NFL Nation: Victor Cruz

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you were looking for some kind of complex explanation from New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings, you're going to be disappointed.

Jennings' noncontact fumble in the final five minutes of Sunday's 25-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was about as simple as it gets.

[+] EnlargeTed Ginn
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTed Ginn's punt return for a touchdown was part of a series of miscues that saw the Giants' one-point lead turn into an eight-point deficit between touches on offense.
"I turned around. My foot didn't get set on the ground. I slipped as I took off running. My elbow hit the ground. The ball came out," Jennings said.

That is pretty much what everyone saw, and Jennings has no idea why such a thing would happen. The Giants were down by eight points and driving. This happened on the Arizona 15-yard line, with the goal line in sight and the game still attainable.

"We were moving the ball. No doubt we were going to score," Jennings said. "That one hurts."

That last part could be applied to the game itself. The Giants didn't play beautifully by any means, but their offense did look considerably more competent Sunday than it had six days earlier in the season-opening loss in Detroit. The defense had done a decent enough job bottling up Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton, who started in place of an injured Carson Palmer. The Giants got to the fourth quarter of their home opener with a 14-10 lead against a team playing its backup quarterback, which sure sounds like a recipe for a win.

But win they did not, because of a stunning run of fourth-quarter mistakes that took them out of the game.

Up 14-13 with 10:36 to go, Victor Cruz dropped a third-down pass from Eli Manning and the Giants punted. Arizona's Ted Ginn returned the punt 71 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but Giants safety Quintin Demps fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Cardinals would get a field goal out of that gaffe.

"We've got a one-point lead, and the next time we touch the ball, we're down eight," Manning would say when it was over.

Tough to believe, but then Jennings' blunder made it even tougher to believe -- and ensured that the Giants would start 0-2 for the second season in a row.

It boils down to this: The Giants aren't a good team right now. They're a work in progress on offense, and while the defense looked better as this game went along, the secondary was a ragged, penalty-infested mess at the beginning.

In spite of that, the Giants were in a position to win it. But when you're not a good team, you can't get away with the kinds of mistakes they made. They turned the ball over four times, forced zero turnovers and committed nine penalties.

"When you do have an adverse circumstance, you've got to fight your way out of it," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of the way in which the fourth-quarter mistakes piled on top of each other. "But we would have been fine if we scored."

The problem is, right now, scoring is tough for the Giants. If you can't score and you're going to make a whole bunch of mistakes, you're going to lose. Pretty much every game. Even the ones you feel like you have in your pocket.

"We talk about winning the fourth quarter," Coughlin said. "We had the lead 14-13, and from there it was a nightmare."

Second time in as many weeks that Coughlin has used that word, "nightmare," unsolicited in a postgame news conference. That's a sign things are a long way from being fixed.

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
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The New York Giants play the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are three things we'll be watching especially closely as the Giants try to avoid an 0-2 start:

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona has many potent options in the passing game, none more dangerous than Michael Floyd, who had 119 yards in the opener.
1. How will they cover the Cardinals' receivers? Coverage was a big problem Monday night in Detroit against Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and the Lions, and it's not likely to get much easier this week. The Cardinals love to empty the backfield and load up with multiple-wide-receiver sets. You'll see the Giants in nickel and likely some dime this week, with Trumaine McBride on the field as a fourth cornerback in some situations. The biggest threat right now among the Arizona receivers is Michael Floyd, although rookie John Brown is a speed threat on the outside and veteran Larry Fitzgerald obviously can't be ignored in the slot. The Cardinals also throw to their tight ends and can throw it to running back Andre Ellington out of the backfield if Ellington is healthy. There's going to be a lot to keep track of in the secondary for a Giants team that didn't look to have everything together back there in the opener.

2. Will they get the ball to Victor Cruz? The Giants' best wide receiver said Tuesday that he thinks the offense will work better if he and Rueben Randle see more targets, so it'll be interesting to see whether New York runs plays specifically designed to do that. The Giants threw to Jerrel Jernigan and Larry Donnell a lot Monday because those guys were open, so the question becomes whether Randle and Cruz can get separation from defenders in short range better than they have so far -- and whether Cruz, who dropped two passes Monday, can catch everything they do throw to him. It's an offense that's out of sync, and a lot depends on the ability of the big guys up front to protect quarterback Eli Manning and allow him to get comfortable. But assuming he has enough time back there, it's important to watch to see how his timing with his better receivers looks this week. That's where the improvement has to come.

3. Can they run the ball against Arizona? The Cardinals' defense was the toughest against the run in the entire league last year, and it allowed just 52 rushing yards last week to a San Diego team that wants to establish the run. So it won't be easy, but the Giants still believe the best way to get their offense going is to establish balance and run the ball reliably. Rashad Jennings is the lead back, and if they can get enough run plays into the game (i.e., extend some drives with some first downs), they could work Andre Williams into the mix more as a ball carrier. But they need to find a way to get their bread-and-butter run plays blocked against Arizona's tough front early in the game or they won't be able to operate the rest of the offense the way they want to.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
10:07
PM ET

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

What it means: As we told you going into the season, the Giants' offense is not a finished product. Not even close. But the problems go well beyond whether they're picking up offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's new schemes. The Giants' problems are about personnel. The offensive line isn't good enough. They don't have enough at wide receiver, as Victor Cruz is easily erased from the game and Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle aren't reliable. They have no dynamic tight end. And they didn't run the ball especially well Monday, either. Eli Manning's interceptions were bad, especially the second one, but the quality of the group around him needs to improve.

Stock Watch: The new Giants' secondary, DOWN. Yes, I know Calvin Johnson makes everybody look bad, but the breakdowns in the zones were terrible, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made way too many mistakes, letting Johnson go into empty space on the first touchdown and letting Golden Tate get past him for a critical 44-yard catch on third down in the second half. The Giants aren't good enough on offense to allow for a leaky secondary. This is supposed to be the strength of the team, but it was a weakness Monday.

Line must improve: Pass protection was Manning's biggest problem last year, was a major issue in the preseason and was terrible again Monday night. Left tackle Will Beatty looks lost, and he and the rest of the offensive line need to figure out some things in a hurry if the Giants are to avoid a repeat of last year's offensive crater.

Game ball: Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. The one bright spot, I thought, was the Giants' run defense, led by the play of the beefy defensive tackles on the inside. Especially with only three of them active for the game, Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins and Mike Patterson had to handle a lot of the load and held up well, limiting a talented Detroit running game to 76 yards on 30 carries. Jenkins made the plays that stood out most to me, so I pick him.

What's next: The Giants host the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning says he doesn't care what the outside perception of the New York Giants' offense is, and Manning is easy to believe when he says such things. He is certainly accomplished enough in his career that he has no need to care about outside perception, and he has generally carried himself like someone unaffected by it. The fact that the passing game didn't show much in the preseason doesn't thrill him, but he is not bothered by how much it's worrying the fans.

So as the Giants begin their official preparations for their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit, Manning is focusing on the things the Giants' offense did well in the preseason, and choosing to build on those.

Manning
Cruz
"I think we've been running the ball well," Manning said after Monday morning's practice. "I think we need to get better in the passing attack, finding completions, hitting some big plays down the field. But we've been doing that in practice, so we've made some strides and made some plays, and we just have to keep protecting the ball and playing smart. We've gotten ourselves into some pretty good third-down situations as of late. We've just got to convert them."

Manning has, throughout the summer, painted a picture of an offense that is almost there. He also said last week that he expected this new offense, under first-year coordinator Ben McAdoo, to remain a work in progress throughout at least part of the season. The trick will be finding ways to win games while everyone is still getting fully up to speed.

"The big thing happening in the preseason, the reason we won a couple of games, is because we didn't beat ourselves," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "If you look at the numbers, you can see that. So that is something we can hang our hat on, regardless of what the statistics are."

You can start to imagine a plan in which the Giants get things started this season with a run-heavy offensive game plan whose emphasis is on limiting turnovers, then build a passing game off of that as the season goes along. Not that they would admit to something like that, but it might make sense since they feel good about their defense and the ability of their offensive line to at least block the run.

"I have been practicing and I know exactly what we are capable of," wide receiver Victor Cruz said, when asked his reasons for optimism. "I know all of the things we've implemented that are beneficial to us and can benefit us on game day, and I'm excited to put that to the test come Monday Night."

That is when we will start finding out just what the Giants believe they're able to do with their offense right now, and maybe what they might have to wait until later in the season to try.

New York Giants' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
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One final projection of the New York Giants' 53-man roster before the final cuts are made Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants went into training camp hoping Nassib would beat out Curtis Painter for the backup quarterback job, and he clearly did. Not that they don't like Painter, but they didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year and they won't do it again.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

Either Kendall Gaskins or Michael Cox could make it as a fourth running back, and I think the Giants would prefer to carry four. But the injury situation on the offensive line likely means they have to carry an extra player there, and this is the spot they have to take from.

FULLBACK (1)
Henry Hynoski has this spot locked up if he's healthy, but the shoulder injury that knocked him out of Thursday night's preseason finale could give it to Conner, who's stuck around all camp as a strong fallback option.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Parker makes the team as the sixth wideout because (a) Marcus Harris is on IR, (b) Mario Manningham didn't show enough to make it and (c) he can return punts, and right now Beckham and Trindon Holliday can't because they have hamstring injuries. Holliday's lack of training camp practice time likely knocked him right off the team.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

I believe they will keep and use all four of these guys, though they'll have to rotate them in and out depending on situations. None has emerged as the do-it-all tight end they were hoping they'd find in camp.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Geoff Schwartz's injury has created a real mess here, as he projects to miss a significant amount of time due to a dislocated toe and could start the season on short-term injured reserve. The most likely scenario is that Richburg ascends the starting left guard role, but Mosley remains a question mark at right guard, which is why Reynolds (who can play center or guard) enters the picture here. Jerry is either the starting right guard if Mosley can't go or else at least a more valuable reserve. Brewer, who once appeared gone for sure, becomes more valuable as an all-around backup if he can return to practice this week following a back injury. And the missed opportunity for Eric Herman, who is suspended for the first four games for a drug violation, looms even larger. I don't think they keep 10 offensive linemen long-term, but they may have to at the beginning of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Kuhn's leg injury, should it linger, could open up a spot for a defensive end such as Kerry Wynn to make the team. Bromley has looked surprisingly good in games so far and could slide in for Kuhn in the defensive tackle rotation for the short term.

LINEBACKERS (6)

It sounds as though Beason will be ready to start the season, which makes you wonder whether they might keep only five. If they do, the final cut is either Paysinger or Herzlich, who missed Thursday's preseason finale with a shoulder injury.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer, though Amukamara's groin injury could result in a short-term spot opening.

SAFETIES (4)
Cooper Taylor's toe injury landed him on injured reserve. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Adrien Robinson at tight end. The Giants like to have a balanced roster -- 25 offensive players, 25 defensive and three specialists -- but that's not a requirement.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Sure things, all.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham was not one of the 15 players on the cut-down list Tuesday when the New York Giants reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players, but that doesn't mean he's making the team. The Giants still have a lot of sorting out to do at the wide receiver position before final cuts are made Saturday, and Manningham and his balky knee still have to show they belong.

Manningham
"He's had some spurts the last couple of weeks where he's done some things on the practice field, but it hasn't carried over into games," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Tuesday's practice. "He'll get another chance."

The Giants used Manningham a fair bit with their first-team offense in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, and they're likely to give him a good look in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener, camp star Marcus Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and there remain some open spots on the roster at wide receiver.

"Any of the guys who are left know it goes from 75 to 53," Coughlin said. "You're ending up in a numbers game, and it is competitive."

Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are sure things to make the roster at wide receiver. Jerrel Jernigan, who's been running with the first team in Beckham's place all summer, looks like a strong bet as well, especially since he's Cruz's primary backup at the slot receiver position. Undrafted rookie Corey Washington has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Giants' first four preseason games and has obviously helped his cause. Preston Parker, who caught 40 passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of football last season, appears to be the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday hurt, and that could help him earn a spot as a wide receiver as well. Julian Talley also survived Tuesday's cuts and therefore remains a candidate to be kept.

The Giants are likely to keep four tight ends when they cut the roster to 53 on Saturday, which might make it tough to keep six wide receivers, but if they need Parker for punt returns (or as a reserve wideout) while Beckham gets healthy, they may not have a choice.

Regardless, the numbers game doesn't seem to favor Manningham unless he blows the Giants away with a strong showing Thursday night. Maybe the fact the opponent is the Patriots, the team against which Manningham's career highlight came, will inspire him before it's too late.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Down seven spots from No. 34 to No. 41 in our annual ranking of the top 100 offensive NFL players, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz nonetheless enters 2014 as one of the few sure things on a New York Giants' offense with tons of question marks. My question is whether Cruz can be productive enough in the Giants' new West Coast offense to move back into the top 40 next summer.

Cruz
The first-blush answer to that is yes. Cruz looks to be playing the Randall Cobb role if you compare this offense to that of the Green Bay Packers, which is new coordinator Ben McAdoo's former team. In Green Bay, Cobb lines up in the slot (or sometimes in the backfield) and catches a ton of passes, mainly at short range, and is asked to make plays with the ball in his hands. Cruz profiles as a player who fits that role nicely, and in theory it should mean great things for him.

The rest of the Giants' offense, though, makes you wonder if things can possibly go according to plan. If Cruz is in the slot, are the wide receivers on the outside good enough to make it all work? Can they find a representative tight end who can function as a complementary target to Cruz over the middle and in short range? Do they have enough depth at running back? Can the offensive line keep quarterback Eli Manning upright long enough for the offense to get into a rhythm?

You got a glimpse, during that two-minute drill at the end of the first half of Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, of the manner in which the Giants will use Cruz if things are going well. And if your fantasy draft was Thursday night and you ended up with Cruz, that drive likely made you feel pretty good about the possibilities. He's the No. 15 wide receiver in this year's #NFLRank poll, and he will be playing in an offense that should help his numbers justify that position or even better. As long as enough other things go well around him.

Cruz will be the last Giants player to appear on the lists, as they have no one who ranked in the top 40 on either offense or defense.

Giants on 2014 ESPN #NFLRank lists

WR Victor Cruz, No. 41 offense

DE Jason Pierre-Paul, No. 48 defense

QB Eli Manning, No. 62 offense.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, No. 79 defense

S Antrel Rolle, No. 83 defense

New York Giants' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
8:00
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One final projection of the New York Giants' 53-man roster before the final cuts are made Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Nassib's performances in the past two preseason games make the Giants far more confident about keeping him -- and only him -- as the backup to Manning.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Hillis' sprained ankle could help Gaskins and Michael Cox make the team if it lingers, but if they're picking between Cox and Gaskins for that fourth spot, Gaskins looks like the better player so far in camp. Tom Coughlin also keeps saying that the fullbacks can play running back, and they have been using Henry Hynoski all over the formation in practice, so it's possible they could carry just three here, especially if they can get Gaskins on the practice squad.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, and I don't think the Giants will keep both. There was even some talk early in camp that they could go without a fullback, but the continued poor showing by the tight ends likely has put that to bed.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Marcus Harris is ahead of both Washington and Parker, but he injured his shoulder Friday night and is likely to miss the start of the season, if not more. Parker sneaks onto the list this week because (a) with Beckham's hamstring injury continuing to be a problem, they may need to carry six wide receivers just to have five and (b) Parker is the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday laid up.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Donnell, Davis and Robinson each got exactly 14 snaps in the first half Friday night, and Robinson was the only tight end in the game on the successful two-minute drill at the end of the first half. What's it all mean? Really just that no one has separated himself in this group. Davis was the starter ahead of Donnell for the first time Friday, but there's still no clarity on this situation.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Geoff Schwartz's injury has created a real mess here, as he projects to miss a significant amount of time due to a dislocated toe. The most likely scenario is that Richburg ascends the starting left guard role, but Mosley remains a question mark at right guard, which is why Reynolds (who can play center or guard) enters the picture here. Jerry could claim one of the starting guard spots, but at the very least, he becomes a more valuable reserve. Brewer, who once appeared gone for sure, becomes more valuable as an all-around backup. And the missed opportunity for Eric Herman, who's suspended for the first four games for a drug violation, looms even larger.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Very few changes here, though if Kuhn's leg injury ends up costing him practice time, it could open up a spot for someone like defensive end Kerry Wynn to make the team. Bromley has looked surprisingly good in games so far and could slide in for Kuhn in the defensive tackle rotation for the short term.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Kennard has been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little bit. Williams is the starter at the weakside spot, even in the base defense, as long as he can stay healthy. And Kennard is a first-teamer right now on the strong side, with McClain manning the middle in place of the injured Beason. I wonder if Kennard could keep the spot ahead of McClain even once Beason comes back. Herzlich is on the squad for special teams, where he has great value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer, though recent injuries to Amukamara and Bowman could result in a short-term spot opening.

SAFETIES (4)
Cooper Taylor's toe injury is serious enough to keep him out for a long time, possibly even the whole season. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Charles James at cornerback or Adrien Robinson at tight end. The Giants like to have a balanced roster -- 25 offensive players, 25 defensive and three specialists -- but that's not a requirement.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Brown isn't home-free yet, as Brandon McManus is hitting bombs in practice and has shown well in games. But Brown hasn't done anything to lose his spot, and as long as he remains reliable, my bet is he keeps it.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
11:05
PM ET


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It took only three weeks, four preseason games and 37 pass attempts, but New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning finally threw a touchdown pass Friday night.

Manning's final play of the Giants' 35-24 exhibition victory over the New York Jets was a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rueben Randle that capped off a successful two-minute drill by the Giants' first-team offense. After the way things had gone so far this preseason -- and in this game -- they needed it.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' fourth preseason game:
  • Until that two-minute drive, on which Manning was 7-for-10 for 91 yards and Victor Cruz caught three passes for 52 yards, the pass protection had been a major issue. Left tackle Will Beatty struggled mightily in his second game of the preseason. Left guard Geoff Schwartz went down with a dislocated toe. And Manning was under siege all night. It was no excuse for the terrible decision and throw he made on the fourth play of his final drive, which resulted in an interception that was overturned because the defender had stepped out of bounds. But Manning had trouble getting into a rhythm because his protection was a mess.
  • Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib looked sharp once again, throwing touchdown passes to Henry Hynoski and Preston Parker in the third quarter, and he looks like a strong bet to win the No. 2 quarterback job ahead of Curtis Painter.
  • Parker, by the way, continues to work as a punt returner with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday out, and a strong showing as a receiver helps his case to make the final roster. Also helping that case could be a bad break for Marcus Harris, who was getting significant work with the first-team offense Friday night before a shoulder injury knocked him out of the game.
  • Hynoski, by the way, looks as though he has a role to play in the offense, even though they're not using a fullback much in these preseason games. Hynoski can be used in a variety of ways, especially as the Giants continue to have questions at tight end.
  • Speaking of tight end, Kellen Davis got 14 first-team snaps, Larry Donnell got 14 and Adrien Robinson got 14, including all 11 in that two-minute drill during which the Giants didn't substitute. Davis was the starter, and five of Donnell's snaps were in two-tight-end formations with one of the other two on the field. Donnell also was flagged for a holding penalty and an illegal block in the back (which was declined). Still no clarity here.
  • Reserve defensive end Damontre Moore made his presence felt in the second half with a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery. Moore continues to make plays when given the chance, but the Giants are still working with him on playing more under control and avoiding penalties.
  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul left the game briefly with a knee injury but did return to action. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (lower leg) and cornerback Zack Bowman (triceps) left the game with injuries and did not return.
  • And of course, Corey Washington caught a touchdown pass for the fourth straight preseason game, because that's apparently a thing.
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.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsGiants 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."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For all of the very legitimate concern over the condition of Odell Beckham Jr.'s hamstring, the more pressing matter for the New York Giants with the season coming up quickly now is the state of the offensive line. The regular season begins in less than three weeks, and the Giants are still searching for the right starting-five combination of offensive linemen.

What's worse, the preseason has given them some reason to question whether they really are deeper on the line than they were during last season's meltdown.

The first-team line for Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis was Will Beatty at left tackle, Geoff Schwartz at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Brandon Mosley at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle. That's what it's been in practice since training camp started, and I think the Giants' ideal plan would be to feel good enough about that line to run it out there Week 1 in Detroit.

Problem is, Mosley has been inconsistent, Schwartz struggled a bit Saturday and Beatty's still recovering from (A) a broken leg and (B) a poor season, so they can't know what they have with him yet. He still needs to take practice reps off, and he did again Tuesday.

Now, the fill-in for Beatty earlier in camp was veteran Charles Brown, but he's got a shoulder injury now and was playing poorly even when healthy. With backup tackle James Brewer also hurt, the Giants tried something interesting Tuesday when Beatty had to come off the field. They moved Pugh from right tackle to left tackle, kicked Mosley out to right tackle and put rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg at right guard.

"They're all playing pretty much everywhere," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You always attempt to be creative and flexible."

The goal is to find the best combination of five and let it play and jell together. But it seems clear at this point that the Giants don't feel they've done that yet. They could elevate Richburg, who's played both guard spots and center this camp, to starting guard in place of Mosley and put him and Schwartz on either side, really. If they ended up having to move Pugh to left tackle, they could play Schwartz at right tackle, where he has some experience, and keep Mosley and Richburg as the guards. Richburg could yet overtake Walton at center, which is the position he played in college.

What's disappointing, after a year in which they scrambled for depth on the line, is the backup situation. Brown was terrible at left tackle, and John Jerry has been a non-factor so far at guard. These were the veterans the Giants signed with the hope that they'd have more experience behind the starters this year than they did last year. Brewer hasn't developed and is on the roster bubble. Promising guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for the first four games of the season for a drug violation. Injuries to starters on the offensive line have a chance to put the Giants right back where they were when it all fell apart early last season. And in case you don't remember, that wasn't good.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday's practice:
  • This was a "cards" day, with time spent in preparation for Friday's preseason opponent, the Jets, specifically. So for much of practice, for example, the Giants' offense was running Jets plays. Eli Manning in the pistol, etc. And there were times when it was the defense's job to simulate Rex Ryan's exotic blitz schemes. This is the one preseason game for which the Giants devise a game plan, and it'll be interesting to see whether that helps the first-team offense look better.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard managed to tip and pick off a Manning pass in 7-on-7 drills while the defense was in a Jets-specific look. He's a fun player to watch in practice, though the special-teams coaches continue to work with him on technique on the coverage teams.
  • The Giants have tried the past couple of days to get Mario Manningham more looks on the outside at wide receiver to evaluate him and his balky knee. He does not seem to be performing at a high level. You wonder whether they will start using Victor Cruz outside more if they're not going to have Beckham to start the season, or whether they'll leave Cruz in the slot and use someone like Marcus Harris or Corey Washington on the outside.
INDIANAPOLIS -- They said all the requisite things about how much fun it was to score 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and come back to beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-26 in Saturday night's preseason game. But the New York Giants still aren't happy about the way their first-team offense has performed this preseason, and honestly they shouldn't be.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesEli Manning will probably have just one more opportunity in the preseason to get the Giants' offense in shape.
"We are realists, and looking at what looked to be a very poor performance in the first half with the 1s that didn't really get a lot better once the 2s came in," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "It wasn't impressive at all. We didn't get a whole lot done. There's no production. There's nothing to look at from a production standpoint."

Quarterback Eli Manning was 1-for-7 Saturday night after going 0-for-2 in the preseason game a week earlier against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The first-team offense looked lost once again, with most of the short-range and mid-range passes missing their targets. They tried a few downfield shots with mixed results. Victor Cruz caught one but fumbled it away, and then the whole thing was nullified by a Colts penalty. Jerrel Jernigan seemed to have his man beat a few plays later, and Manning threw to him, but the defender caught up with Jernigan and knocked the ball away.

The run game didn't do much this time either. And in spite of the return of left tackle Will Beatty from his leg injury rehab, the offensive line looked once again like a group still working on coming together -- which is what it is.

"Still figuring out what's going to be our style of football, which concepts are going to work the best for us and all of those things," Manning said. "Each game, something comes up that's new, and we've got to make sure we're on the same page as [offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo] and we're seeing eye to eye."

Manning said he does see progress, even though it's not readily apparent to those of us watching from the outside.

"I think there's progress being made, just in understanding the offense," Manning said. "We made some checks and some calls today that got everybody on the same page. We've just got to execute it at a higher level. But the mental capacity of it, speeding it up, I think those things are getting better. I think we were just a few plays from being OK tonight."

The question is whether three more weeks will be enough to get the offense in shape for games that count. The Giants open the regular season with a Monday Night Football game Sept. 8 against the Lions in Detroit. Manning is likely to play somewhat extensively in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, but perhaps not at all in the following week's preseason finale against the Patriots. So he has one more chance to show himself, his team, his coaches and the rest of the outside world the way that progress looks when it comes to fruition against a live opponent. Otherwise, it's going to be a leap of faith once the regular season begins.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
10:35
PM ET


INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Giants still have three weeks to practice before their regular-season opener on Sept. 8 in Detroit. Saturday's improbable 27-26 exhibition victory over the Indianapolis Colts was a preseason game, its results utterly devoid of meaning and relevance to the larger picture. It is important that you read everything I'm about to write with that in mind.

Because, my goodness, does the Giants' first team look horrible right now. Eli Manning and the offense generated 45 yards on 23 snaps. Manning was 1-for-7 passing. They averaged 3.2 yards per carry as a team in the first half, and with Curtis Painter under center in the second half they showed no improvement.

Painter did have a fourth-quarter touchdown pass before giving way to Ryan Nassib, who led the furious rally. Nassib passed for 158 yards and the winning touchdown, a 4-yarder to Corey Washington.

The Giants said coming into this game that they wanted to have some success moving the ball with their first-team offense. By no means can they claim they did.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' third preseason game:
  • The Giants didn't make it through the game especially healthy, either. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (elbow), safety Cooper Taylor (toe) and tackle Charles Brown (shoulder) all left the game with injuries and did not return. Left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride did make their 2014 preseason debuts after sitting out the first two games while rehabbing from offseason surgeries.
  • Penalties were an issue again. The Giants were officially called for six of them for a total of 45 yards in the first half, and that doesn't count a Walter Thurmond defensive holding penalty that was declined because the play resulted in a touchdown or a Quintin Demps defensive holding that was offset by Hakeem Nicks' hilarious taunting penalty. It's a league-wide issue from which the Giants have been far from exempt so far.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard definitely flashed. They're using him on blitzes, which is something the Giants haven't done with their linebackers much in recent years and likely reveals an increased confidence in the linebacking corps as well as in Kennard himself. He appears to have some speed to go with his smarts.
  • Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka continues to have a strong preseason and was able to get pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a couple of times in the first quarter.
  • Victor Cruz finally got a deep ball and caught it, but he fumbled at the end of the play and the Colts recovered. The Giants were saved, however, by an illegal contact penalty by the Colts that negated the play. That came one play after a Manning interception was called back due to illegal contact by the Colts. Manning tried going downfield to Jerrel Jernigan a short time later, but while Jernigan appeared to have beaten his man, he wasn't able to stay ahead of him, and the pass was broken up.
  • Larry Donnell was the only tight end targeted at all in the first half, and he only got one target. You start to wonder if the plan to involve the tight end in the passing game is being rethought due to the obvious personnel deficiencies at that position.

W2W4: New York Giants

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
12:00
PM ET
The New York Giants (2-0) and the Indianapolis Colts (0-1) face off in an NFL preseason game at 7 p.m. ET Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

1. Can the Giants get the offense going? The first-team offense has scored a touchdown in each of the first two games, but both have come from the running game. Eli Manning and the passing game could use a strong showing to prove to themselves and the outside world that the new offense is working. Starting left tackle Will Beatty, who missed the first two games as part of his rehab from a broken leg, is scheduled to start, which could help. But Manning could use a couple of quick ones to Victor Cruz to help pick up first downs and sustain a drive.

2. The defense up front: Giants coach Tom Coughlin made a point this week of saying he'd be watching the first-team run defense after the Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball well against them last Saturday. There are questions about the defensive tackle rotation, as Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn are inexperienced, Cullen Jenkins has struggled and Mike Patterson has been out with a shoulder injury. The defensive line composition as a whole will be interesting to watch, as the Giants would like to change up looks involving ends Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore and even newcomer Israel Idonije, who's also a helper on special teams.

3. The backup quarterback competition: Curtis Painter takes over for Ryan Nassib as the No. 2 quarterback this week. Nassib has been a disappointment this preseason in spite of being handed every opportunity to seize the backup job for himself. Could they be demoting him to send a message? Or are they starting to feel they'll have to cut bait on their 2013 fourth-rounder and get Painter ready for the season? Nassib has a major problem with accuracy, and he'll have to show a lot in this game to get back into good graces and see his practice reps increase again next week.

Giants Camp Report: Day 16

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
8:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • OK, so now I think the Giants' offense is just trolling us. There was a play Thursday when Eli Manning looked right, Rueben Randle cut up the field but Manning threw short and cornerback Zack Bowman intercepted the pass and ran it back into the end zone. Which is the exact same thing that happened in the Giants' loss to the Bears in Chicago last October -- right down to Bowman, who was playing corner for the Bears that night! That had to be staged, right? Like some kind of obscure Civil War battle re-enactment? Maybe they're just messing with us and they're going to be the 2013 Eagles offense when the curtain goes up next month. Think about it.
  • Tom Coughlin said Curtis Painter would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Manning on Saturday night in Indianapolis, which is a change from the first two preseason games, in which Ryan Nassib was. And it's not a coincidence -- it's because Painter is playing better. Asked whether this was the plan all along or whether that's just where things stand right now, Coughlin said the latter.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz had a strong practice, beating slot cornerback Walter Thurmond for one of the few times this camp and scoring on an Eli Manning pass up the seam.
  • Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. continues to do more and more, and his hamstring is feeling better to an extent that he's able to be a bit less careful out there. He caught a pass from Nassib with Ross Weaver in coverage and fell to the ground with Weaver tumbling on top of him. He got up without issue and walked back to the sideline. Beckham won't play Saturday, but Coughlin said they believe he'll play in next week's preseason game against the Jets.
  • The Giants are lining up fullback Henry Hynoski all over the field, and had him split out wide on one play in practice Thursday, though Coughlin said the idea of lining Hynoski up at the line is far fetched. "Up position, wing position, all over the backfield," Coughlin said. Hynoski's versatility could be important for a team struggling to find answers at tight end.
  • Tight end Daniel Fells continues to miss practice with a knee injury. Return man Trindon Holliday continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) was back at practice Thursday.
  • Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese and Eli Manning all took the ice bucket challenge for ALS after practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice in the same place and at the same times next week as they have been for the past three, Thursday was the last official day of Giants "training camp." So no more practices open to the public. The team is off Friday and will travel to Indianapolis for Saturday night's preseason game against the Colts.

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