Giants progress on the line in key division battle vs. Eagles

It was one of those comments that actually sounded a bit funny.

It came in response to a question about the progress made along the Giants’ offensive line. But it had broader implications that apply to the entire team.

Why so much better now than a month or two ago?

“It’s nice when everyone knows what they’re doing,’’ veteran guard Kevin Zeitler said. “It speeds up communication, it speeds up the process and helps the whole team in general.’’

Yes, indeed, it is always beneficial when players know what they are doing.

This is the course first-year head coach Joe Judge set for the Giants. He fully realized all the changes made on offense, defense and special teams, new personnel, an injection of youth, a disjointed and remote spring as COVID-19 took hold, no on-field work, no preseason games, a slow ramp-up to a semblance of normalcy in training camp would all conspire against early success. Judge never used any of this as an excuse, but he did acknowledge there would be a feeling-out process that was unavoidable and hoped more than a sprinkling of winning could come during the growing pains.

Joe JudgeN.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

As it turned out, there was too much pain amid the growing, as the Giants lost their first five games and seven of their first eight, the majority of the losses excruciatingly close and agonizingly late. Only a hater will deny the Giants are making strides, but the only thing Judge has to show as proof of results are two victories over Washington.

“I feel we’re getting closer and closer to what we want to be as a team,’’ Judge said. “I think we’re improving every week and I see that, the players see that when we turn on the tape. When we turn it on, we want our identity to be something that jumps off the tape at us when you watch it. There doesn’t need to be volume on the tape for a reason. That’s because all you have to know is what you see.

“We’re also very transparent and very blunt about what we have to correct and make sure we get better on a weekly basis. Do I think we are a different team? I think we’re an improving team. I see strides made with all the players on a weekly basis.’’

What comes next is the perfect marker for the Giants. Three weeks ago, they were ahead 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter in Philadelphia, and by the end of the game they were caught and passed, losing 22-21 to the Eagles. The Giants do not have to be a different team to flip this outcome. They do, however, have to be an improved team, especially with the Eagles — so injury depleted back on Oct. 22 — now much healthier, and rested, coming off their bye.

“I go back and watch our first game and they have us against the ropes there with just a few minutes left in that game,’’ Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “I’m sure it’s in the back of their mind obviously, as it would be with us.’’

That Pederson added, “Quite frankly, they had us beat,’’ has to gnaw at the Giants. The truth hurts.

“It was 21-10 with under five minutes to go in this game, and this a good football team and we’ve got to learn from that game,’’ Pederson said.

Judge was not having much of that.

“The part that he referenced, those last five minutes are the most important part in that game,’’ Judge said. “We have to finish as a team and play a complete game.’’

The Giants did not play a complete game last week as they held off Washington, 23-20. At 2-7, they can, with a win Sunday at empty MetLife Stadium, pull within a half-game of the first-place Eagles (3-4-1) in the woeful NFC East. If that happens, the Giants will enter their long-awaited bye week having tangible evidence that they are an improved operation.

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