The individual improvements Tom Coughlin saw in the Giants' 24-17 preseason loss to Pittsburgh may be better than nothing. What the New York coach really wants to see is a jump in the overall quality of his 1-1 team's offense, defense, and special teams.
Coughlin said Saturday he hoped that an infusion of starting-caliber players into next week's game in Baltimore, effectively the dress rehearsal for the regular season, would create the coherence and execution he seeks.
Quarterback Eli Manning, guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee, and running back Brandon Jacobs will all be returning to practice this week. Manning, who suffered a 12-stitch gash in the preseason opener against the Jets, will drill in just a baseball cap.
Coughlin said he's hopeful Manning will play in Baltimore.
Coughlin also said Jacobs, out Saturday with a sore neck due to doing shoulder shrugs in the weight room, should return early in the week.
Although Andre Brown did a solid job in rushing 13 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, the return of Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, given minimal work against Pittsburgh as punishment for missing a team meeting, should boost an offense that scored just one touchdown in the first half against the Steelers.
"What's important is that these guys practice together, so we get the whole group together so we can talk about overall improvement," Coughlin said. "When you look at some of the things that are happening, for example, the pass protection breakdowns, the lack of efficient route-running, the lack of cohesiveness and the timing between quarterback and receivers, all that needs work and time spent together. That's why this week will be so important to these guys."
Protecting Manning will be a major concern, however. The defense will have to be especially wary of inadvertently raking Manning's face on any pass rush. To that end, Coughlin said he'll pick his spots on when to practice his starting quarterback.
"Most of our guys are good at, if they do get free up the field, they get past the quarterback," Coughlin said. "The guys are pretty much aware. You have to be sharp, and I'm sure we'll pick our spots in that first practice, anyway, as we get a feel for what's best."
Jacobs still had issues with flexibility and movement in the neck Sunday, but Coughlin said he should practice Monday. An MRI last week showed no disk or vertebral damage.
"The expectation is he'll be able to practice," Coughlin said. "Don't ask me how this was provoked. This is the first time we've ever seen this."
Although Seubert (hand) and Snee (knee) will return with no limitations, Saturday's starting left guard, David Diehl, will remain available for duty at both left tackle and left guard.
S Kenny Phillips and MLB Keith Bulluck, both slowly working back from knee surgery, are expected to see more practice work and field time in Baltimore after getting just six snaps Saturday. ... Second-year WR Ramses Barden is not expected to return this week as he continues to battle structural issues in his spine that make it painful to run. S Michael Johnson is dealing with similar issues and is also not expected to practice this week. ... RB DJ Ware and S Sha'reff Rashad, both of whom sustained concussions Saturday, will undergo a battery of tests Monday.