Their eyes may be on the future, but for the New York Giants, there is still an emphasis on finishing strong.
This season had all the hallmarks of a rebuilding year. Nevertheless, the Giants still seemed like a team was still playing its preseason football that was pointed towards playing competitive games in December. Now at 3-8, hopes of a playoff push are all but gone, even in a season as wacky as this one in the muddled and mixed-up NFC East.
On one hand, objectivity says that as the losses mount, the rebuild accelerates and kicks into high gear. A higher draft pick, especially a quarterback, can fast-track a return to the postseason and somewhere deep in the recess of every Big Blue fan is a bit of delight when the Giants add another defeat to their standing.
But for the coaching staff in charge of this rebuild, it isn’t as easy as accumulating losses. Chances are, a good chunk of this year’s team forms the nucleus of next year’s group. That means the evaluation of talent continues even as the season is played out. There is still a lot of talent on the depth chart that needs to be looked at.
On and off the field, head coach Pat Shurmur is taking notes about this group. He said that he doesn’t guard against this group checking out at this point of the season.
“Guard against? No. Just watch behavior,” Shurmur said. “Do your job, be a good teammate, bust your [butt], do what you have to do to help win a game. You don’t guard against it, you coach it back.”
It became apparent last month that the Giants were waving the white flag on the season. The trades of cornerback Eli Apple and nose tackle Damon Harrison signaled the Giants willingness to usher in the rebuild at the midseason point. The decisions were smart if painful.
This team needed to get younger, as well as gain cap flexibility.
The irony is that the last three games after their bye week, including this past Sunday’s 25-22 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, have been their best games of the season. Even with the moves to unload talent on the defensive side of the ball, the Giants have two wins in their last three games.
The offensive line has been improved, they’ve significantly cut back on turnovers and there has been overall more balance to the offense during this stretch of three games.
The Giants seem to be battling and fighting in recent weeks with no signs of discord. It appears that the roster is buying into Shurmur’s approach as this season winds down.
“No concern. I think we’ve been practicing well We’ve been playing tough games and being competitive. All the games we’ve played, they’ve been close,” quarterback Eli Manning said.
“The ones we’ve won have been close and down to the wire. The same last week. In this league, you got to make the plays in the critical moments, and we didn’t do it this past game, unfortunately, and didn’t get the win. We’ve got a good group of guys. It’s important to guys. We feel like we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep preparing, and going out there and still chase that feeling of that locker room after a win. That’s a good feeling. It makes the week go easier. It makes Mondays feel better. It makes Tuesdays, it makes everything just easier to take when you’re winning football games. So, that’s what we’re chasing.”
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