BALTIMORE -- New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has been waiting all preseason to see what his first-team offense can do.
He'll have to wait even longer due to injuries.
As Coughlin and the Giants enter their pivotal third preseason game, against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, starters like guards Chris Snee and Rich Seubert will be back, but center Shaun O'Hara will be out with an ankle/Achilles injury.
Seubert will move over to center and guard Guy Whimper is expected to start, while Snee plays for the first time in the preseason.
"We're playing against a very good defensive football team, a team that has pretty much dominated the first two games. They gave up some pass yardage last weekend, but not much with the run," Coughlin said of the Ravens. "We've always played very good, physical games against them in the preseason.
"It is the third preseason game. I'd like to see us establish some continuity on offense. We had, as you know, kind of an unusual preseason in terms of our ability to play some guys together and have Eli Manning on the field, have our offensive line on the field, start to communicate better, do a good job with our run and get our receivers involved in the mix. So I'd like just to see our performance and our execution take a step up."
Manning is back after sitting out last Saturday against the Steelers with a gash on his forehead. The Giants want to see what their franchise quarterback and the offense can do for an extended period of time. The third preseason game is usually when the coaching staff gets a feel for what the starters can do before resting them for the majority of the preseason finale, which will be next week against the Patriots.
But Coughlin has not been able to see what his team can do at full strength. The Giants have had to deal with injury after injury. While many of the injured players are being held out for mostly precautionary reasons, Coughlin hasn't truly been able to see what his team will look like.
Manning, running back Brandon Jacobs, tight end Kevin Boss, Snee and Seubert have missed one if not both of the first two preseason games. Defensively, Coughlin will likely be without starters like defensive tackle Chris Canty (groin) and cornerbacks Terrell Thomas (calf) and Aaron Ross (foot) in Baltimore.
Manning would like to see what he can do with a healthy offense, as well.
"I don't think we're far behind," Manning said of the offense playing without him last weekend. "Actually, we're not behind at all. It's the third preseason game, and we go out there and try to play well. Guys are coming back healthy, and I think that's a part of training camp every year -- guys go in and out a little bit.
"We have a veteran group, especially up front. Receivers are getting better, and they've been pretty healthy throughout training camp. I think we're in good shape; we are getting guys back healthy right now, which is probably the most important thing. You might miss some guys early, but the later you get into the preseason right before the first games start, you want to be as healthy as possible."
For now, Coughlin can only see what he has with the players he will have on the field. Even though he won't have O'Hara, Coughlin should be able to see more of Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs and what the running game can do. He should get a good look at the competition at right defensive end between Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka. And safety Kenny Phillips and linebacker Keith Bulluck, who is moving to outside linebacker after spending the entire preseason at middle linebacker, will get more snaps in their second game of the preseason after playing six plays last Saturday.
Coughlin may have to make tough decisions when he has to cut the roster to 75 players on Tuesday. The Giants will have to make final cuts to a 53-man roster on Sept. 5.
It certainly doesn't help that players like wide receiver Sinorice Moss, wide receiver Ramses Barden, quarterback Jim Sorgi and safety Michael Johnson are out against the Ravens. Moss, who has a groin injury, could be on the bubble with the preseason emergence of wide receiver Victor Cruz. And Sorgi, who injured his shoulder in the preseason opener against the Jets, said he is concerned about his roster spot and hopes to return to play next week.
Coughlin there "absolutely" are spots that can be won against the Ravens.
"You always have some ideas, but that can be affected," Coughlin said when asked if he has an idea of what decisions he will make. "Every guy who is in that game will have a great chance to continue."