Tom Coughlin may not be pleased with the state of his team's offense as the season opener looms, but, he supposed, neither are the other 31 head coaches in the NFL.
"We're a work in progress, let's face it,'' Coughlin said Wednesday on a conference call with the Detroit media. "I mean, I don't feel like anybody claims that they're where they want to be before the season's even begun.''
That goes along with the themes the Giants have adopted in recent weeks and in particular since the preseason ended a week ago. Eli Manning said last week that the team will be evolving into the new system throughout the season, and others have voiced similar pleas for patience. After scoring only three touchdowns and looking generally uncoordinated in five preseason games with the starters, it's become fashionably trendy for analysts and commentators to doubt the Giants' offensive capabilities.
"That question has been asked a million times, because everybody jumps on the bandwagon over 'Where is the offense?' '' Coughlin said when asked if he is disappointed by the progress under new coordinator Ben McAdoo. "The biggest factor, of course, is the terminology change. A lot of what you see would be very difficult for anybody to differentiate. But it's there, it's a new system, new pieces in place here.''
"I think we know there's things we need to do better,'' Manning said. "I think there are things we're doing well and have a good feel for, but I think we've got to keep growing each week. We didn't show everything in preseason, but I feel like we're in a good spot to compete. I think as the season goes on, we should get stronger and stronger.''
"As the season goes on'' won't help the Giants against the Lions Monday night. Rookie Weston Richburg seems set to start at one guard, and the team hadn't settled on a clear-cut starter at the other guard, so facing Detroit's formidable interior defensive line will be a big challenge. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are two of the top tackles in the league and known for their nasty streaks.
"They're a very, very good defensive front,'' Coughlin said. "They're aggressive, they're penetrators and powerful. They cause significant problems as you prepare. We just have to get ourselves ready and get our football team in a position that we want to be in.''
Coughlin said he thought the Giants' different permutations on the line did a good job in pass protection this summer. Manning, who could be in the Lions' crosshairs for most of the game, said the idea will be to get two bodies on Suh in particular.
"You've got to keep an eye on him and know where he is, and hopefully you can have a couple of guys on him sometimes,'' Manning said. "If not, our guys are going to have to step up and do a good job.''
Of course, the "Where's the offense?'' question will continue right up until the Giants answer it. The bandwagon of naysayers will get more and more crowded until they prove them wrong. Coughlin pointed out another familiar recent refrain, that the Giants never have had much success with their offensive starters in the preseason. "I can't remember a year that we did,'' he said.
But they've also never had to adjust to a new system. At least not during Manning's career.
"We've worked hard at it,'' Coughlin said. "Many times our backup guys came through for us in the second half of the preseason games, so there's been some progress made, but we need to go ahead and have some more.
" . . . We're striving to be as good as we can be.''