To all those who have been watching the starting offense for the Giants struggle through three preseason games, hand-wringing over the lack of first downs, sweating over the fact that no points have been scored with Eli Manning at quarterback, and getting jittery with the regular-season opener just a little more than a week away, running back Shane Vereen has a message for you.
“Relax,” he said with a broad smile.
Easier said than done, of course, for a fanbase that has not had a winning team to root for in three seasons and not seen a postseason game in four. But Vereen and most of the other Giants believe everything is under control. Would they like to play better? Sure, who wouldn’t? But as they head into Thursday’s preseason finale against the Patriots, the Giants aren’t too worried.
“Hopefully, you progress as you go on,” center Weston Richburg said. “We’re looking to progress from last week and get better. As an offensive line, we know we have work to do. I think to get this whole thing going we all have to watch the film and know what we’re doing to get better and have a better result on the field.”
Ben McAdoo hasn’t said how much he will play his starters, or even if he will at all, in the game on Thursday. And he said he saw progress in Saturday’s game against the Jets, even though there were far too many mistakes.
“I feel like we’re building a strong football team,” he said. “We created a foundation and we keep adding to that foundation. The fundamentals are coming, the physicality is coming. We’re not where we want to be just yet, but thank goodness we’re not where we used to be.”
Not that preseason games serve as much of a barometer for anything offensively. As was pointed out by Justin Pugh, the starting guard who has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, these exhibition contests are often dictated by objectives other than winning. Manning, for instance, has been a notoriously bad performer in preseason games. A big part of that is because he does not rely on one of his best skills as a quarterback, which is to get out of doomed plays at the line of scrimmage and check into what should be more successful ones.
“Sometimes you get up there and they have a safety in the box,” Pugh said. “Normally, we get out of it. Preseason you want to see what you are made of. You want to run the ball and see what you can do against someone down in the box. You aren’t putting as big of an emphasis on getting some of your marquee plays called in games that are in the preseason, so there is definitely more that is going to go into it.
“Watching the film,” he added, “I know we are a lot closer than we look.”
“It’s preseason for a reason,” the running back said. “It’s camp for a reason. There are a lot of times where the coaches have something else in mind. Something that we need to work on, something that we don’t need to work on, something that they need to see. It is what it is. It counts on September 11.”
On that day, feel free to go back to being jittery.