NEWARK, N.J. -- After a relatively calm training camp and preseason, the New York Giants finally have some controversy.
Brandon Jacobs is unhappy after being demoted to the No. 2 halfback behind Ahmad Bradshaw, and he popped off about it a little more than a week before the Sept. 12 season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Coughlin took time to sit down with Jacobs to explain that the Giants have always been a team that uses two running backs, and that isn't changing, even though Bradshaw will receive the first call.
"Nothing has changed," Coughlin said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "The big thing that is important to realize is that Brandon is healthier than he's ever been prior to the start of the season, and that's a good thing, so we're looking forward to the opportunity to play our multiple running game.
Jacobs, who gained 835 yards last season after 1,000-yard seasons the previous two years, expressed his frustration after failing to have a carry on a night that the Giants rushed for 160 yards on 32 attempts.
"No one's your friend in this business," Jacobs told ESPN. "This is a cutthroat, backstabbing business. That's just the way it goes. It's been like that before me. If you expect anything else out of a business like this, you're crazy."
Bradshaw, who is Jacobs' close friend, had four carries for 26 yards in limited actions, while D.J. Ware (13 for 60 yards) and Gartrell Johnson (12 for 50) received the bulk of the work.
Coughlin said the team limited Jacobs' carries in training camp and the preseason (10 for 43 yards) to keep him healthy for the regular season. However, Jacobs was miffed that Bradshaw seemingly always took the first carry in camp.
Jacobs, who had offseason knee surgery, said the NFL is a tough business, especially to players who make it big. He signed a four-year, $25 million contract extension with the Giants after the 2008 season.
"If I would have stayed making minimum, this wouldn't be a problem," Jacobs said. "Once you get paid, you're always in danger of running into problems like this. It doesn't matter who you are or what team or organization you play for, that's just the way it is."
Coughlin left his conversation with Jacobs with the belief that the two are now on the same page.
"He is well aware of where we are and what we are doing," Coughlin said. "He's very, very confident in his relationship with (running backs coach) Jerald Ingram, and he and Jerald are, I believe, on the same page. There is no, I don't believe that there is an issue there."
Coughlin said Jacobs was healthy Thursday and that didn't limit his availability against the Patriots. Jacobs caught one pass for six yards.
"Brandon didn't get the number of snaps that was intended for him last night, but the end result of having him ready to go for the season is still in place," Coughlin said.
Overall, Coughlin said he was pleased with the way that quarterback Eli Manning and the first-team offense performed in scoring a touchdown on the opening series. Coughlin believed the defense, which is one of the Giants' major question marks entering this season, made progress. Special teams still need work, particularly on kickoff coverage and returns.
"There isn't any question that Rhett has improved and he has more confidence, he has more poise, he's running the huddle better," Coughlin said. "He's had a couple of back-to-back weeks with two-minute experiences that he's handled very well, so there's progress there isn't any doubt about it."
While the defense allowed 383 total yards, it limited the Patriots to 73 rushing yards and staged a great second-half goal-line stand, stopping New England on three tries from the 1-yard line.
"I think that the defense is improving," Coughlin said. "We still have improvement to go. We'd like to get a couple of guys back that are not out there so that they can make a contribution as well, but I think we're heading in the right direction."
The defense should improve with starting cornerback Corey Webster ready to return to practice, Keith Bulluck stepping in at an outside linebacker spot and Jonathan Goff playing solid in the middle.
"I just think a lot of people played hard, and everyone is ready for the regular season," Bulluck said. "It was our last little tune-up. You want to go into a regular season with momentum, so that's what it is. We played with an energy level. We always went to the ball. We played hard, and that's what we needed going into this regular season."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press