By this time in the summer, a team usually has a pretty good idea what its offense will look like when it heads into the games that matter. After three preseason contests, the identity of the unit starts to come into focus. The quarterback and the head coach discover who can be trusted to make plays and, sometimes more importantly, who can’t.
But this preseason is different for the Giants. This preseason has been more about imagining how the two key pieces who will join Eli Manning on the field for the opener Sept. 9 will fit into the system rather than actually seeing it. At least not in any game situations.
That’s because Manning likely finished his preseason adventures Friday night without ever throwing a pass to Odell Beckham Jr. and having played only a handful of snaps with Saquon Barkley in the backfield.
For now, all the Giants can do is hypothesize about how they’ll look with them on the field against an opponent.
“You project what their effect might be,” Pat Shurmur said of evaluating the performance of the offense without two key players. “You just watch it for what it is with the guys who are in there with the idea that those guys may be playing for you.”
So while this third preseason game was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the real deal, it really was more of an opportunity for Manning to work with some of the players who might be overshadowed when the supernovas return . . . along with a few understudies.
And though the Giants’ starting offense did not score any touchdowns, Manning certainly put up solid numbers while playing the entire first half.
He completed 17 of 23 passes for 188 yards. Four of his six incompletions were to players who, in a real game with a fully stocked lineup, would not be on the field with the offense (including three in the direction of Hunter Sharp, who dropped two of them). He was 7-for-7 for 78 yards when throwing to Sterling Shepard, was 3-for-4 for 23 yards to Evan Engram and hit Cody Latimer on a 54-yarder that should have been a touchdown but was underthrown.
He left the field at halftime with a 19-13 lead in a game the Giants eventually won, 22-16.
“I thought there were some good things and things to improve on,” Manning said. “We still have this whole week of practice to work on things and we should be ready to go.”
Two weeks to practice with Beckham and Barkley, which is about the only place Manning has been working with them. Shurmur held them out of Friday’s game because they are “not quite ready yet” and because “I just didn’t want to put them in there.” Both participated fully in pregame warm-ups.
“Odell’s been full-go for the last few weeks and we also have four years together,” Manning said of his connection with the wide receiver. “We’ll be fine.”
Barkley, it seems, will be well enough to resume practicing this week after missing time with his strained hamstring.
“Obviously, we’ll just continue to learn within the offense and get on the same timing,” Manning said of this week’s agenda in practice, with the probability that hardly any starters will play in next week’s preseason finale against the Patriots. “Have everybody in there, get some reps with everybody . . . Obviously our mindset is going to be on getting ready for that first opening game.”
Notes & quotes: Engram left in the second quarter with a concussion after being sandwiched between Jets LBs Avery Williamson and Darren Lee. TE Rhett Ellison also left in the second quarter with an eye injury.