It’s tough to say a team is at a crossroads this early in the season, but the Giants could be coming off such an uninspired performance on a day that most of America was watching.

But when you play in the largest media market, it’s understandable that critics are already out in full-force. Lose this game to the depleted Rams — on Monday night, no less — and the vultures will certainly be out.

Good thing for the Giants, though, that not many teams in the league handle adversity better than them. Head coach Tom Coughlin — who noted that injuries played a huge part in the loss but quickly added it’s still not an excuse — said he addressed the team’s obstacles.

“There’s a lot to overcome but their circumstances a year ago aren’t too far from ours in ’07,” said Coughlin, using the world champion Packers as the model for overcoming early injuries. “We have some experience along those lines, but we just have to get going. We just have to start playing. The mistakes from the preseason; it is not preseason anymore. Nothing else matters except getting it right.”

 

What the Giants have to get right before they square off against the Rams is the play of their offensive line and running game. In 2010, the Giants averaged 137.5 rushing yards a game, or 62.5 more than they gained in Washington. Such ineffectiveness led to questions about the new-look offensive line — which includes center David Baas and left tackle Will Beatty — and whether the unit has had enough time to develop the cohesion to become the backbone of the offense like it used to be.

The proud unit knows their performance left a lot to be desired against the Redskins.

Right guard Chris Snee, arguably the team’s best lineman and one of the most revered leaders on the team, said he won’t allow the lack of cohesion to be a crutch.

“It’s no excuse,” Snee said. “We have to play better and we will play better. It has to start next week. We can’t say, ‘We have new guys, we get a month’s grace period.’ These games are for real.”

Left guard David Diehl, who made the switch from left tackle, said the literal changing of the guard isn’t an excuse. Diehl moved from the blindside tackle spot to his original position of guard, so his transition wasn’t as dramatic. He was drafted out of Illinois as a guard and has done everything he can to make Beatty’s insertion into the starting lineup seamless.

That didn’t help New York against the Redskins, but Diehl feels they’ll be much improved by Monday night.

“We still have 15 games left to play and still have work to do,” Diehl said. “You can sit here and make excuses but we didn’t play well enough. Those [big mistakes] are the things that you can’t let happen. When those opportunities come up you have to make the most of them.”

Such growing pains were to be expected for most every team in the lockout shortened off-season. Coughlin, though, said that wasn’t a factor. The Giants just didn’t play well enough.

“We didn’t play as well as we can play,” Coughlin said. “You can say it any way you want. There is no excuse for it. We didn’t play as well as we can and sometimes the very quick adjustments are not being made exactly the way they should be made.”

Such a description makes it sound like blame should fall at the feet of the team’s leader – usually the starting quarterback. But Coughlin was quick to point out that even if Eli Manning had played well — which he didn’t — it wouldn’t have mattered because most everyone else didn’t perform up to expectations either.

“There are 11 of them out there and you are not going to have success with anything on offense without all 11 making a strong contribution,” said Coughlin. “Eli is the quarterback, so that is where everything wants to be centered, but it takes everybody. I don’t know if that is [solely] on the quarterback. He is certainly going to take the pieces to the puzzle and try to execute the offense the way it is designed. [But] the exact identity of how it is going to be is not [entirely] on the quarterback.”

BIG BLUE notes:

» Don’t count Antrel Rolle as ready to panic yet. As a matter of fact, the loquacious safety said losing to the divisional rival Redskins was more fluke than anything: “We know that the Washington Redskins are not a better team than us. If we played them 100 times, they might win five. They won that day [and] it never leaves a good taste in your mouth when you lose to an opponent that you know you are better than.”

» Wideout Hakeem Nicks didn’t practice, Wednesday, due to a bone bruise in his knee. He’s listed as “day to day.”

» Defensive end Osi Umenyiora also didn’t participate yesterday, while his bookend, Justin Tuck, gave it a go as the Giants went with a light practice in just shells.



» Coughlin tried not to sound like all’s lost without his bookend pass rushers, so it wouldn’t disrespect their replacements, but did say Umenyiora and Tuck are obviously key contributors: “Get them out there and you will quickly see [their importance] and that’s not taking anything away from the guys that are playing. They are all playing their tails off. [Dave] Tollefson played well. [Justin] Trattou came in and gave us some snaps. [Jason Pierre-Paul] rose up again when he had to and made a couple sacks … you are talking about reinforcements of a very high quality.”



Coughlin said it’s frustrating having to wait for the injured to heal and showed a particular amount of angst when discussing one oft-injured player: “Beckum is Beckum,” Coughlin said about tight end Travis Beckum, who is nursing two bad hamstrings. Coughlin quickly switched his tone when told it appeared as if he was harder on Beckum than the other injured: “Evidentially, it is not that way yet. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet. We have had hamstring issues with Travis before. I am not frustrated, but expectations are very high. It is very difficult to improve him when he is not practicing.”

» Even though Steven Jackson won’t be available, his backup, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, can fill in nicely, according to Coughlin: “Absolutely,” he said when asked if Cadillac can haul the load. “19 [rushes] for 91 [yards] with Cadillac [last week against the Eagles]. They are just going to keep on doing what they do very well, or attempt to … much different [running styles], but they are both very good football players. It’ll be the same offense.”

» No word yet on the status of Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s injured finger, but Coughlin thinks he’ll play: “I think you assess all that during the course of the week. They have an extra day so that is going to help and then they will make their adjustments as it gets closer to game planning. I’m sure they game-planned as if he is healthy and then as they get closer, they will make some decisions about what he can and cannot do.”



Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for live updates from practice everyday.

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