Eli Manning points to the defense during the first half...

Eli Manning points to the defense during the first half of a preseason game against the Jets. (Aug. 24, 2013) Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday that he is leaning toward playing his struggling offensive starters for a few series in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots.

"I'm strongly inclined to do that," Coughlin said. "It's just how much."

Running back David Wilson, who had an 84-yard TD run on the Giants' first play from scrimmage on Saturday, said the sluggishness of the first-team offense is "definitely alarming. It's kind of scary, because we go out there and we've been in good field position. To come away with field goals in some of those situations, it makes you a little bit frustrated and a little bit nervous going into the season."

The first-team offense is 0-for-7 in the red zone and has scored two TDs.

"We've got to play better," Eli Manning said. "We've got to do better in the red zone and converting third downs. There is room for improvement."

Victor Cruz (heel) was out of his walking boot and no longer is using crutches.

"He is getting better, but it's certainly not morning," Coughlin said about the wide receiver's return.

Rolle, Mundy must mesh

Antrel Rolle (ankle) returned to practice and began the task of working with Ryan Mundy, who will replace Stevie Brown (torn ACL) at safety.

"It's time for me to step up more than I ever have before," Rolle said. "I've already developed somewhat of a chemistry with Ryan, but then again, he's a new guy on this team. It's going to have to happen. We're going to have to find a way, whether it's in a meeting room or off the field."

Mundy has experience filling in. He did it with the Steelers when Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark were injured before signing with the Giants in the offseason.

"This is a situation that I'm familiar with," Mundy said. "Stepping in for guys when they go down. I'm excited about it."

CB Corey Webster (knee, groin) also returned to practice.

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