By Curt Macysyn
Improvement remains the lifeblood of any football team. If your team is not improving, then the squad will soon fall behind. Over the first three weeks of the season, the Giants’ on-field play has gotten better, and coincidentally, the team secured its first win of the season with its best all around effort of the campaign. This week, Big Blue travels down I-95 to face division rivals, the Washington Redskins, in an away game on Thursday night. Both teams are 1-2 on the young season, and the loser of this game faces an uphill battle to get back into playoff contention.
The first order of business for the Giants will be to establish a lead. In its first two games, New York fell behind by two scores and had to dig themselves out of an early hole in the process. While the G-men did jump out to a 14-0 lead against the Texans on Sunday, the team has still not scored in the first quarter this season. A botched field goal attempt and a Larry Donnell fumble cost Big Blue a chance for first quarter points against Houston.
New York Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin realizes that the early mistakes could have been costly against the Texans, and he is still looking for improvement from his team. “There is work to do; we’ve got a lot of things that we need to clean up. You saw some of the disappointments of the early part of the game in terms of the snap from center, the turnover inside the green zone, we’ve got a lot of young people playing,” Coughlin said when he met the media on Monday.
But because the G-men play on Thursday night, practice time will be limited, yet improvement will still be critical. The biggest improvement so far has been the progress of the offensive line that limited J.J. Watt and the Texans’ defense to one sack on Sunday. In addition, the line provided solid run blocking for workhorse tailback Rashad Jennings, who carried the ball 34 times for 174 yards and a touchdown. Even though Jenning’s touchdown was from one-yard out, the line provided clear daylight into the end zone for the Giants’ runner to go in standing up.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), offensive tackles Will Beatty + (5.8) and Justin Pugh + (2.8) are ranked in the top twenty at their position in the NFL. Guards John Jerry and Weston Richburg, along with center J.D. Walton have improved every game as well, and all three graded out positively against the Texans on Sunday. For those Giants’ fans clamoring for the team to pick up offensive lineman Alex Boone during his holdout from the San Francisco 49ers; his overall rating is – (1.9) on the season, and the Giants’ John Jerry comes in at + (0.2). A zero game denotes an average performance, so there should be optimism in how Jerry has performed.
The head coach summarily dismissed the notion that a Thursday night provides an additional challenge for the squad. “We do have a set routine in our way in which we prepare for a Thursday night game. We experimented with this in the past; this is the one that we like, the schedule in terms of bringing guys in late today and having our normal Wednesday introduction in terms of meetings. Really the field work is very minimal,” Coughlin indicated.
Veteran linebacker Jameel McClain also dismissed the impact that the short work week provides. “It is always a challenge to have this type of turnaround in the NFL, to go from a Sunday to a Thursday night. How I look at it is both teams are going through the same thing. It is more of a mental preparation style week because of the physicality [of the game]. Most people’s bodies don’t really recover until Tuesday or Wednesday. It is really going to be a mental preparation type week for us,” McClain said.
It appears that if the Giants are able to keep their focus on improving, then the team will begin to make some noise in the competitive NFC East.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.