the preseason, but one of its stars sees better things ahead.

In fact, he's seen better things already, in the team's three practices this week.

Eli Manning
Giants QB Eli Manning has mostly struggled with his passing during the preseason.
"You can see a renewed energy out there on the practice field," wide receiver Victor Cruz said Wednesday. "Everybody’s getting things done at the right pace, everybody has an energy about themselves to know that we've gotta change the current mood that’s around here offensively. We've gotta get things going, we've gotta get on the right track."

The offense did look crisper Wednesday, with quarterback Eli Manning connecting with his receivers more often than he has in many practices thus far.

More telling will be Friday night's game against the New York Jets, in which Giants coach Tom Coughlin plans to play his starters the entire first half, or close to it.

"Based on last week I would hope that there is a significant production and better quality of play from our [first string], certainly," Coughlin said.

He was very unhappy with that unit following the team's game against the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday. Manning completed just 1 of 7 passes for 6 yards, and is 7-for-16 for 49 yards in three preseason games. Cruz has yet to catch a pass in three games.

The coach wants to see more, and "we got the message," said Cruz.

"He has a way of saying it that makes it very loud and very clear," Cruz said, smiling. [But] he didn’t even have to say anything for us to know that we had to play better and we had to perform better."

The slow start is a little less surprising given that the team has a new offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, installing a new offense.

That being said, the Giants have played three games now, and the regular-season opener is only 19 days away.

The Jets game will likely be the starters' final extended chance to show what they can do, since coaches typically don't play first-stringers much, if at all, in the final game of the preseason.

Learning a new offense isn't the only challenge the Giants are facing. Rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr., expected to be a major contributor this season, continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury. He didn't practice again Wednesday, and has already been ruled out for the Jets game.

Coughlin continues to tinker with his offensive line. Right tackle Justin Pugh played some left tackle again Wednesday, for the second straight day. Geoff Schwartz, the presumed starting left guard, shifted to right tackle at one point, after playing some right guard Tuesday. The starting five, and their alignment, is far from set in stone.

And the Giants currently have six tight ends on the roster with a grand total of six catches in the NFL last season, and none have emerged as a clear-cut starter or likely major contributor to the passing game.

When asked Wednesday if the tight end picture has become any clearer, Coughlin's response was, "Well, they’ve all contributed, so we’ll keep asking them to do that."

But the Giants still have Manning, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and Cruz, a two-time 1,000-yard receiver. And Cruz says the Giants still believe in themselves despite the lackluster start.

"We definitely have enough confidence in ourselves, knowing that everybody’s gonna be OK," Cruz said. "But from an offensive standpoint, we definitely want to make some plays [Friday], have some success to kind of build on that confidence."