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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Forget about Plaxico Burress and who the big brother is in New York football.
The New York Giants have a bigger foe to worry about than Rex's Jets, and it's an opponent that got the best of Tom Coughlin's team way too often last season.
The Giants' greatest obstacle might be the New York Giants.
|Eli Manning threw two more picks in Monday night's loss.|
It's the preseason, so there's no reason to push the panic button yet. But in what was basically the final preseason audition for the starters, the Giants once again could not get out of their own way.
Eli Manning moved the offense only to throw two interceptions or stall in Jets territory. And after taking one step forward against the Bears last week, the special teams fumbled away any progress: Punt returner Jerrel Jernigan muffed three punts and fumbled once, and Devin Thomas muffed a kick return as well.
There were a couple of moments when the Giants lost their cool, as Brandon Jacobs was ejected for fighting and Deon Grant was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty.
The defense played well and the running game looked good in the 17-3 loss to the Jets. But the Giants showed they still have work to do on offense and special teams before heading south to face the Redskins on Sept. 11.
"No, I'm not concerned," Manning said when reminded that the first-team offense has failed to score a passing touchdown this preseason. "I thought tonight we did some good things. There are definitely things to learn from and things to improve on. We have some new guys in spots; it is just a matter of getting right on target and getting on the same page."
After throwing a league-high 25 interceptions in 2010, Manning has stated numerous times that he is not a 25-interception quarterback.
Of course, some will be alarmed by Manning's interceptions against the Jets. His first came on the opening drive on a second-and-10 at the Jets' 27. Under pressure from linebacker David Harris up the middle, Manning threw the ball too high for Victor Cruz while backpedaling and was intercepted by safety Jim Leonhard.
Coughlin said Manning should have received some help and that the tight end and receiver should have made sight adjustments.
All offseason, Coughlin has been preaching that Manning needs to throw the ball away or perhaps take a sack instead of forcing something. But in this case, Coughlin admits Manning didn't have much time to do anything.
"Had a good blitz on and tried to hang in there and wait for Victor to open up," Manning explained. "You don't want to throw it away or take a sack in that situation. Tried to time it out and it looks like the ball may have floated on me a little bit."
The second interception came on a third-and-2 at the Giants' 44 in the second quarter. Manning felt some pressure and tried to hit Ahmad Bradshaw to his left with an over-the-shoulder pass, but Harris picked it off.
This is where Manning should have thrown the ball away. But the head coach echoed Manning's sentiment that there's no reason to be concerned yet.
"I'm not concerned," Coughlin said. "Would I have liked to have done better? Yeah. [But] until tonight, he's been very good with the ball, very conservative with the ball."
Even though Manning was just 15-of-30 for 200 yards, the Giants' first-team offense crossed into Jets territory on six of eight possessions. But the Giants came away with just three points and were stopped on a fourth-and-goal at the goal line.
The Giants were able to run the ball as Jacobs gained 51 yards on 10 carries. He might have been able to score a touchdown at the goal line, but he was disqualified for fighting with rookie defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson earlier on that drive. So it was D.J. Ware who got stuffed on the fourth-and-goal.
|Devin Thomas muffed a kick return as the Giants' special-team woes continued.|
But Coughlin was more concerned about his team's inability to hold on to the ball. Jernigan -- who has been returning punts while Coughlin wanted to keep Domenik Hixon out of harm's way -- kept dropping the ball. And Thomas, who was impressive against the Bears with a 73-yard kickoff return last Monday, had a kickoff bounce off his hands and out of bounds at the Giants' 4-yard-line.
And when Jets' cornerback Antonio Cromartie muffed a kickoff of his own, he managed to pick it up and sprint 68 yards through a massive hole in the second quarter.
The final blow on special teams came when Rhys Lloyd had a 42-yard field goal blocked in the third quarter, the second field goal attempt the Giants have had blocked this preseason.
Still, several Giants saw enough positives Monday to feel confident about where they are at right now.
"We're close. I mean, we have just got to get a few things knocked out; you know, the little mistakes we made during the game," Jacobs said. "It's not like they stopped us. Everyone could see, everyone in the stadium, everyone watching on TV, they could not stop us. We stopped ourselves. Not taking anything away from them; they are a good football team, good coaching. It's just that we can do better."
If the Giants are going to do anything this season, they have to give themselves the best chance possible. They have to get out of their own way, and that starts with Manning reducing his interceptions.
"We drove the ball well, but the turnovers, they will kill you," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "[Manning] knows that better than anybody, but I'm not worried about it, I know he's going to come to play when we kick the season off and he's going to be one of the reasons that we have a great year."