The day of reckoning for the Giants’ fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.
And while head coach Tom Coughlin and several of the veterans tried to downplay the “Snoopy Bowl,” they all know the importance of a good showing against their co-tenants — not just for the guys on the proverbial bubble, but for the starters who know they can fall down the depth chart if they continue their malaise.
“You can see a renewed energy out here on the practice field this week,” said wideout Victor Cruz. “Guys understand [the importance]. Everybody’s getting things done at the right pace. Everybody knows we’ve got to get on the right track. … There were a lot less mental errors out here and you can sense the urgency.”
Cruz said that while guys know the importance of Friday’s game and how job security is likely tethered to their respective performances, no one can afford to have a mental lock once the lights shine.
“We all got the message [from Coughlin] and we understood his way of saying his message that makes it loud and clear. But he really didn’t have to say anything, because we already knew [jobs and roster spots are on the line],” said Cruz. “I tell [the younger players] that I prepare myself accordingly. Whether it’s a big game or practice, or whatever. That’s how you stay mentally prepared and comfortable in what you do. … Act like this is our last chance that we get.”
Cruz isn’t in any danger of being cut or even dropped down the depth chart, but his words should be heeded by others. There are just two games remaining in the preseson for Big Blue, meaning others who are not blessed with Cruz’s skills or job security are on the edge of either continuing their NFL dreams or looking for employment elsewhere.
There are a number of players along the offensive line who seemingly have such security regardless of how they play on Friday. Newcomers Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg are likely safe. Right tackle Justin Pugh, who has gotten some work at left tackle as customary starter Will Beatty is still working his way back from a broken leg suffered last season, is obviously safe as well.
“We have two games remaining, but we should all go into this game with the mentality that we have to play well,” Pugh said. “We all have to play well this week, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and think about [cut day]. Guys just need really go out there and play their game, play together and leave with that good feeling in our stomachs.”
Coughlin hasn’t been able to stomach the effort of his team this preseason — even with an unbeaten mark. He alluded earlier in the week that he may shake up the depth chart Friday. The starters may play well into the third quarter, but it also means he’ll try and work some of the reserves in with the starters to see what they can do.
It’s a logical progression considering some of the regular rotation guys have either fallen flat or can’t stay healthy enough to get reps. The wide receiver position may see the biggest shakeup. First-rounder Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to make an impact on the practice field, let alone preseason action. He’s out with a troublesome hamstring after a setback earlier in the week. Mario Manningham, Jerrel Jernigan, Julian Talley, Preston Parker and Trindon Holliday have all been passed by free agents Corey Washington and Marcus Harris.
And Coughlin said he’ll reward the latter two accordingly.
“It’s an important thing to get them involved [with the starters]. How they’re used and how many snaps they’ll get in that time slot, we’ll see. I would like to see each of them, but there are also other people that have to have an opportunity to show,” said Coughlin. “It’s an important time for everyone. But based on last week’s performance, I would hope that there is significant production increase and better quality of play for our ones [starters], certainly, but for everyone else as well.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.