Giants head coach Joe Judge was asked if his team's mental toughness is where it needs to be.
"I don’t think any team at this moment in time in the season is where they need to be in any regard, so we’re far from a finished product," he said. "We’re going to keep working every week, getting going."
In other words, fasten your seatbelts, folks, because we're about to find out just how mentally tough and resilient this Giants team is following its gut-wrenching loss to the Washington Football Team on Thursday night that has led to their fifth straight 0-2 start to a season.
The Giants best not be feeling sorry for themselves as they're looking at hosting the Atlanta Falcons, who are also 0-2.
One of these teams will get into the win column, and the other, well, the reward, if you want to call it that, is a higher spot in the waiver claim order, which resets after the third week of the season.
Will the Giants come out on top? To their credit, the Giants have yet to splinter under adverse times with Judge in charge. But at some point, the constant losing does take its toll if it's not stopped.
"We’ve got 15 more games to play. We’ve got to keep improving week by week," Judge said.
So very true, but eventually, it starts to get late very early if a team doesn't have a sense of urgency.
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When does the improvement translate into wins?
Judge has been talking about trusting the process literally from the moment he'd walked in the door. He's also said on numerous occasions that he sees improvement in the team every day.
The problem is that what Judge has claimed he sees as progress isn't translating onto the field, which is where it counts. And people are rightfully starting to wonder if it ever will.
"I think it’s important we talk about the process," Judge said. "At this time of year in September, it’s a large part of finding out who you are as a team, it’s a large part of finding out what you’re going to do schematically really with the people you have going forward."
To be fair to Judge, the Giants spent a good part of the summer without Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, Kyle Rudolph, and Kadarius Toney on the field to where they're probably still learning about some of those guys.
But the same can't be said of the defense, which has been the more significant problem so far and did have most of its members available throughout the spring and summer.
And look, the perfect game has yet to be played by any team. Mistakes happen every week. So the question with this Giants team is, when does the process start to produce wins consistently even though games are still likely to be far from perfect?
Can the Giants mount a better defense?
The Giants players had a long weekend off following their Thursday night loss to Washington. Hopefully, the coaches were back in the lab trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding that this team has endured in its first two games, especially on defense.
Through two games, the Giants defense has allowed opponents an average of 413.5 yards per game on offense, and has looked, shall we say, disjointed.
The Giants have deployed slightly more man coverage, but one of the missing ingredients that we thought we might see more of has been the physicality of press-man coverage.
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Simply put, opposing receivers and tight ends can't be continuing to get free releases off the line of scrimmage, nor can the Giants be giving up as much cushion as they have.
Toss in a stagnant pass rush, and it's no wonder why the Giants have been getting gashed on defense.
This week the Giants will see Falcons first-round draft pick Kyle Pitts, the man many draft analysts described as a unicorn given his unique skill set.
Pitts has caught nine out of 14 pass targets for 104 yards and no touchdowns, but he'll be going against a Giants defense that has had trouble defending the middle of the field and which in two games has allowed opposing tight ends to catch 123 yards on 14 receptions.
Pitts is fast, he's big, and he's a tough customer to deal with, even if his NFL production so far doesn't quite reflect what a headache he can be to cover. Might the Giants go with more of a big nickel throughout the game to limit the damage Pitts can inflict on a team?
Perhaps, but one thing is for sure. If ever they were going to bump up their press-man coverage, this would be a good week to start.
The Giants purposely picked their home game against the Falcons to honor retired quarterback Eli Manning, whose No. 10 jersey will officially be retired and whose name will be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.
The reason for selecting the game against the Falcons is that they are the only team the Giants beat at home in the postseason during the Manning era, in the 2011 Wild Card game.
Manning, who works for the team's front office, figures to be around all week doing his duties as usual. But would head coach Joe Judge, a big proponent of having franchise legends speak to the current team, tap into Manning this week for a pep talk?
So, although it was a much different era with players who are long since gone, perhaps the 2021 Giants could gain a little bit of extra juice by watching the tape of the Manning-led 2011 Wild Card game in which that team sent the Falcons home with a 24-2 loss.
Can the defense melt Matty Ice?
If there was ever a good time for the Giants pass rush to click, this week would be it.
In their thrashing of the Falcons this weekend, the Bucs got after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who completed 35-of-46 attempts for 300 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Two of Ryan's passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage and turned into interceptions, and at least four other plays were coming out of Ryan's hands that should have been turnovers.
Simply put, the Falcons offensive line was a problem and had very few answers for the Bucs' pass rush, even with Ryan getting rid of the ball quickly. If the Giants can harness some of that speed and turn it into power, they would be doing themselves a big favor in making Ryan's visit a rather unpleasant one.
Can the offense continue taking steps forward?
Lost in the Giants' Week 2 loss was the solid play of quarterback Daniel Jones behind a reshuffled offensive line and some conservative play-calling.
Jones started sharp, orchestrating an 11 play, 79-yard touchdown drive that he himself finished off with a quarterback draw from the 6-yard line, breaking a tackle at the 2 to cross the goal line.
Sacks aborted his next two drives, but then he rebounded of sorts on a ten-play, 74-yard drive that stalled thanks to a holding penalty on C.J. Board, wiping a 58-yard touchdown run off the board and forcing the Giants to settle for a 23-yard field goal.
And by the way, the Giants scored points on five of their six second-half possessions, doing what they could to win the game-- including Jones's playing a turnover-free game.
That's a solid showing from Jones, who fought through four sacks and several pressures, and the offense. Can they keep it up against a Falcons team that is rolling into MetLife Stadium hungry and desperate?
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