EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — After a shaky performance in their preseason opener, New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants his players to stop worrying about making mistakes.
Speaking to reporters for the second time since training camp opened in late July, Spagnuolo felt many of his players were trying to be perfect on every play in the 23-10 loss to the Bengals on Friday.
It resulted in somewhat of a paralysis. Instead of reacting instinctively to what was happening, the defense was a step slow, caught up in thinking what to do.
That was a major mistake in a game the Giants gave up 432 yards and 29 first downs.
It reminded many of Spagnuolo’s first tenure with the team in 2007. New York gave up 80 points in its first two games before getting things straightened out and going on to win the Super Bowl.
“I’m hoping in this next go-around, that it will be think fast and just go,” Spagnuolo said, referring to the Giants game on Saturday against Jacksonville.
“That’s what the defensive game is all about. I told them, don’t worry about making mistakes. Maybe I didn’t say that enough going into the game. If you’re a guy and you want to make the football team, they want to be perfect. But we’re going to chase perfection, but we’re going to rely on (being) relentless. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
If there is a poster child for that style of play, it’s free agent cornerback Trevin Wade. The four-year veteran, who played in 15 NFL games in 2012 and ’13 with Cleveland and New Orleans, spent last year on practices squads with the Saints and Detroit.
Wade had an interception against the Bengals and he has opened eyes in training camp. He started with the first team on Monday with Prince Amukamara sidelined with a groin injury.
“He’s done a nice job,” Spagnuolo said. “When a guy steps up, he’s around the ball, he’s making plays — he made a big one at the end, I think you have to recognize that. At first I don’t think anybody really knew where he was, as a player. But it’s good to see him, I’d like to see more guys do that.”
Wade felt he could play for the Giants. The key was getting the opportunity and it came with injuries to Amukamara, Jayron Hosley (concussion), Trumaine McBride (hamstring) and Chykie Brown (knee).
“I come with a chip on my shoulder every day,” said Wade, who has felt underrated since his days in high school. “Every day I am out here I am thankful to be out there. I am going like it’s my last day.”
The biggest concern for Spagnuolo, who was hired in January, was that his defense did show some of the hustle and toughness in the game against the Bengals as it did in the practices with them earlier in the week.
“I think if you were to ask every one of our guys to a man, we would’ve thought that we would have played more physical and faster,” he said.
“We’re all trying to put our finger on that, and I think everybody has to look in the mirror first. But that is the goal. I think you can make up for a lot of mistakes if you do that, we all know that. That’s the goal, that’s been a goal right from the beginning.”
Spagnuolo said it’s impossible to say how much the team misses defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is recovering from a July 4 hand injury in a fireworks mishap.
“Our prayers are with him for health,” Spagnuolo said. “Until we can get him back here, we’ll just focus on the guys that we’ve got. ”
Spagnuolo said the current group of defensive ends — Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn and Owa Odighizuwa — will be relentless but no one has become the standout.
Spagnuolo is concerned with the amount of time rookie safety Landon Collins will miss with a sprained knee. He is hopeful that Brandon Meriweather, who was signed on Sunday, will give the defense a vocal, big-hitting veteran.
Meriweather has been fined and suspended several times for helmet-to-helmet hits. Spagnuolo and coach Tom Coughlin want him to be physical but toe the line.
“I’m going to play my game the way I play my game, but I’m also going to respect the rules,” Meriweather said.
Meriweather downplayed his run-in with Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, saying it’s in the past.
NOTES: WRs Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. had a couple of good catches in the practice that started at 6 p.m. EDT. …Selvie sustained a knee injury in the practice and did not return. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. … Moore and OT Ereck Flowers seemingly had to be separated after a line drill. …S Cooper Taylor (sore toe) did not practice. … CB Trumaine McBride (hamstring) returned to practice.
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