The Giants began their Week 1 game plan in earnest this week with a multitude of unanswered questions. But the one thing they aren’t questioning is whether they feel ready for the games to finally mean something.
Their opener, a Monday Night Football affair in Detroit against the Lions, features numerous tests for Big Blue. They’ll face an offense that boasts arguably the NFL's best wideout in Calvin Johnson, a quarterback who routinely passes for 4,000 yards in Matthew Stafford and a defensive front seven led by All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
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But for all the queries they’ll field this week about how to tame the Lions, the Giants are looking forward to answering those questions. They beat being repeatedly asked about their own uneven preseason.
“That question has been asked a million times, because everybody jumps on the bandwagon over, ‘Where is the offense?’ But like I’ve said before, we’re a work in progress and I don’t feel like anybody claims that they’re where they want to be before the season’s even begun,” said head coach Tom Coughlin. “We’re now focusing on the Detroit Lions. They’re a good team [and have a] very good defensive front. They’re aggressive, they’re penetrators and powerful. They cause significant problems as you prepare. We just have to get ourselves ready and get our football team in a position that we want to be in.”
Coughlin went on to pump up the Lions’ offense, particularly the dynamic passing duo of Stafford to Johnson.
“They’re very good, too. That Calvin Johnson, well, you better know where he is all the time. You better have some adjustments prepared for him and you certainly have to set your coverage, or set some of your coverages to try to be in a position to take away the things he does really well,” said Coughlin. “And with his quarterback, I’ve noticed a difference [this preseason]. What I’ve noticed is not just him [improving], but the balance in the offense and the obvious attempt to not turn it over.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning didn’t have a good preseason, and opening against the Lions’ fearsome pass rush might not help him get back on track.
“I think we know there’s things we need to do better, but I still think there’re things we’re doing well and have a good feel for, but I think we’ve got to keep growing each week. We didn’t show everything in preseason, but I feel like we’re in a good spot to compete and do our job,” Manning said. “Their defense has done a good job. Their corners have done a good job of being aggressive and making plays, but also not giving up any big plays. Their pass rush is aggressive, led by Suh. He’s a good player and he does a good job of being disruptive in the run game and the pass game. ... We’ve got to be prepared on all fronts. They’ve got a good defense.”
Big Blue finished the preseason unbeaten, but they’re far from an infallible squad. They know they’ve struggled — particularly the starters on both sides of the ball.
Coughlin said he truly believes their troubles can be ironed out before Monday, as he noted practices and film preparation this week have been very good. He added he thinks preparing for just one opponent this week has helped the team’s overall focus.
“We’re still a work in progress, let’s face it, but I feel like we’re getting better,” said Coughlin. “I mean we feel like the extra [preseason] game helped us and we’ve worked hard at it. There’s been some progress made. We’ve made some strides, done some good things and some bad things. So, this is what we’re trying to iron. But we need to go ahead and have some more strides.”
Count star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul as a believer good things are about to happen for the Giants. The always confident Pierre-Paul said he thinks his squad is about to hit their stride, noting when the team’s collective backs are against the wall, they seem to thrive.
“We’re good. We could do better, yeah, but we’re good. We’re coming to practice every day and executing what we’re told, so we’re good,” said Pierre-Paul. “We’re good, because, like I said, it was just the preseason. All we really wanted to do is work on our techniques and try to stay healthy — that’s the main part. But now, it’s real. Now, it’s much better because we get to hit another team for real and stay on the field for the whole game. And once we get the hang of it and you know it’s real and know you’re not coming off the field unless you’re tired or have a broken leg or something, then you know it’s real.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.