Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants reacts after...

Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants reacts after a roughing the passer penalty against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter in the game at Levi's Stadium on September 21, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. Credit: Getty Images

The Giants did not want to be in this position.

Yet here they are, playing the Seattle Seahawks on a Monday night.

With the Dolphins on deck. Followed by the Bills.

The Giants are 1-2.

The slope could be slippery.

The Giants will be without two of their best players, running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas. Barkley remains sidelined by a high ankle sprain and Thomas had a setback with his hamstring during the practice week. Barkley initially was expected to miss three games. He will have missed three games as of Monday night.

The defense should get a boost from the return of outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who missed two games with a hamstring injury. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale considers Ojulari the Giants’ most natural pass rusher.

Of Ojulari, coach Brian Daboll said Saturday: “He’s had a good week. Feels good, practiced well. [We’re] counting on him being there. He’s a good player for us. We’ve got to get him into those situations where we can utilize his skill set, which he does a good job of rushing the passer. But we’ve got to play good team defense, good team football in order to get to some of those situations.”

Veteran defensive tackle Leonard Williams understands that. He also believes that the Giants are still evolving.

“I mean, honestly, we are still finding [our identity],” he said Thursday. “That’s why I try to say every year is a new year regardless of if you have a lot of the same players on the team, regardless of if you have a lot of the same coaches that are coming back. Each year is a new year and you’ve got to treat it that way. Right now, I think we are on the right track, like I said, but there are still some things that I think we have to bring together and close on who we are.”

A year ago, the Giants surprisingly became a playoff team in their first year under Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen.

They were always a tough out, though the games against the Eagles represented a departure from that feisty style of play.

This year, Williams said, the veteran players need to set the example. It’s getting late for a team to still be in search mode.

“I mean, it’s definitely on the leaders, for sure,” he said. “Even outside of the coaches. The coaches are obviously leaders, but I think .  .  . this is a players’ game and we are the ones out there on the field. We are the ones setting the tempo in practice and all type of things like that. I think it’s on us to shape the identity of the team and shape the way we go about things around here. A lot of times rookies coming in, they’re not knowing what to expect, they are just following the guys in front of them, and that’s when it’s on the leaders to show the whole team how it’s done.”

As for the Seahawks, they are returning to the scene of their greatest success as an organization. On Feb. 2, 2014, they won the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, beating the Broncos, 43-8.

The Giants on Monday will have to contend with a couple of former Giants, quarterback Geno Smith and safety Julian Love. Jamal Adams, who like Smith is a former Jet, is expected to make his season debut. Adams said in recent days that he considered retiring in the immediate aftermath of the serious leg injury he suffered in last season’s opener. This is his first game back.

Smith, meanwhile, is playing some of the finest football of his career. He has prioritized taking care of the football, and that has shown. He has no fumbles this season after having eight in 2022. In three games, he’s been sacked three times.

After last year’s win over the Giants, Smith dedicated the game to Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, who he said believed in him. He also said he has moved on.

n  Turning the corner(s)

Daboll, asked about growing pains with the Giants starting two rookie cornerbacks, as they have since the opener: “I’d say any young player, starting with rookies, but even second-year guys, they have to play. There’s going to be some quote-unquote growing pains at times with any young player. But I think as long as they’re improving and you can see it at practice, they get some more familiarity in game situations.

“They’re good players. Put them into different situations. Hopefully the next time they react to a situation, whatever that may be, they learn from it and they’re able to execute it better than the first time that they did it. But I have a lot of confidence in our young guys. We’ll just keep on rolling along with them.”

Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, a 17-year coach in his fourth year with the Giants, struck a less patient tone.

“When I think about our whole secondary, you go back and watch the games that we didn’t play as well as we would have liked and [you hear], ‘Gosh, I wish I would’ve had that play back, I wish I would’ve had that play back,’ ” Henderson said Saturday. “And we have five guys playing, and [if] they all want two plays back? That’s a problem.”

His conclusion?

“We’ve got to get rid of those plays.”

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