Former Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was one of the Giants’ prominent free-agent signings this past off-season (307799)
Credit: Wikipedia photo

With the NFL two weeks away from starting its first ever 17-game regular season schedule after establishing 16 games as the standard in 1978, the league’s preseason has been scaled back from four games to three. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Dallas Cowboys Thursday, Sept. 9 in the Week 1 opener with Week 18 concluding Jan. 9.

So it will be a long, arduous grind for all 32 teams. The Giants begin the regular season hosting the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium Sept. 12 with an urgent sense of having to improve on their 6-10 record of 2020. On paper they have made important upgrades, among them adding free-agents Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson to bolster the wide receiver and cornerback groups respectively. And running back Saquon Barkley is back after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 last season.

Nevertheless, with virtually all of the Giants’ starters sitting out the first two preseason games, a 12-7 loss to the Jets two weekends ago and a 17-13 defeat to the Cleveland Browns this past Sunday, there hasn’t been enough evidence to make a credible preliminary assessment as to what degree they have progressed if at all. This Sunday’s preseason finale against the New England Patriots in New Jersey will provide a glimpse of the Giants’ development as they head into a season in which franchise co-owner John Mara warned, “We’re all on the hot seat, with our fans in particular,” in addressing the media last Tuesday.

The Giants have won a total of just 18 games out of 64 over the past four seasons and have made it to the postseason just once—2016—since winning the Super Bowl in 2012. “I’m not issuing a playoff mandate,” maintained Mara. “I don’t think those ever do you any good. I don’t think I need to say or do anything to motivate the people in this building any more than they’re already motivated. They all want to win.”

Second-year head coach Joe Judge will likely play most of his starters, including quarterback Daniel Jones, two quarters in facing the Patriots. Yet it may not be enough for them to develop cohesion on both sides of the ball ahead of Week 1, a rhythm that can’t be solely attained lining up in intrasquad scrimmages or battling with opponents in joint practices. On Monday, Judge addressed his decision to hold out Jones and other players who are at the top of the Giants’ depth chart for much of this preseason while other head coaches have already given their best players game action, albeit limited. “I made it very clear to the players that didn’t play, not playing is not a reward and playing is not a punishment,” said Judge. “We play our players to get them ready for the season and we’ll factor in based on what they did in practice to get them ready for that point. This week we’ll treat more as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. My expectation at this point would be for Daniel to play at least the first half and we’ll decide on what we’re going to do in terms of coming out of halftime later in the week.

“…This is our team and how we choose to prepare them the best,” Judge countered, “get the guys exposure to who we thought we needed with different units and different situations, and keep building our team going forward. This is no comparison to any other player and it’s not a reflection on any kind of comparison by any position within the league.”