EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Steve Spagnuolo's return as the New York Giants defensive coordinator was marked by tentative play, a lot of yards surrendered and way too many injuries.
Other than the injuries, the group's play in a 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals probably should have been expected.
It's a new system and the players struggled, giving up 432 yards and 29 first downs.
Linebacker Jameel McClain, who didn't make the trip to Cincinnati because of a neck injury, did a lot of yelling at his TV watching the defense play Friday, much to the chagrin of his finance.
"I'm an animated guy, so me screaming at the TV for a preseason game, she didn't love that too much," McClain said.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who didn't play because of a groin injury, said the performance was surprising.
"I felt like on the defensive side we got punched in the mouth pretty early," Amukamara said Sunday as the Giants returned to work.
"Cincinnati had a great (opening) drive, but then after watching the film, there was some good stuff and some bad stuff."
The injuries took a toll on the secondary with rookie safeties Mykkele Thompson (Achilles tendon) and Landon Collins (knee), and cornerbacks Trumaine McBride (hamstring) and Jayron Hosley (concussion) among the injured. Thompson is going to miss the season.
Collins was listed day to day on Sunday as was Amukamara, Berhe and McBride. Brown will be out at least a week, and Hosley is being evaluated for a concussion.
It's created a lack of depth, particularly at safety, which was a very inexperienced group coming to training camp.
On Sunday, the Giants signed veteran free agent safety Brandon Meriweather, a former first-round draft choice and two-time Pro Bowler. He started 10 games for Washington last season and finished with 53 tackles, a career-high three sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He practiced on a limited basis Sunday.
To make room on the roster, they waived kicker Chris Boswell. Thompson was also placed on injured reserve.
Jeromy Miles is the current leader of the safety group that now includes Meriweather, Cooper Taylor, Berhe and Bennett Jackson, who was converted from cornerback this season. He said Spagnuolo's defense is complex.
"We have a long way to go," said Miles, who worked with the first team safeties along with Jackson. "That's the cool thing about the first preseason game. It's a tuneup and you get to see where you stack up against other competition. The Cincinnati Bengals are a great team and a great organization, and we have a chance to keep developing"
Taylor, who had an interception in Sunday's practice, said injuries are part of the game and everyone has to step up and fill the void. He said the biggest problem against Cincinnati was mistakes on the little details such as alignments techniques.
Jackson, who is doubling as a nickel back, said there were times when defenders seemed to hesitate instead of injured playing fast.
"That's something coach Spags talked about today: 'Play fast and play more aggressive,'" Jackson said. "A mistake will happen but you clean up a lot of mistakes playing aggressive and fast."
The Giants will get another chance to get the defense down on Saturday when they play host to Jacksonville at MetLife Stadium.
"The biggest measure of our team is to see how we bounce back," Amukamara said.
NOTES: McClain and G Geoff Schwartz (ankle) returned to practice on Sunday. ... WR Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis) and LB Jonathan Casillas (stiff neck) also did not practice. ... Trevin Wade, who had an interception against the Bengals, worked with the first team in Amukamara's absence. ... Odell Beckham Jr. made an outstanding leaping catch of an Eli Manning pass over Wade on the next to last play of the practice. Wade broke up a deep pass to Preston Parker on the final play.