It was always easy to blow it off. The Giants' offense struggled during some preseasons in the past decade, but Tom Coughlin always knew that when the regular season started, his guys would be ready. They had the experience and the know-how to overcome shaky summers.
Now, though, Coughlin isn't so sure.
"We've had what has to be looked at as unproductive preseasons or unproductive games in the preseason, and yet we still have been able to come out and play well early on offensively in the regular season," Coughlin said Sunday. "Is that the case here? I don't know that. We're going to have to see how that goes. Is it a concern? Sure it's a concern."
With a new offense and the Giants' starters showing very few indications that they have grasped the plays, concepts or techniques required to run it, Coughlin openly questioned whether the team will be a fully functioning unit when they kick off in Detroit three weeks from Monday night.
"All of a sudden, the preseason is flying by here and we have an awful lot to still accomplish," he said.
Eli Manning, who has completed two of nine passes in the last two preseason games, said Saturday that he is not worried about where the offense is at this point. But he also said he has no idea where it is supposed to be.
"I didn't know what to expect," Manning said of the learning timetable. "I didn't know with a new offense how long it takes to get a great feel for it or how long it takes to grasp it all."
Apparently longer than three games.
"Any time you set up a schedule with a preseason, you expect to be at certain points along the way," Coughlin said. "So it is disappointing not to be at least a little more advanced than we are."
Coughlin traditionally rests his starters for most of the final preseason game, meaning they probably have one last chance to get it together. The Giants face the Jets on Friday night. Asked if the players share his urgency to establish any sort of rhythm there, Coughlin was both blunt and threatening.
"They better," he said. "It's not written in stone what you do with the last preseason game, either. The idea is to come out of this being in the best possible circumstance . . . We've still got some work to do along those lines."
It's not just the offense that has Coughlin acting like a father ready to take away the kids' video games if they don't behave. He also was upset by the defensive performance Saturday.
"We weren't able to stop them in any consistent fashion at all," Coughlin said. "We had a play here and a play there, but by and large, it wasn't what we expected out of this particular game for our team."
The main concern, though, rests on the still-unproven offense. Coughlin said the areas that need improvement are virtually all-encompassing. He didn't like the way the Giants ran the ball, threw the ball, blocked, ran routes or adjusted to blitzes Saturday.
"Basically," he said, "we have to work on everything."