The New York Giants offense is expected to be a top flight unit this upcoming season and quarterback Eli Manning showed a glimpse of brilliance on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. New York's No. 10 connected on a 57-yard touchdown pass with Victor Cruz during the first quarter of Big Blue's first preseason tune-up game in the Steel City.
Despite the offense's big play through the air, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is still without the injured Hakeem Nicks. The Giants have been cautious with Nicks who is nursing a groin injury.
Although Nicks is expected to return for Sunday night's showdown against the Indianapolis Colts, second year wide receiver Reuben Randle has held down the fort just fine.
When asked about if Randle is showing signs of a breakout season, Gilbride was encouraged from what he's seen so far in camp.
"There's no question about it," Gilbride said. "He's light years from where he was last year. Not that there wasn't some physical ability that I think was easily discerned by everybody, but the consistency of performance, the thing we were just talking about, reacting the right way on all the different looks you get, in the professional ranks. That wasn't at the level that you needed, but in terms of his work ethic, his leadership has been phenomenal, and he's always had great hands."
Randle finished the game against the Steelers with just one reception, but he showed his elusiveness by making several defenders miss tackles. Jerrel Jernigan has also demonstrated he has a chance to have a strong 2013 campaign. Jernigan finished the game with two catches for 28 yards.
"I thought he was excellent", noted Gilbride. "I thought he did a lot of good things, if the quarterback had a few more counts. He ran a hook and up that he was wide open. He ran a corner route where he was wide open. Just couldn't get him the ball. Biggest thing is he's got to stay healthy."
The passing game will continue to come together as Big Blue has one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL heading into the season. Louis Murphy, who started for the Oakland Raiders in the past, is considered the fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart.
Gilbride needs to figure out what he wants to do with the running backs. New York's offensive coordinator has to decide if he wants to go with a two headed attack or just have one set starter at the position.
Neither David Wilson nor Andre Brown "wowed" anyone with their play against the Steelers. Wilson started the game for the G-men and barely had any running room to work with. He finished the game with five carries for 16 yards. Brown had four carries for 23 yards when he entered the game.
The offensive line looked sluggish during Saturday's game. The Steelers confused the Giants with different blitz packages throughout the night.
"I think as a coach, you're never happy," Gilbride said about the first game. "There were a few more mental errors than I had really expected, even though I know schematically they're moving around, they're blitzing, and they certainly did an excessive amount of that. I thought that we would handle it more consistently than we did. We were very inconsistent. It wasn't that they didn't know who to block; it was that when they started moving, we didn't react nearly as quickly as you need to, to be an efficient, consistent offense."
The fans also received a preview of the Giants fourth round draft pick Ryan Nassib. The former Syracuse University gunslinger's stats did not jump off the box score, but Gilbride was impressed with his composure in the pocket.
"I think he's played pretty well," Gilbride said. "He actually did a nice thing. He didn't get as much protection as some of the other guys got, but I thought he hung in there and I thought he was throwing the ball to the right spot."
The Giants will take on the Colts in front of a Sunday Night Football audience. The Colts struggled to stop the Buffalo Bills from moving up and down the field on their way to a 44-20 loss. Gilbride will have a better idea of what his offense will look like during the 2013 season after Sunday's second preseason game.