Will Hernandez has noticed a change.
"Just the attitude in everybody’s eyes, the look in everybody’s eyes during practice every day," the starting guard said of the vibes he has received from his Giants teammates this week. "The past three practices that we’ve had since our last game, it differs in energy. Guys are coming out there doing specifically what they need to do, paying attention to the smallest details. Coming out with all this energy, coming out with all this purpose."
A sloppy 26-16 opening night loss to the Steelers on national television will do that to a team. Or at least it should.
That’s why long before the Giants even took the field in their opener, new head coach Joe Judge was already eying this Week 2 game as one that would define his team. This is the week, his preaching goes, when the best teams make the biggest improvements. It’s when a squad can see what it put on the field in the first game and finally build upon it.
So as the Giants face the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, they do it with one objective: improvement.
Not victory? That will, ideally, be a byproduct.
"We’re still working on really getting our identity and our base set as a program and as a culture," Judge said. "The things I want to see this week, on top of playing together as a team for 60 minutes, which I was pleased with how we did it last week, is I want to see the guys go out there and execute and not set ourselves back with mistakes."
Luckily for the Giants there is plenty of room for growth in just about every area. Even the players who were supposed to be the pillars of the program cracked or crumbled in the opener. Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are seen as the young core of the offense, and none of them started this season with a shining effort. The offensive line was supposed to be greatly improved. It wasn’t.
That adds to the team’s desire to make the kind of improvements that will lead to wins.
"You’re always motivated by a loss, nobody likes to lose," Hernandez said. "We’re already motivated as it is. You get something like that that happens, of course we’re going to come out with even more of a chip on our shoulder. That’s not us, that’s not what we want to do, that’s not what we want to put out there. Of course it motivated us and we’re more motivated than ever now."
The loss certainly has not diminished the team’s confidence. Not even on the offensive line that looked overmatched at times on Monday against one of the top defensive fronts in the NFL and now must face another team that also boasts a superb group at the line of scrimmage. Next week, they face the 49ers another team with that same strength.
"Give us the best," Hernandez said. "We want to play against the best, we want to be challenged. We didn’t come out here to pick and choose our teams. We want to play the best guys. Go out there, match up and kill it as an offensive line all together. We’re not ducking from anybody. We’re not watching who we’re playing this week and not next week. Bring it on, whoever it is, it doesn’t matter."
It's nice that the Giants feel that way. Now they have to play that way. They need to make the jump from the practice field to the games before this season begins to spiral into another forgotten string of games.
It’s why the practices this week have had a new sense of urgency.
"I’d say across the board our guys did a really fantastic job with that," Judge said. "Not only the fundamentals that they’re going to apply into this week’s direct schemes for the opponent we have to play, but also just general football 101. We want to make sure we always work on our blocking, our tackling, our ball security, our turnover or ball disruption. All those fundamentals that you have to have to be a successful football team."
With any luck, it will lead to a football team that is 1-1.