EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants are expecting major production from their offense, and from Odell Beckham Jr. in particular, as they try to rebound from last year’s 6-10 record and snap a string of three consecutive seasons without a playoff berth.
Through two preseason games, there is little evidence that those expectations will turn into reality.
The Giants’ first-string offense continues to sputter. Beckham, coming off a dazzling season in which he set franchise rookie records for catches (91), receiving yards (1,305) and receiving touchdowns (12) despite missing the first four games with a hamstring injury, remains without a reception halfway through the preseason schedule.
“We’ve got to be better in the passing game, obviously,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Too many incompletions.”
Manning completed four of his 14 attempts for 46 yards. His longest completion went for 14 yards; his passer rating was a meager 40.8. The Giants’ offensive starters were held to five first downs, four more than they produced in a preseason-opening 23-10 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coach Tom Coughlin latched on to any positive he could find.
“I think we improved a little bit,” he said. “Nothing earthshaking, but a little better. We need to do a lot better.”
Tight end Larry Donnell readily acknowledged that the punchless attack hardly resembled the unit that excelled late last season.
“We made some strides, but we’ve got to get clicking and get going,” he said.
It was clear from the beginning how badly Ben McAdoo, the second-year offensive coordinator, wanted to get Beckham untracked, sending him on fly patterns on the Giants’ first two plays from scrimmage, but Manning could not connect with him either time.
With McAdoo going to a no-huddle attack as a way of picking up the tempo, the Giants showed life on their second series. Manning again looked for Beckham without connecting, but Shane Vereen, a running back signed in March, provided a lift with a 14-yard grab and three runs totaling 13 yards to advance the Giants to Jacksonville’s 33-yard line, where they faced a second-and-9.
Manning aimed for Beckham deep down the right side. He appeared to have him for an instant, and Beckham attempted a sliding catch, but he could not quite hold on. The crowd groaned.
Preston Parker was in the lineup in place of the injured Victor Cruz, whom the Giants are being especially careful with as he recovers from a calf injury and works his way back from a patellar tendon he tore in October. But Parker dropped a perfect throw on third down, forcing the Giants to settle for a 51-yard Josh Brown field goal with 1 minute 51 seconds left in the opening quarter — the only points the Giants’ first-string offense generated.
Manning was characteristically undaunted.
“Had some nice plays,” he said. “Just had a couple of bad throws by me, a couple drops — just some things we’ve got to clean up and start executing and making the plays that are out there that we were close to making.”
The offensive performance was reminiscent of the futility the unit displayed at Cincinnati, a game in which the first-string offense was shut out in netting only 28 yards and one first down in four series.
Although two preseason games remain for the Giants, time is growing short for Manning, Beckham and the rest to find their rhythm: Starters typically do not see extensive action in the preseason finale, so next weekend’s game against the Jets will be meaningful for reasons that have nothing to do with the opponent.
Giants linebacker MARK HERZLICH was sidelined in the opening quarter with a concussion. Another linebacker, JON BEASON, left with a sprained knee.