CINCINNATI - Here's all you have to know about how bad things went for the Giants in Friday night's 23-10 preseason-opening loss against the Bengals: When the second quarter began, Eli Manning was still on the field.
Under more ideal -- or even reasonably positive -- circumstances, Manning would have been ball-capped and clipboarded by that time. But because the starting offense was unable to produce, Tom Coughlin kept sending them out hoping they might at least be able to leave the field on a good note.
They were not.
A sad display of four series that started with three three-and-outs for a combined 6 yards and ended with new running back Shane Vereen unable to convert third-and-1 near midfield on the fourth left little for the offense to build off. For a team that most figure will have to outscore opponents with a high-powered passing attack, about all they learned of themselves is what they do wrong.
"We need to be a little sharper," said Manning, who was 4-for-8 for 22 yards with no completions to wide receivers. "We didn't do that well on third downs, had some negative plays. We definitely have room for improvement. That's what preseason's for: to figure out what you have to improve on and go do it."
Not even the magic of Odell Beckham Jr. could save the night as it salvaged the second half of last season. Manning targeted Beckham just once and it was a miscommunication. Beckham ran a deep route that Manning expected him to cut off in the face of a blitz.
The leaky right side of the offensive line was an issue as tackle Marshall Newhouse whiffed on Carlos Dunlap on the second snap for a loss of 5 and guard John Jerry could not contain Geno Atkins from the backside on a second-series run. Running back Andre Williams was leveled by Pat Sims on a run up the middle later in the first quarter. Rookie starting left tackle Ereck Flowers played well, but was flagged for a face mask that negated a 6-yard gain.
The defense was not much better, allowing the Bengals to march 52 yards in six plays for a touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu on their opening drive. The Bengals faced second down just once on the drive.
"We needed to come out and start fast knowing it was going to be a short night for the [starters]," linebacker Jon Beason said. "I would like to see us play a little faster. I think that would've covered up a lot of things. They were able to have some success. They hit us with some runs, some passes. But overall, we need to start faster."
They also lost four players in the secondary to injury in the first half, including starting safety Landon Collins (knee) and fellow safety Mykkele Thompson with an Achilles injury that most likely will end his season.
Fourth-string running back Orleans Darkwa scored the Giants' only touchdown in the first half when he leaped over the pile at the goal line behind the starting offensive line to make it 10-7 on the first drive of the game for backup quarterback Ryan Nassib. The Giants trailed 17-10 at halftime after Josh Brown kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. Brown missed a 53-yard attempt earlier.