EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The winless New York Giants, who host the winless Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, want everyone to know that they are still a team, that the locker room hasn't splintered and that they feel very close to getting that elusive first win.
Of course, for that to happen, it would help if the Giants, who have yet to put together a complete game, did so starting this week against a Chargers team whose struggles have virtually mirrored those encountered by the Giants.
Why are the Giants confident that things are about to turn the corner?
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo has focused on simplifying things for his team -- getting them back to doing the fundamentals and basic things that mean the difference between a win and a loss -- in hopes that it gets them in the right direction.
"Just with the calls and communication," McAdoo explained when asked how he's simplified things for the players.
"It starts with the coaches, going back and detailing fundamentals. You don't want to go back to a training camp mode, but you want to get pretty close. Make it simple, let players run, block, hit, catch -- do what they do best."
In their last two games, the offense in particular has picked things up a bit. They topped 300 yards of total offense against the Eagles and the Bucs, and passing for 280 yards or more over that time span as well against two defenses that while banged up, still fought the good fight.
Last week, thanks to an injury in the running back corps to Orleans Darkwa, the Giants running game had its best showing of the year, rushing for 91 yards on 28 carries.
On defense, the Giants have struggled to get out of their own way and to get off the field. This is a group that last year was a top-10 unit, and which this year they kept most of the same players, the same defensive coordinator and the same system, yet which has now twice failed to close out a game and that has played sloppy football.
In particular, the tight-end position continues to befuddle the defense. New York has allowed at least one touchdown to be scored by an opposing tight end this season; last week, they gave up two to Bucs tight ends O.J. Howard on a busted play and Cameron Brate.
"I think we've played some good tight ends that create matchup problems," McAdoo said.
"Their yards per catch isn't outrageous, but they do have some completions against us. I think it's more than just targets, it's completions.
"You have to give credit to the opponent. Sometimes matchup problems for tight ends, they create matchup problems for you. I think a lot of teams face it in the league today. You have to pick certain guys each week to play 'Where's Waldo?' You have to look at who you need to stop so they don't wreck a game. A lot of times tight ends don't wreck a game, but there are some other players that can."
Matchups aside, the Giants' defensive players know it's gut-check time and that they have to do their part.
"Now is the time to prove what we can do and what we are going to do and what we are," said safety Landon Collins.
"We're motivated. I wouldn't say angry - we're not angry at anything, besides ourselves. Other than that, we're still motivated to prove to ourselves and to everyone else that we're still a team, that we're still here."
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 6-5. The Chargers are one of two teams (the Colts being the other) that the Giants have yet to defeat since the start of the Eli Manning era in 2004. This will be only the second time since 2004 that the Giants will host the Chargers; the first time these two teams met on the Giants' home turf (in 2009) resulted in a 21-20 Chargers win.
--Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who networks a lot during the football season both on and off the field, dropped a not-so-surprising tidbit about the team Wednesday when answering a question about dropped passes: the Giants offense is predictable.
"I was talking to (head coach Ben McAdoo) today and the routes that we're running, the DB's - I talked to them after the game--were like, 'We know you're running a certain route.'"
Beckham was answering a question regarding the dropped passes that have littered his game of late.
"It was just me putting extra onto a route, just trying to create more space," Beckham said, "and I kind of have to trust myself more in the sense that when I make my break, not everybody is going to be able to come out and close that little gap. So, there's a split second where you're like, 'Oh, they're coming on your back.'
"We caught some passes after that, so drops don't really bother me. It's just something, my confidence is too high. You know, you drop the ball. It's definitely an accident. I didn't do it on purpose."
Still, his candidness about opponents being so brazen about sharing their observations with a player from the Giants is both surprising and alarming.
Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was apparently the one who got in Beckham's ear about the predictability of the Giants' offense.
However, the Giants' receiver didn't seem too bothered by the revelation, noting that the defensive backs study film to pick up their opponent's tendencies.
Still, Beckham's revelation aligns with what other analysts, such as Bleacher Report's Chris Simms who last year laid out how the Giants offense relies mostly on slants, curls and passes to the flat, have said about the Giants' rather one-dimensional offense.
"It's the system. It's our offense," Beckham said when asked if maybe they should consider changing things up. "We were 11-5 last year and we were running the same thing. So, is it really this or are we just not executing?
"I don't think we're executing the way that we can, at a higher level. It wasn't a problem last year when we were winning games. So, it's just a matter of execution, really."
Or is it? Last year the offense struggled to run the ball, struggled to score, and finished 25th in the league, averaging 330.7 yards per game.
The difference for New York between last year and this year was the defense. Last year, the Giants' defense, a top-10 unit, was a brick wall that rarely let the opponent have its way. This year, the defense has struggled to make the plays that came so easy to them last year.
McAdoo hopes that by simplifying things schematically for his team that they can get back on track.
"You can play faster (with simplification)," McAdoo said. "The more thinking you take out of the equation, the faster you can play."
How do they do that?
"(It is) just with the calls and the communication. It starts with the coaches. Just going back and detailing the fundamentals," he said. "You don't want to go back into a training camp mode, but you want to get pretty close. Just make it simple. Let players run, hit, tackle, block, catch, do what they do best."
--Wide receiver Brandon Marshall doesn't need the outside pundits to point out that his performance thus far since joining the Giants hasn't been acceptable.
But the 33-year-old, who through the first quarter of the season has 16 receptions for 139 yards and no touchdowns, said he's not going to dwell on the past, which he can't change; instead he's focused on the future starting with this weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I haven't played the way I've wanted to play," Marshall said. "I hold myself to a high standard. The guys around here hold me to a high standard. Looking at myself in the mirror, I want to pick up my play and I'll do that, but I'm not going to waste too much time thinking about the past. If I do that, then the future is going to be really ugly."
The mystery behind Marshall, who also has at least three dropped passes this season, and is suddenly looking every bit like a player whose decline has snowballed in the blink of an eye. He has been a disappointment for a Giants team that envisioned him using his fine height and physicality to help open things up down the field for Beckham and the passing offense.
There are some, for instance, who question whether Marshall's shoulder injury suffered midway through the preseason is still affecting him. However, Marshall has insisted his shoulder is fine and he has yet to appear on the injury report with any ailment.
Head coach Ben McAdoo suggested earlier this week that Marshall's struggles could be related to him being in a new offense which is preventing him from paying fast.
However, Marshall has been with the Giants since March. He went through the team's offseason program, including the OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, he was present for the entire training camp, even if he didn't practice, and he even put in some extra work with quarterback Eli Manning on the mental part of the game between the end of the mandatory minicamp in June and the start of training camp in late July.
"I think catching is confidence. Confidence is catching," McAdoo said. "We just need to get through a clean game with him. He's been catching it well in practice. We need to carry it over to game day. And that's a part of the game for receivers."
Whatever is at the root of Marshall's struggles, he is confident that he'll get out of this slump and will start delivering the way he expects himself to deliver.
"I'll have my chances to help out the team and be a solution, right, instead of a problem," he said. "We'll figure it out and we'll get rolling this Sunday."
--Four games into his first season on an NFL roster, kicker Aldrick Rosas has finally gotten a taste of adversity.
Rosas, who beat out veteran Mike Nugent in the preseason and who had been Mr. Automatic for the Giants, missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt, his first miss in five tries this season.
Although not directly responsible for the Giants 25-23 loss to the Bucs, the points were certainly not something the team could have afforded to squander.
While Rosas wasn't happy with his miss, the cool-as-ice kicker has not let his gaffe linger.
"The kicker mentality is just one for one," Rosas said of his ability to shake off his miss. "We hit the reset button after every kick. You just go out there and you just keep building on your routine and keep progressing and keep doing what you've been doing."
Rosas said that the snap and the hold on his miss were just fine and that the wet field that had been rained upon earlier in the game, was not a factor in his miss.
"I thought it kind of cleared up by then," he said of the weather, adding, "I just pushed it."
Rosas, who in the preseason received every possible opportunity in a game when it was his turn to kick, hasn't necessarily had that carry-over this season thanks to head coach Ben McAdoo's decision in the last two games to go for it on fourth down when inside the 20 rather than settle for field goals.
"I don't worry about the play calling or any of that. I trust coach and all of the play-calling and all of the coaches, so I just stay ready," he said. "My job is to go out there and kick the ball through the uprights. So, I stay ready and when my time is called, I am as ready as I can be to go out and do my job," he said.
NOTES: DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Vernon, who has never missed a game in his NFL career, aggravated his ankle injury in last week's loss and is in jeopardy of missing his first NFL game this weekend. ... C Weston Richburg (concussion) remains in the protocol. Richburg's status for Sunday seems ominous. If he can't go, Brett Jones, the team's backup center, will get the start. ... WR Odell Beckham Jr. (finger/ankle) was limited Wednesday. Beckham said his ankle is no worse than it was last week so he plans to continue receiving treatment and anticipates he'll be ready to go Sunday. ... RB Orleans Darkwa (back) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Darkwa was inactive last week, so it will be interesting to see if he goes this week if he continues to be limited or if the Giants deactivate another running back. ... RB Paul Perkins (ribs) was limited Wednesday. Perkins has struggled this season with running the ball, so his injury could open the door for the coaching staff to deactivate him this week while he continues to heal. ... CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle) was back on the injury report and on the side for Wednesday's practice. Jenkins, who came off the injury report last week, apparently aggravated his ankle injury in Sunday's loss. ... DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee/shoulder) was not present at practice Wednesday during the open part of practice and did not practice Wednesday. Pierre-Paul is a surprise addition to the injury report this week after making it through last week's game with apparently no issues. ... WR Brandon Marshall (toe) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Marshall should be good to go for Sunday's game. ... OL Jon Halapio was signed to the 53-man roster as insurance at center. Starter Weston Richburg is currently in the concussion protocol. If he can't go Sunday, he'll be replaced by Brett Jones. Halapio will in turn back up Jones at center. ... LB Deontae Skinner has been waived from the 53-man roster to make room for OL Jon Halapio. ... OL Justin Pugh revealed that he has taken some snaps in practice at center. The Giants are currently thin at the position with Weston Richburg dealing with a concussion and Jon Halapio, just signed from the practice squad, lacking ideal experience.