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Giants Gameday: Win in opener a rarity on roster

New York Giants offensive guard Justin Pugh speaks

New York Giants offensive guard Justin Pugh speaks with the media at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday, July 28, 2016. New York Giants Training Camp. Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

FOURTH TIME’S THE CHARM

Justin Pugh is starting his fourth season in the NFL on Sunday. He wants it to be different from the previous three in one key regard.

Pugh, like almost all of the Giants on the roster, was not on the team when it has won its opening game. The Giants have dropped the last five of them, in fact, leaving just five players on the team who have ever experienced being 1-0 here. So how important is it for Pugh to end that streak?

“It’s huge,” the guard told Newsday this week. “We haven’t gotten out to a hot start and that’s huge for us. Getting off to a hot start really will set the tone. I think it really would be huge for us going into the season.”

You think Pugh wants it bad? What about poor Rashad Jennings? The running back is going into his third opener with the Giants (0-3 in those games) but has never won a season-starting game in his career (0-7). Like a sprinter who always stumbles out of the blocks, Jennings understands how significant a clean start can be. A loss is not a death sentence — the Giants opened each of their two most recent Super Bowl-winning seasons with losses — but a win just makes everything so much easier.

“It’s Game One and it sets the tone for the whole entire season,” Jennings said. “The first game does not promise winning a championship or going to the playoffs, but it does set if you’re going to be 1-0 or 0-1. Every team is out there across the board fighting to be 1-0.”

Pugh said he’s not only focused on going 1-0, but on being 2-0. In a breach of one-week-at-a-time football etiquette, he also wants to focus on the home opener next week against the Saints.

“Those are the two games that last year we lost,” he said. “Dallas was definitely a heart-breaker and we also lost to the Saints at the very end of the game. It definitely gives us a little more to look forward to with these two games coming up.”

What makes Pugh confident the Giants can do it?

“I think we’re a better team than we were last year,” he said. “Obviously it’s a great challenge. We’ve played in Dallas three of the four years to start the season so we’re used to going out there for the first game. Now we have to go out there and win one.”

And the five Giants who were here when the Giants were 1-0 last in 2010? Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie, Jason Pierre-Paul, Will Beatty and Victor Cruz.

At Cowboys

4:05 p.m., Ch. 5

BY TOM ROCK

tom.rock@newsday.com

WHO’S THE BOSS?

While the Giants have enjoyed amazing consistency at the quarterback position, relying on one player alone to start each game for the past 11 and a half seasons, they have not enjoyed such stability when it comes to the quarterback of their defense. This will be the seventh consecutive year that the Giants will open the regular season with a new starting middle linebacker. And right now, less than a week away from kickoff, they can’t even say who that will be.

The likeliest candidates are a pair of free-agent acquisitions: Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson. It certainly won’t be Jasper Brinkley, who ended 2015 with the job and competed for it throughout most of training camp since he was released on Monday. The answer likely won’t be established until the Giants take the field. Or, more accurately, until the Cowboys do.

“It depends on what package we’re in,” Ben McAdoo said of who would start. “We can throw a variety of linebackers out there.”

No one since Antonio Pierce in 2009 has opened the season with the job in consecutive seasons.

FOR OPENERS

The Giants have faced plenty of rookie quarterbacks over the years, but it’s been 38 years since they’ve faced one on opening day of a season. Dak Prescott will be the first opposing quarterback to make his debut in such circumstances against the Giants since Sept. 2, 1978, when Doug Williams started for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants won that game, 19-13, but Williams would go on to have a successful career that included winning Super Bowl MVP with Washington.

FAST FACTS

-The Giants open against the Cowboys for the ninth time in their shared history on Sunday. Dallas has won all eight previous opening day meetings.

-The Giants are 49-37-5 in their first road games of the season. Only the Packers (54) have more wins in road openers.

-Odell Beckham Jr. needs 73 receptions and 1,388 yards this season to set NFL records for the most in both categories during a player’s first three NFL seasons. The current records are held by A.J. Green (187) and Randy Moss (2,775).

GIANT NUMBER

700

Days since Victor Cruz’s last NFL regular season game on Oct. 12, 2014 in Philadelphia.

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