EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's no sugarcoating the fact that the New York Giants' offense looks lousy right now. Other than a gorgeously blocked 73-yard Rashad Jennings touchdown run, the first-team offense did nothing in Saturday's 20-16 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Quarterback Eli Manning was 0-for-2 throwing the ball in four series. Victor Cruz is without a catch through two preseason games. The tight end situation is a mess, the wide receivers (other than Corey Washington in the fourth quarter) aren't getting the ball and the whole thing looks like a disorganized mess.
From the outside, that is.
The Giants' players and coaches honestly believe things are getting better for their brand-new offense, even though they admit it doesn't look that way when you watch them in practice or in these preseason games.
"It's like when you build a house," Jennings said late Saturday night. "First you have to get the wood, then you get the hammers and put it all together. Then, when it's all up and ready, that's when you start putting the furniture in. And that's where we are right now. We can see it starting to come together, and that's why we're upbeat about it."
Results matter not one bit this time of year, and the Giants have enough veterans on their roster and their coaching staff to know that. They will watch film Sunday and Monday and see things you couldn't see from your seat in the stadium or in front of the television. The new, West Coast style offense coordinator Ben McAdoo is helping install is based so much on timing and the quarterback's footwork that it can show progress in ways that don't necessarily translate into results. And the Giants on Saturday believed that was the case.
"We timed some of the routes up better," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Some weren't as good as others. We still think the ball needs to go out in front of people when they have an opportunity. So I would say maybe a little bit better, but still not to the extent that you'd like."
The Giants still have three preseason games and four weeks of practice before they play a game that counts, so panicking based on what little you've seen so far is a mistake. I think part of the problem is that they have a major liability at left tackle with Charles Brown filling in for a still-rehabbing Will Beatty, and between that and the still-improving Brandon Mosley at right guard, they're worried that taking too many shots in the passing game right now would expose Manning to too much danger.
"They need to play," Coughlin said of the starting offensive line, which played 22 snaps together Saturday. (Manning played only 12.) "Those people need to play. They need to work together. They need to communicate. The idea of a set lineup right now is really not there. They need to play."
Then there's the idea that this offense is new and may not want to show the rest of the league much in preseason games. Coughlin admitted to that to some extent, but basically the point here is that this is still a work in progress.
"Overall, what you're seeing is that it's very early in training camp installations, and you really don't do a lot of game-planning for these games," Coughlin said. "You just say, 'OK, here's what's in at this point in time, this is what we'll run in this game.' And as you continue through preseason, you have more installations and that's what you see during the games."
So the message here is that it's too early to panic based on results. You're more than welcome to wonder, as I do, whether the Giants have sufficient personnel on offense to run the offense they're trying to run. I think the wide receiver corps is a mess of question marks after Cruz. There's no reliable tight end on the roster. Jennings looks great, but he's never had to hold up for a season as a starting running back, and they're thin behind him. And we've already addressed the question marks on the line.
But the Giants' players and coaches believe in the players they're running out there, because they have no choice. So what they're focused on is the idea that things feel as though they're getting better -- even if it doesn't look that way to those of us who are watching.
"I feel very confident in the offense, in our ability," Manning said. "It's preseason and we're not putting everything out there, but I think over these next few weeks, we'll start to get a little bit more aggressive and see if we can make some plays."
That would make everyone watching from the outside feel better about things. But if you're looking for something to make you feel better in the meantime, know that the Giants aren't as worried about what they're seeing out there as you are.