In his standard media availability conference for Thursday, Tom Coughlin updated the circling reporters on the state of the franchise, offering up nuggets of information about their missing receivers, injured secondary and kicking strategy.
Cruz control for Victor this week
"Probably not". That's the answer Coughlin gave when questioned about whether we should expect to see Victor Cruz on the field for Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's not a huge surprise. Cruz has been dealing with a calf strain this week, and while it is totally separate to the receiver's repaired knee ligament, it's clear that nobody at the Giants facility wants to push any players into action for a meaningless exhibition game.
Cruz himself thinks the issue isn't a big deal. "Just a little mix of dehydration, a little tweak running around, routes and stuff like that. And it's just one of those things that happen during the course of practice", said the recovering receiver. All of this, of course, is what Giants fans were hoping to hear when reports surfaced that Cruz will be sidelined for Saturday's game.
Return of the receivers?
Adding to the troublesome week is a couple of problems for Cruz' fellow receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. It was good news for the Madden cover-boy as Coughlin announced that Beckham would be back at practice Thursday. Big blue hearts across the world skipped a beat yesterday when beat writers all tweeted that Beckham wouldn't be practicing, however those reports were quickly clarified with the detail that 2014's Rookie of the Year was only missing time because he underwent some dental work.
Coach wasn't so positive about Randle. "As of now, he is [out]", said Coughlin, and then later talked of Randle's availability for Saturday's game, "I'm not going to project anything just yet. We've had some guys that have been out that are going to remain out".
However, despite these troubles, Coughlin remained upbeat about the offense as a whole. "I would say it's been a good week of practice — certainly last night was very spirited. The first night of the week, Sunday night, was when you saw all the offensive production with Odell and Victor and Larry [Donnell] getting involved, and Eli [Manning] throwing the ball down the field — he threw the ball down the field again last night, which was good".
Last year, preseason story-lines were dominated by an offensive unit that struggled to get to grips with a new coordinator. Could we see a similar scenario unfold for Steve Spagnuolo's defense? That half of the team was underwhelming in last week's preseason opener against the Bengals, so what are Coughlin's thoughts about facing the Jaguars?
"My confidence level is growing, but we've got to, again, test ourselves in these preseason games. This weekend will be an outstanding test because you have a team that's trying to be very physical and wants to run the ball, has a good run defense, so it'll be a good test."
The Jaguars weren't known for their offensive identity last year, but it's clear they've made some improvements this off-season as well as developing an up-and-coming young quarterback in Blake Bortles. Any Giants player that enters this game and expects a cake-walk will be sorely disappointed.
The team added veteran safety Brandon Meriweather this week to combat a string of injuries to their already questionable secondary. Meriweather is likely a back-up for the Giants, with the hope that his game-knowledge transfers onto the field should any of their young starters miss considerable time.
"He's trying to understand what we want of him and understand the terminology as best he can. He starts to grasp it— yesterday was a little bit better than the day before", said Coughlin, who was careful to downplay any expectations for Meriweather in his initial appearance as a Giant, " [He will probably play] a limited amount, since he's been here a very short time and this will be his first experience".
Hopefully, Meriweather's teammates return so that he can keep that limited snap-count going forward. There's Prince Amukamara -- who is managing a groin injury, and there's Nat Berhe -- an injury prone player who the team hope can perform at a high level rather than just showing the promise of it. Coughlin gave brief updates on both players.
"Prince practiced yesterday. Prince had about 15 plays yesterday, which was good to see. Hopefully he'll be able to do some more. [Nat] Berhe does nothing but individual".
The last set of questions revolved around the NFL's new kicking rules for extra points. The move turns what was generally an automatic point into a 33-yard field-goal attempt, which poses more of a challenge, but probably still wouldn't crack the top 50 most athletically difficult skills in any given game. As such, the team doesn't appear ready to change up their overall strategy.
"As you see, many people came out last weekend and just went for two, but the advantage there is no different than it ever was. I think it's just as important to kick extra points from 33 yards as it is to go for two. I think the real interesting concept there is a defensive penalty. A defensive penalty puts a ball at the one, so most people are going to go for the two points then," said Coughlin, "I'm hoping that our percentages, in terms of 33-yard extra points, are going to be 100 percent— just like I always think".
New York doesn't offer the most tropical of climates during football season. What happens if the weather cooks up a late-year storms? Does he think it's worth checking in with Josh Brown as to whether the kicker even feels up to it?
"Not necessarily at that point in the game, but obviously pregame, we'd go through all that and it would be part of the questions that I always ask. You know, ‘How far— what's the distance like today from both ends?' I get a feel for what the wind is, now that the wind is an issue during the course of the game, and you have to revisit it, so it's a constant."