Head coach Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants looks...

Head coach Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants looks on in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on September 9, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Lawrie

Who are these Giants?

That’s a good question. We certainly know the names on the roster and the players on the field. Who what is their collective identity? What is their team personality?

Pat Shurmur doesn’t know yet. And it may take a while before he can answer that question. The head coach has said in the past that he sees the first quarter of the season as an extension of training camp, a time when the team is just starting to set after an August spent with a lot of work but very little actual football.

“If you’re fortunate to stay healthy enough, teams typically make big improvements between Week 1 and Week 2, and certainly Week 2 to Week 3, really through the first month of the season,” Shurmur said. “I really do think it takes a little while to see what your team is going to be like.”

The trick, Shurmur said, is to find yourself without failing.

“Along the way, you’ve got to fight to win games.”

The Giants will try to do that on Sunday night when they face the Cowboys in Dallas. As they search for their true essence and a definition of self, they need to also stay afloat in a competitive division and wide-open conference for playoff contention. After losing to the Jaguars, a victory over the Cowboys is almost a necessity.

They seemed pleased with their progress. Someone tried to compliment James Bettcher for his defense that allowed just two passes of 20 yards or more in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. He was having none of that.

“Shoot, we don’t want any passes of 20 yards or more,” the Giants’ defensive coordinator said. “That’s what I would say to our guys.”

In fact, that’s the tone all of the Giants seem to be taking this week. After an opening day performance that was good -- but not good enough – they are counting on rapid improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.

“It was a better Wednesday than last week,” Bettcher said on Thursday of the previous day’s practice. “I felt great energy on the field. I think our guys are building confidence every day. At the end of the day, the years of experience of the players on the field doesn’t matter as much as their experience in snaps playing together. The more these guys play together, the better they’ll be able to play with each other and off each other. I can see that confidence growing day by day.”

Being better on a Wednesday isn’t as important as being better on a Sunday (although it certainly helps). The illustration of that growth and progress needs to make its way to Dallas for the game against the Cowboys.

“I notice incremental differences to the good this second week,” Shurmur said. “I felt like Wednesday’s practice was better than last Wednesday, I felt like Thursday’s practice was better, and I actually felt like (Friday’s) practice was better than last Friday. That’s what you’re trying to get. When I talk about improvement from a team, you have to practice this game and if you’re fortunate to stay healthy, those are the improvements you look for and hopefully it translates into better play on Sunday.”

That’s the idea, at least. Because if it doesn’t, the Giants will have no trouble finding themselves. They’ll be right there at the bottom of the standings for a second year in a row.

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