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Giants' veterans, coaches must not let youngsters get down

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur looks on during

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur looks on during a game against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Monday in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images/Ronald Martinez

Alec Ogletree’s confidence in the Giants’ defense is not shaken, even after Sunday’s dreadful performance against the Cowboys. He still thinks they can be a top 10 unit in the NFL, even though by some metrics they were dead last following the weekend’s games.

But Ogletree is a veteran. He’s seen enough football to know how these things work after a Week 1 disappointment, and more importantly, to know how to handle it. He basically went down the quotability checklist that is issued to nearly every player after a certain amount of time in the league while he was on a conference call on Monday.

Correctable mistakes. Check.

Only one week. Check.

Bounce back this coming week against (insert opponent here). Check.

“I think we have a great defense here,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us doing it.”

But what about the guys who have never had to face something like this before? What about the youngsters who were exposed in their first professional games, or first time being placed in such a situation? They don’t have the resume that Ogletree can fall back on, the wisdom to not only know what went wrong but how to improve it.

Which is why the veterans and coaches will spend a good deal of the next few days not only showing these green Giants what they did wrong, but what they have done right in the past. Confidence can be the most fragile muscle on an athlete, and the Giants want to make sure that theirs remain intact.

“Certainly, we didn’t do anything well enough to win the game [Sunday], so you coach them on the details of it, but also on the mindset of getting back to work,” Pat Shurmur said on Monday. “You just show them where they could have been better, or this was a mistake… [then] you show them doing it properly in practice, and then you try to get them to do it properly again, and just keep getting the reps you need to make them better. That includes obviously not only what you do physically, but also mentally.”

To be fair, it wasn’t only the wide-eyed Giants who faltered on Sunday. Yes, cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and rookie first-round pick DeAndre Baker had a tough go of it. Second-year linebacker Tae Davis struggled. First-round defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence was not as imposing as his 16th-overall-pick status. But veteran Michael Thomas was also beaten for an easy touchdown and there were other breakdowns from players who should know better.

“We have a really young football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, [and] especially in the back end,” Shurmur said. “I think there is a lot to be learned from it.”

It’s important that the inexperienced culprits learn quickly, not only for the sake of the team but for the sake of their psyche. Baker hadn’t given up a touchdown in two full seasons while playing at Georgia. He gave one up in man-to-man coverage against Amari Cooper in the first half on Sunday.

Ogletree said he trusts that the confidence of the kids isn’t shaken, though it may have been jostled around a bit.

“They’ve played a lot of ball,” he said. “They study the game and they know how to play. It’s just a matter of all of us just doing the right things at the right moment and being very detailed in our work.”

His advice to his younger teammates?

“It’s a long season,” he said. “Welcome to the NFL.”

NOTES & QUOTES: Shurmur said he would not be surprised to get an apology from the league for the intentional grounding penalty against Eli Manning in the first half of Sunday’s game that changed the situation from a potential fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 35 to fourth-and-11. Saquon Barkley, he said, was in the area of the throw … Shurmur tried to defend what many see as an underuse of Barkley in the game with just 11 carries and two catches. Six of those touches came in the first 17 plays. “Obviously it was his first game playing in full action and I thought he did a good job,” Shurmur said. “It’s always good to keep him involved throughout, but the way the first half played out, it was only four possessions… You don’t go into it thinking he isn’t going to touch the ball, that’s just how that first half played out” … Eli Manning said he was impressed by the newly reconfigured offensive line. “They did a great job in the run game and the pass game,” Manning said on Monday. “They protected well all game against a good defensive line, a lot of movement, some blitzes, so I thought the offensive line did a great job. They gave me time to get through my progressions and gave us a chance to be successful.”

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