There’s never a good time for the injury virus to hit a football team. And that’s especially true for the New York Giants, who, after taking a beating from the Detroit Lions on Sunday, enter their Thanksgiving date with the Dallas Cowboys with a walking MASH session.
Unfortunately, no one will feel sorry for the Giants, nor will Commissioner Roger Goodell step in and call off the game just because the Giants are down. No, head coach Brian Daboll’s mantra for the Giants is “Next Man Up.” If that looks scary in certain positions, given the depth of the squad, well, shame.
“It’s the NFL; every team struggles with injuries,” Daboll said Tuesday ahead of the team’s walkthrough practice session. “Well, next guy. And let’s get ready to play.”
Daboll doesn’t have to dig too deep into his motivational bag of tricks to pass the message on to the remaining players. It’s either ready to play and contribute to the whole cause, or it’s going home.
“It’s really that simple: prepare to play a game,” he said. “(It’s) a short week; everyone’s playing them. So, do a good job on the walk-throughs. Do a good job studying the side we’re playing against and making sure we’re ready to go. Take care of our bodies and get ready to go to Dallas.”
The Giants’ injury report reads like a who’s who of the roster. Daboll has previously said starting tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) and starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee) will not play Thursday.
The remainder of the walking wounded will be a game-day decision, however, with some light being shed on who’s in and who’s out based on practice roster increases the Giants make through Wednesday’s deadline.
There are several big decisions to be made, starting with the recipient. The Giants placed Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL) on injured reserve Monday. But Richie James, who would be the next man not only as a slot receiver but also as a punt returner for Jackson, was struggling with a knee injury and should likely be limited in Tuesday’s walkthrough.
If James is unable to leave, the Giants could raise Kalil Pimpleton off their practice team to fill both receiver and punt returner roles. Pimpleton has yet to rise since he was added to the Giants’ practice roster earlier in the season.
The defensive back is another big problem. In addition to Jackson, cornerback Fabian Moreau (oblique), the other cornerback in the starting XI, is said to be unable to practice this week. That would leave the Giants with Rodarius Williams, Darnay Holmes, Nick McCloud and practice waster Zyon Gilbert to choose from for their starting corners when Moreau can’t play.
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Then there is the offensive line. Jos Ezeudu (neck), Jon Feliciano (neck), Shane Lemieux (toe), Evan Neal (knee), Tire Phillips (neck) and Andrew Thomas (illness) were all on Tuesday’s injury report.
Of those, Thomas and Phillips should be operational by Thursday, with Neal set to be a game-time decision. The status of Feliciano and Lemieux is less certain, meaning Nick Gates is likely to get his first start since returning from the PUP roster and Matt Peart could also step in with a right tackle start if Phillips and Neal aren’t ready .
As simple as “next man up” sounds, there’s a reason some guys are beginners and other backups. There’s also a reason it’s highly desirable, at least on the offensive line, to have the same five guys working together each week, as is the case with the receiver, where the quarterback forms a relationship with certain guys that often takes weeks to develop to develop .
“I think it can be in certain situations,” said quarterback Daniel Jones when asked if it was a challenge getting used to switching faces on the fly. “I think our guys did a really good job of knowing what to do, getting on the same side and then going out and executing.
“I think our coaches did a good job bringing everyone up to speed and helping everyone learn what they need to learn and then when the lads came out they made games.”
You must play against a Cowboys team that is explosive on offense and quick and physical on defense. Jones said the players who may be called upon to fill in for the injured guys have “done a great job and learned what they have to do” and he has faith in them.
That’s important because if the Giants are to finish the job they’ve started, they need these guys pushed into starting roles or big roles within the game roster to deliver the goods.
“We’ve had a good week so far to practice and communicate these things and get on the same page,” Jones said. “It’s certainly a challenge, but I think it’s also a great opportunity for us to show who we are, to show what we can do, our toughness. We’re looking forward to going out there and playing really good football.”
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