What to look out for on the weekdays leading to Sundays game vs. Cleveland…
— Is [WR] Hakeem Nicks going to play? My money is on no, he will miss his third game in a row. Thus far, all we know is that his knee swelled up after the first time he ran on it (last Thursday) since week 2 vs. Tampa Bay. And I’d bet his foot is still giving him some pain as well. When asked about it, Tom Coughlin has expressed serious concern for his star wide out, but he usually errs on the negative side of injuries. Still, I will say what everyone ought to be thinking: this feels as if Hakeem will be in and out of the lineup all season long. The chance he comes back fully healthy in the next couple of weeks and plays out the season is unfortunately the same as the chance he could be lost for the majority of the season. Cross your fingers, hold your breath, say a prayer. We need him.
— Will there be any indication of a Running Back shuffle? Surely the Giants must be as antsy as I am to adjust the distribution of carries among our committee of 3. Ahmad Bradshaw has been unable to produce this season when getting the lion’s share of touches. Andre Brown has only looked good when he can get into a groove, and as a result I’d like to see us give him a chance to start and hopefully that will spark Ahmad when he subs in. I understand the hesitance to try featuring David Wilson… so far it hasn’t worked out well for our offense (fumble + drops). That being said, maybe his success in the kick return game will give him some confidence, and our running game could sure use an explosive weapon like Wilson to get going.
— If [RT] David Diehl is ready to go, will he start? No matter who has been playing, the offensive line has only given up a handful of sacks all season, even though Eli has been under pressure. At different times, different combinations along the line have all looked good and bad in the running game. I have to assume Diehl will regain his starting role given his pedigree with the Giants (only if he is 100%), but then who lines up at [LT]? Sean Locklear has been average, but consistently so, and Coughlin tends to feel comfortable with veterans. But Will Beatty is an important part of the future of our line, and any coach will tell you that nothing is more important than game reps in the development of a player. Or maybe Diehl won’t be ready to go yet and we can do this whole song and dance again next week. Also worth note: [C] David Bass had a swollen hand on Sunday, attributing to a medley of very poor snaps against Philadelphia. It hasn’t gotten much attention because Eli was able to corral them, but the poor snaps are something that cannot continue and hopefully will be gone by next week.
— How long will we have to wait to get [SS] Kenny Phillips back (week-to-week with a knee sprain) and who will be lining up at safety in the meantime? The feeling I get is that Phillips will be out for the foreseeable future, which is a huge loss to our defense. [DE] Justin Tuck admitted after the Eagles game that players got a little “gun-shy” after Phillips went down, meaning we weren’t as confident blitzing because of the uncertainty in coverage behind. Now, we will see the rotation of backup [S]s Tyler Sash, Stevie Brown, and Will Hill. Sash is coming off a 4 game suspension (for not getting his adderall subscription OK-ed), and if he has kept in shape he should be on a fast track to starting opposite [FS] Antrel Rolle. But Sash has yet to see a regular season game this year, and for what it’s worth I remember him being inconsistent when given opportunities last year. Stevie Brown spelled Phillips when he left the game, played 59 snaps, and according to Coughlin he “did a nice job” and our strategy was “largely unaffected” by the switch. If Sash is a little flat coming off of suspension, which is a fair assumption, I think we’re comfortable going with Brown. Will Hill spent time playing the nickel corner position (thanks to our banged up corners, coming up next) and looked decent both in coverage and flowing downhill in pressure / run blitzes. I expect him to stay in that hybrid safety/linebacker role that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has had Rolle play in the past (I believe he calls it a “bison” back).
— Are we getting back some of our corners? Corey Webster started despite having a cast on his hand, and didn’t seemed hindered by it. Prince Amukamara had an encouraging first NFL start, evidenced by us barely hearing any mention of him at all (great sign for corner backs). But there are concerns behind those two. Michael Coe (hamstring) dressed but did not play in Philadelphia, and admitted he was only there for “emergency situations”. Jayron Hosley (hamstring) was inactive, and so far there is no word on the recovery of either corner. Luckily, the Cleveland Browns lack the depth at wide receiver to really apply pressure to our secondary, but we need to get Hosley and Coe back to full health as soon as possible. The good news is that IF we can get all four of these guys 100% at the same time, our woes in the secondary could be a thing of the past.