The Giants enter the tough part of their schedule sitting with an advantageous record. But unlike the previous campaigns, Big Blue is hoping to avoid yet another late-season flameout.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said before he sent his team off for its bye week, he reiterated the importance of not feeling as if they’ve accomplished anything despite being in sole possession of first place.
“They got the message,” he said. “I feel comfortable with that.”
Quarterback Eli Manning got the message loud and clear. He said the bye week came at a good time, as players should be returning healthy, and added he feels his team will be ready to tackle the tough part of their schedule.
“[We’re] coming off a big win [and] it was good to get away from things,” Manning said. “But we have to make sure we come back from things refreshed, legs under us ready to continue to work hard, have a great week of preparation and get ready for Miami.”
Manning said the biggest thing he needs to work on so they can avoid another late-season collapse is how his offense performs in clutch situations.
“I think we can definitely improve on third down [and not] get into as many third-and-long situations,” said Manning of a unit that’s only converting 31 percent of their opportunities. “It’s really been the third-and-seven-plus where we’re not as good as we need to be. Sometimes it’s a bad decision by me or a bad route … we just have to make sure we’re sharp and consistent and making sure we keep the ball in our hands.”
While he says third-down conversions aren’t the only area to fix, Manning said he’s confident they can keep it going.
“I’m pleased with where we are right now [because] we’ve gotten better and made strides since the beginning of the season,” Manning said. “Guys are doing some really good things and some young guys have stepped up and started playing good football. We still have lots of areas where we can improve on, but I like where we’re going and make sure we continue to strive to get better each week.”
Coughlin has always been known as a cautious optimistic, so it was rather surprising to hear him so confident about the tough road ahead. He hinted that his confidence could have something to do with the fact that during his eight-year tenure in New York, the Giants have been very successful coming off bye weeks. He added he’s looking forward to the remaining 10 games this season.
“Hopefully [future success] will be because we’ve come back re-focused and ready to go. If anything, the preparation should be better,” Coughlin noted. “Here we are after six games so we actually have a 10-game schedule. Here we go.”
Big Blue notes
» Cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) is almost ready for a full slate of practice and said he’s “over-anxious” to get out there and show what he can do: “[The anticipation] makes my blood boil a little bit because I know I can make an impact on this team. I can’t control that now, but as soon as I am ready to go, I am going to give it all I’ve got.”
Amukamara added he feels the re-insertion will be seamless because he’s been a quick study in the classroom: “For the mental side of it, I go to every meeting and I am still watching film and being taught a lot from [safeties] coach Dave [Merritt] and [cornerbacks] coach [Peter] Giunta. I know I am getting that stuff in and I am out at practice going through the plays and stuff … I am getting my DB stuff down. I know the playbook like the back of my hand.”
»Oft-injured wideout Ramses Barden (knee) also said he’s close. He began the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and the team has until Week 9 to activate him or put him on season-ending injured reserve. Barden said the latter is not an option and he will be ready when his name is called: “That’s where I am at, mentally. I plan on playing [Sunday against the Dolphins]. I plan on being in the game plan and I plan on contributing in whatever way the team sees necessary. I can’t wait [because] by the time next week comes around, it would have been 11 ½ months [of inactivity].”
»Running back Brandon Jacobs isn’t in as big of a hurry as the younger guys because he’s been there before. Jacobs said he will not be rushing back from his knee injury because it’ll only make matters worse: “I got most of the swelling down so now I am just working on flexing and being able to do certain things. I am not worried about it. I will be back when I need to be back.”
Jacobs said when he tried to come back too soon in 2009 it not only hurt his production but the team’s as well: “Just like I knew then that I wasn’t fully ready, but I still went out there and tried to help the team the best that I could. It only hurt me in the end. I can bet my bottom dollar that it won’t happen again.”
Jacobs then caught himself – perhaps realizing his words might come off as selfish – and reiterated he’ll try to heal up as fast as possible because it’s no fun being a glorified cheerleader: “It will never get easier to sit out a game. You have your team out there fighting and scratching as hard as they can fight and scratch for 60 minutes and you want to be out there helping. That is the hard thing about it because you want to be there for them. It sucks when you are hurt.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.