A short schedule with a game Thursday night in Washington means very little actual practice time for the New York Giants this week. They'll do some work on the field Tuesday, but coach Tom Coughlin said he wants to be conscious of not overworking his players with only three days between games. That's part of the reason rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham remains extremely unlikely to make his NFL debut Thursday.

"I think there's improvement with Odell as there has been every week," Coughlin said of the team's first-round draft pick, who hasn't practiced with the team since July 22 because of a hamstring injury. "I don't believe he's there. We're trying to be as patient as we can with the idea that, when we get him back, we're going to have him."

Translation: The Giants aren't going to put Beckham on the practice field until they're 100 percent sure he's not at risk of re-injuring the hamstring. And until he's had at least a handful of NFL practices, they're not going to put him in a game. There have been rumblings around the Giants lately of optimism that Beckham could be ready in time for the Week 5 home game against the Falcons, but this week does not seem feasible and honestly never did.

Jerrel Jernigan filled in at Beckham's spot the first two weeks before going on injured reserve with a foot sprain. Preston Parker replaced Jernigan this week and caught three passes for 33 yards.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason, who aggravated his preseason foot injury in Week 2 and didn't play Sunday, still hasn't been ruled out for the season or even this week, according to Coughlin. He said the Giants would "see to what extent Jon can be part of our on-field work" this week, which means they should know Tuesday whether Beason has a chance to play.

Fantasy: Victor Cruz

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22


Christopher Harris analyzes Victor Cruz's value for Week 4.

It appears Stevie Brown was benched

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
New York Giants safety Stevie Brown took a too-shallow route and got burned on the 44-yard Damaris Johnson touchdown catch that cut the Giants' lead over Houston to 17-10 in the third quarter of Sunday's game. Brown did not play again after that, replaced by fifth-round rookie Nat Berhe.

"We made a position change there, and that's all I'm going to say about that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said on a conference call Monday. "He was not hurt, no."

So that makes it pretty clear Brown was benched for performance reasons rather than injury reasons, and it leads one to wonder whether Berhe might have a chance to get the start or at least a few more snaps in Thursday night's game in Washington.

Brown missed the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in training camp last year, and Coughlin made a comment last week about Brown not being all the way back to the player he was when he had eight interceptions in 2012. So there has been some level of dissatisfaction with Brown's performance so far by the coaching staff.

It might be that they have determined he's not able, because of his physical condition, to play a whole game and be as productive as they'd like him to be, and in that case they might have to work out some kind of timeshare with Brown and Berhe and maybe Quintin Demps in the mix. Or it might be that they're upset with Brown for not playing as well as they need him to play and they sat him down Sunday to send a message after a particularly bad error. We'll explore this further Tuesday when we get to go into the locker room for interviews, I promise. Definitely something to keep an eye on this week.

Kieran Darcy breaks down the Giants' Week 3 win over the Texans and looks ahead to Week 4.

Eli Manning getting more comfortable

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- His older son was playing in the game of the day, a Super Bowl rematch out in Seattle. But for some reason Archie Manning came to New Jersey on Sunday to watch Eli Manning and the New York Giants beat the Houston Texans. It was a better day for Eli than it was for Peyton. Archie's younger son was a cool 21-for-28 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and (gasp!) no interceptions as he helped deliver the Giants' first victory of the season.

"Eli likes this offense," Archie Manning told our man Ian O'Connor on his way out of MetLife Stadium. "This is going to be good for him."

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Alex Goodlett/Getty ImagesEli Manning, a career 58.6 percent passer whose best was 62.9 percent in 2010, completed 75 percent Sunday and is up to 65 percent for the season.
This offense is one in which the free-agent running back, Rashad Jennings, ran for 176 yards on 34 carries Sunday. It's one in which Manning is holding the ball an average of .41 seconds less per dropback than he did in 2013, averaging less time per dropback before the throw than all but two quarterbacks in the league (Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger), according to Pro Football Focus. When it's on and clicking, it's a zippy, rhythm-driven, no-huddle assembly line of an offense designed to make its quarterback feel comfortable with the ball in his hands. And the past two weeks, Eli Manning has looked quite comfortable in his new offense.

"That is the way it's supposed to work," Manning said after Sunday's game. "We got the ball out quick. The receivers made catches. They had good runs after the catch. It was efficient. We mixed it up. I thought last week we made some steps to get better, and this week was even stronger."

Remember in training camp when Giants quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said the goal was for Manning to complete 70 percent of his passes and we all had a great big chuckle about it? Well, after completing 66.7 percent of his passes in a Week 2 loss to Arizona, Manning completed 75 percent Sunday and is up to 65 percent for this young season. He's a career 58.6 percent passer whose career best was 62.9 percent in 2010, so this is significant progress. And though it's a small sample size and there are undoubtedly hiccups to come, the shorter, quicker-hitting passing game is obviously designed to help Manning's completion percentage improve.

The keys to making it work include Manning's post-snap footwork, which is timed to his receivers' routes depending on the play call (he has re-committed to this after struggling with it in the preseason), and his pre-snap reads, which have been sharp the past two weeks.

"He's seeing things really well before the snap," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "We know exactly what's going on, exactly what to do out there. It's just a matter of us going out there and executing."

It helped that the Giants got the lead against Houston. It unquestionably helped that Houston's best offensive player, Arian Foster, was injured and didn't play in the game. There are games to come against tougher teams and tougher defenses that will be much tougher to beat, and the fact that the offense has clicked the past two weeks doesn't mean anything is fixed or the Giants are going to the Super Bowl. But it's worth noting, as we evaluate this season of change and transition for the Giants, that Manning might be adapting to the new offense better than it looked as though he might.

"He plays a very, very solid mental game, a very outstanding mental game," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "And he did that today."

Drive of the Game: Cruz breaks through

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz hadn't caught a touchdown pass in 357 days. So when he hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning for the first points of what would turn out to be a 30-17 New York Giants victory over Houston on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, it felt very good to salsa in the end zone.

"It's been a long time since I got in that end zone," Cruz said after the game. "It felt good to dance again."

The drive started inauspiciously. Preston Parker returned a Houston punt 12 yards to the Giants 39-yard line, but a holding penalty on Damontre Moore wiped out the entire return, and the drive started at the Giants 17. After an incomplete Manning pass on first down, running back Rashad Jennings ran for 11 yards on second down and three more on the ensuing first down. On second-and-7 from the 31, Manning threw a very high pass that tight end Larry Donnell leaped to catch over Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph for a gain of 18.

Jennings was hit for a loss on the next play, and Manning's second-down pass to Cruz only gained 1 yard, but on third-and-11 Manning found Parker for 13 yards and liked it so much he found him for 13 again on the play after that.

That set up the Giants with a first down from the Houston 26, and Manning found Cruz short over the middle on the kind of throw that's supposed to be a staple of this new Giants offense. Cruz made a juke move to get past the first defender and raced for the left front pylon, leaning in with the ball for the touchdown that put the Giants up 7-0.

Cruz had a rough week after his well-publicized drops in the Week 2 loss to Arizona, so this was redemption, and he enjoyed it.

Giants defense provides turnovers, finally

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants didn't just collect their first win of the season Sunday. They also picked up their first three turnovers.

That's no coincidence, of course.

Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Giants' 30-17 win over the Houston Texans. Stevie Brown was the only member of the Giants' starting secondary without an interception.

"Guys caught the ball," coach Tom Coughlin said. "They were in the right spot and were that way a week ago but didn’t get him. Today we moved better, a little faster, recognition was good. I thought our eyes went where they were supposed to go."

The Giants were one of just three teams in the NFL without a takeaway in the first two weeks of the season. And Fitzpatrick hadn't thrown an interception yet -- in fact, he hadn't even been sacked.

Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell made creating turnovers a primary theme this week, including in the team's final pregame meeting Saturday night.

"Coach Coughlin and Coach Fewell challenged us by putting up on the board that we have zero turnovers as a defense and that needs to change," Amukamara said. "I think we rose to the challenge today."

Amukamara got the first one, on Houston's very first series of the game, after the Texans had advanced to near midfield. On 3rd-and-11 from their own 48-yard line, a Fitzpatrick pass was tipped by Jason Pierre-Paul and ended up in Amukamara's arms.

"Anytime you have a D-line that's active like that and can get to the quarterback and make him rush -- we always preach tips and overthrows, and in my case that was a tip," Amukamara said. "I'm not gonna complain, I'll take those too."

Rolle's interception came late in the second quarter, on a third-and-19 from the Texans' own 9-yard line. Fitzpatrick was again under pressure, this time by Robert Ayers, and Rolle took the ball all the way back to the Texans' 2-yard line, setting up the Giants' second touchdown of the game.

Rodgers-Cromartie's interception -- his first as a Giant -- came early in the fourth quarter with the Giants leading 27-10, and helped seal the victory.

The secondary accounted for all three turnovers, but the rest of the Giants' defense deserves credit, too -- particularly the defensive line. Fitzpatrick was under heavy pressure throughout the afternoon. The Giants only posted two sacks -- one by cornerback Trumaine McBride, and one split between Johnathan Hankins and Jameel McClain. But Fitzpatrick was hit five times and forced to scramble repeatedly, narrowly avoiding several more sacks.

"We were in the backfield, but [Fitzpatrick] got out of the pocket a couple times and made first downs," Pierre-Paul said. "Those right there, we have to tighten that up and finish the play."

Yes, there is still room for improvement. The Giants could've had a couple more turnovers, and did give up a few big plays -- including a 44-yard touchdown catch by Damaris Johnson.

But they made more plays than they gave up -- three big ones in particular.

"You look at the turnovers that we got, those are our great players," McClain said. "Our big players making big plays and that’s what they do."
videoEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Coaching is about people, and the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin knows this. More important than any system or scheme or play sheet is the ability of a coach to know his team and his players. Without that, he cannot know how to manage them.

When you add as many new players to a team as the Giants did this offseason, a coach like Coughlin knows his task is to get to know the group as soon as possible -- and as well as possible -- so he knows which buttons to push in which situations. Coughlin is clearly feeling more comfortable with his group now, and the way he managed it this past week following an 0-2 start was proof.

"This is just a prime example of him being able to adjust to the team that he has," veteran defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said after Sunday's 30-17 victory against the Houston Texans. "He's constantly making adjustments to try and get his team motivated, and this group responded."

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRashad Jennings ran for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown as the Giants responded positively to coach Tom Coughlin's upbeat demeanor during the week.
What Coughlin decided to do this week was lighten the mood. Rather than hammer his players over everything they'd done wrong in the first two games, he wanted to get them to relax. So he played rap music at practice and closed one of the practices with a punt-catching competition between the offensive and defensive linemen.

"The coaches and everybody didn't get too uptight being 0-2," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We knew it was a big game, but I think with coach keeping his cool, bringing some excitement to practice with the music and the punt-off and those things, it helped the players relax. It said to us, 'We know what to do, let's just go play football. Don't worry about being perfect or doing everything exact. Play the game you love and go play fast.'"

They did play fast, especially on offense when the no-huddle was clicking and running back Rashad Jennings was fighting for extra yards. They definitely seemed able to keep their cool, and that may have been the result of the frame of mind their coach put them in for the game.

"We had some fun times on Thursday, we had the music going, we had a little punt-catch contest -- I caught mine, of course," right tackle Justin Pugh said. "It’s something where we’re having fun -- I think last year at 0-6, we were like, 'How are we gonna get out of this?' We expected to come in and win today.”

Coughlin said after the game that the focus during the day was on "staying positive the whole day, including me," and that the mood on the sideline stayed upbeat even amid the early-game mistakes that were all-too reminiscent of last week's loss. The mood Coughlin helped set in practice leading up to this game carried over, and the Giants were able to keep a game from going off the rails and falling to 0-3 for the second year in a row.

It reminds me a bit of that third week of December in 2011, after the Giants fell to 7-7 with a bad loss to Washington and the players were shocked by Coughlin's positive, upbeat, hopeful message in team meetings that week. The Giants would of course win their final two games of the year to clinch the division and go on to win Coughlin's second Super Bowl title. During that run, I remember asking Coughlin how he knew to take that approach in that spot.

"Because I know my team," was his complete answer.

That's coaching. That's Coughlin. That's why, no matter how bad things get around here from a player-personnel standpoint, I believe the Giants will always be a team that plays at least to its potential, if not better, as long as Coughlin is the one coaching them. I still don't expect this team to go to the playoffs, because I don't think it's good enough. But it's not going to fold and start losing to teams it should beat, and the main reason is that its coach won't allow it.
videoEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It wasn't a fun week for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

After last Sunday's drop-filled loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Cruz spent the week meeting with coach Tom Coughlin and fielding questions from reporters about why he wasn't catching the ball. By Friday night, Cruz was on Twitter, retweeting fan criticism of his hands, which is never a good look and a clear sign of frustration.

So Cruz's 61-yard catch-and-run in the waning moments of the first quarter was a load off his mind. And his 26-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter -- his first touchdown catch since Week 4 of last season -- was an absolute catharsis. When the game ended and the Giants had secured their first victory of the season, 30-17 against the Houston Texans, the dominant feeling in the locker room was clear.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz had five catches for 107 yards, including a 61-yarder, in the Giants' win against Houston.
"This takes a lot of weight off," Cruz said. "Any guy who was here last year knows what that 0-6 felt like. Nobody wanted to feel like that again."

The Giants are 1-2, which is obviously not where they wanted to be at this point. But it's a whole lot better than 0-3, and they just need to flip the calendar back one year to remind themselves of that. With a short week and a Thursday game in Washington on the upcoming schedule, the Giants needed this game badly.

They needed to play well and in rhythm on offense, and they did. Quarterback Eli Manning was 21-for-28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Rashad Jennings had a career-high 176 rushing yards on 34 carries.

They needed to force turnovers on defense, and they did, collecting their first three interceptions of the season and overcoming a slew of terrible early mistakes. They included a goal-line fumble, a bad snap that botched a field goal attempt and a fake punt the Texans converted in the first quarter. Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was not intercepted or sacked in the Texans' first two games, but Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each intercepted him Sunday and the Giants sacked him twice.

They needed to get a lead and hold it. They needed to win the time-of-possession battle. They needed their playmakers to make plays. Cruz obliged.

"This really helps us gain confidence that we're going in the right direction," Cruz said. "This is something to build on."

The Giants needed that more than anything. What we saw Sunday wasn't necessarily some season-turning event. This was clearly a flawed Texans team that was without its best offensive player, running back Arian Foster, and isn't comfortable with Fitzpatrick throwing the ball as a means of scoring points. The Giants remain a flawed team that will struggle with high-level competition, and Sunday didn't change that.

But after the way they played in the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, the Giants needed a performance that reminded them they are capable of playing well and winning. Sunday was that game. The offense clicked, especially in its up-tempo, no-huddle incarnation. The line held up against a tough pass rush. The defense pressured Fitzpatrick and made plays on the back end. Damontre Moore blocked a punt.

"Good win for our team. We needed it," Coughlin said. "A lot of guys played well. I'm looking forward to looking at this tape."

And isn't that a good feeling for the Giants to have for a change?

Giants' O-line gets better of Watt, Texans

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants were sick and tired of hearing about J.J. Watt. So they did something about it.

The Giants' much-maligned offensive line dominated Watt and the rest of the Houston Texans' defense, particularly at the line of scrimmage, in a 30-17 win Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The Giants rushed for 193 yards -- 176 of them by Rashad Jennings, a career-best. Eli Manning was sacked just once. Watt got that sack, but it came on the very first series of the game -- he was relatively quiet after that.

Right tackle Justin Pugh admitted he and his teammates had grown weary of the queries about Watt, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"The whole week it was like, 'What’s he gonna do, how’s he gonna disrupt, how badly is he gonna hurt you guys?'" Pugh said. "And now you guys are asking the opposite questions, 'Why wasn’t he disrupting?' We didn’t want to hear that, we didn't want to have to answer those questions."

Pugh did give up the sack, which helped bring the Giants' first drive of the game to a screeching halt.

"Obviously I can’t do that," Pugh said. "It was a technique error on my part."

But the Giants weren't derailed for long. They marched down the field on their next drive, before tight end Larry Donnell fumbled inside the Texans' 5-yard line. And eventually they started putting touchdowns on the board.

Watt moved around, lining up against different players, but they were all up to the task. Center J.D. Walton and right guard John Jerry both mixed it up with Watt after the whistle, too, showing no intimidation.

"Just football," Walton said, smiling. "Just guys talking. Happens all the time. He's gonna talk, I'm gonna talk, other players are gonna talk. It happens."

Manning was thrilled with the line, and rightfully so -- Watt's sack was the Texans' only quarterback hit of the game.

"The offensive line was dominant today," Manning said. "That was good to see."

The Giants' O-line was arguably the team's biggest question mark, and biggest concern, entering the regular season. And they did little to distinguish themselves in the first two games of the year.

But they looked different this Sunday. And it sounds like the chip on their shoulder had something to do with it -- a chip bigger than the Texans' All-Pro defensive end.

"I remember after Week 1, people were asking if we’re the worst offensive line in football," Pugh said. "So I think coming up putting 200 [rushing] yards is good, but it’s one game. We’ve got 13 more to go, and we’ve gotta keep that rolling."

Houston had only given up 20 points in its first two games combined, but that stat is a little misleading -- the Texans had been giving up 5.0 yards per carry, tied for the worst mark in the league. Watt aside, the Giants will face tougher challenges up front. But this offensive line may be developing an identity, and integrity, before our very eyes.

Underestimate them at your own risk.

"We've got a bunch of fighters in that offensive line room," Pugh said. "People doubt us, and there's beauty in that."

Giants' positive approach rewarded

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Giants' 30-17 victory over Houston:
  • Tom Coughlin said the team talked all week and all day "about being positive, including me," and several players made mention of the coach's effort this past week to keep things light and upbeat in spite of the 0-2 start. He played music during practice and held a punt-catching contest Friday. "That's just a prime example of him being able to adjust to the team that he has," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "He's constantly making adjustments to try and get his team motivated, and this group responded."
  • Right tackle Justin Pugh said the offensive line was sick by the end of the week of hearing questions about how great Houston defensive end J.J. Watt was and how the Giants could stop him. "It's more fun with you guys here asking what we did to stop him," Pugh said.
  • Center J.D. Walton smiled and declined to answer when I asked him what happened with him and Watt after that one play in the second half when they were jawing at each other after the whistle. "Football," Walton said, smiling. I'd never seen him smile before, for what it's worth.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 30-17 victory over the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: Relief for the Giants, who will not repeat last year's 0-6 start and have two games' worth of evidence that their new offense can work. A run-heavy game plan helped set up the play-action game and neutralize J.J. Watt and the Houston pass rush. Eli Manning was patient and accurate. The offensive line held up well in a tough-test game. The defensive line got pressure on jittery Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Giants made some early mistakes that reminded you of last week's self-inflicted meltdown, but they settled in and overcame them for their first victory of the year.

Stock Watch: Victor Cruz, UP. The veteran wide receiver and newly minted team captain had a rough week hearing about all of last week's drops. He made up for it with his first big game of the year -- and his first touchdown catch and end zone salsa dance since Week 4 of 2013. Cruz had five catches for 107 yards, including a 61-yarder and his 26-yard touchdown catch that started the scoring.

Flipping the field: Entering the game, the Giants were one of only three teams in the league without a takeaway. They got three interceptions in this game and also blocked a punt, delivering them the kind of field-position advantage for which coach Tom Coughlin had spent the week pleading. They made their own mistakes early, including a goal-line fumble, a bad snap on a field goal attempt and a holding penalty on a punt return. But their errors were fewer than those of their opponent, and that's the goal.

Game ball: RB Rashad Jennings. What a performance. Last week's goat after his no-contact fumble killed a potential game-tying drive, Jennings absolutely took over this game, rushing for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries and playing a crucial role in blitz pickup on passing plays. The Giants signed Jennings to be a do-it-all starting running back, and this game showed he could be just that.

What's next: The Giants turn it around quickly and head to Washington for the Thursday night game this week.

Arian Foster inactive vs.  Giants

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Another week, another potentially huge, injury-related break for the New York Giants.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has a hamstring injury and will not play in Sunday's game. Rookie Alfred Blue will start in his place.

This comes one week after Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was a late scratch against the Giants, though the Giants were unable to take advantage and win that game. Their next opponent is Washington, which is without its own starting quarterback due to injury.

The 0-2 Giants obviously need all of the help they can get. Foster ranks second in the NFL so far this year with 241 rushing yards and leads the league with 55 rushing attempts, so the Texans' offense runs through him. The Giants' run defense is compromised due to the absence of linebackers Jon Beason (foot) and Devon Kennard (hamstring), both of whom are inactive for this game and were ruled out Friday.

Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to throw an interception this year, which is out of character and likely due to the team's ability to rely on the run game and the defense. The Giants have yet to procure a turnover from an opponent this year, so they'll be hoping Foster's absence leads Fitzpatrick to take more chances in the passing game and give them an opportunity.

Jameel McClain replaces Beason as the starter at middle linebacker for the Giants. Mark Herzlich replaces McClain as the starting strongside linebacker.

Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn is active for the first time this year for the Giants after missing the first two games due to injury, which moves rookie Jay Bromley back to the inactive list after he was active last week. Linebacker Dan Fox and wide receiver Julian Talley, who were signed from the practice squad this week due to other injuries, are both active.

This is the full list of Giants inactives, brought to you this week by the letter "B":