New York Giants: Mathias Kiwanuka

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve this week, so if you've been thinking you'd like to see second-year end Damontre Moore get more playing time, this has to be your week, right?

Right?

Right, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell???

Moore
"He'll be in a rotation," Fewell said Thursday. "He won't be an every-down player for us."

Any analysis of Moore and his playing time must factor in that he's only 22 years old, still younger than rookie phenom Odell Beckham Jr., and that the main reason he hasn't seen the field more on defense is that the coaches don't see enough consistency in practice to trust him in games. If he can't master his assignments or figure out how to stay onside in the field house on Thursdays, what kind of mess is he going to make against a real opponent on a Sunday? Sure, he can get in there and bat down a pass or block a kick, but too many times he's either committing a penalty or getting swallowed up by blockers because he took the wrong first step or got knocked to the side by a tight end because he's not big enough.

"He's a better pass defender than he is a run defender," Fewell said. "We'd like for him to play the run stouter than he's doing now."

The Giants are hoping that defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins can return from his calf injury this week. Jenkins has some experience playing defensive end, and it sounds as though he has a chance to start at that defensive end spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul if he can play. He, Moore and rookie Kerry Wynn, who made his NFL debut Sunday in Jacksonville, would be in that defensive end rotation now that Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka are done for the year.

But as exciting as he can be at times, it's clear Moore is still a project, at least in the eyes of the Giants' coaching staff. Asked what he needs to improve to become a regular player in the league, Fewell said, "Strength, power and discipline," which basically encompasses everything you would think a defensive end needs to be successful in the NFL.

"How much he'll get into the weight room, how much strength he develops," Fewell said. "You have to have good strength at the point of attack to be able to strike, shed and defend."

Moore will get more playing time, simply out of necessity at this point. But don't expect the Giants to just hand him a starting spot because one has come open. They still don't think he's ready.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lots of New York Giants showed up on Wednesday's pre-practice injury report, but there seemed to be more good injury news than bad.

The only Giants who didn't practice due to injury were guard Adam Snyder, who injured his knee in Sunday's game, linebacker Jameel McClain, who did the same, and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who has been practicing on a limited schedule all season due to a knee issue. Safety Antrel Rolle also missed practice, and the team said that was due to a personal matter.

Linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion), tackle Justin Pugh (quad) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf), each of whom missed Sunday's game due to their injuries, were doing individual work at practice, which is progress for each of them. Guard Geoff Schwartz, who made his debut Sunday after missing the first 10 games of the season with a toe injury, was also a limited participant in practice.

And Odell Beckham Jr., the star of the week, was a full participant in practice in spite of the back injury he suffered at the end of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.

"I was full-go today," said Beckham, who described his injury as "a bruise to the bone."

"It was sore after the game for sure and the next day and even yesterday, but it’s feeling a lot better today."

The Giants will have a practice Thursday morning before they're sent home to spend Thanksgiving with their families, then return for a full Friday practice before flying to Jacksonville on Saturday for Sunday's game there. At this point, the biggest question marks for Sunday are Snyder, Williams, Pugh and Jenkins, though the fact that the latter three are doing any work at all is encouraging.

Changes coming on Giants' D-line? Perhaps

November, 26, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted the obvious on Wednesday: His team's pass rush has been a major disappointment this season.

"It is something that has been missing the majority of the time this year," Coughlin said. "The effectiveness of pressures, whether they come out of the secondary, the linebacker level, we have not been good with that.

"Plus, to be honest with you, we’ve had some missed assignments when those are called. The responsibility starts with me."

It may start with Coughlin, but it quickly extends to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and the players themselves. Yes, Fewell could've called more blitzes against the Cowboys last Sunday, particularly on that final drive. But the guys up front have failed to live up to expectations this season.

Kiwanuka
Pierre-Paul
Starting defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka have a combined six sacks -- 3.5 for Pierre-Paul, 2.5 for Kiwanuka. Pierre-Paul had 16.5 in 2011 and Kiwanuka had as many as eight in 2008.

"We’d like to think we would be a better team with pressure," Coughlin said. "There are a bunch of guys up front that are supposed to be known for that."

Robert Ayers leads the team with five sacks and is also tops in quarterback hits (12) and quarterback hurries (24), according to Pro Football Focus. This despite the fact that he has played only 350 snaps. In comparison, Pierre-Paul has played 651 and Kiwanuka 558.

Ayers had gotten more playing time of late, until the game against the Cowboys, when he was in for only 20 of 55 defensive snaps and was not on the field for Dallas' game-winning drive.

When asked Wednesday if he felt he was benched, Ayers shrugged, then said, "I’m not the starter, so how can a backup be benched? The guys that started the game were the guys that played (at the end)."

"Ayers has had some success, (but) didn’t play very well last weekend," Coughlin said earlier.

For what it's worth, Ayers was credited with three of the Giants' six quarterback hurries against the Cowboys, despite the limited amount of snaps. And he received a positive grade for the game from Pro Football Focus -- in fact, he got the highest grade of any defensive player on the team.

"Maybe? That’s his assessment," Ayers said, when Coughlin's criticism was brought to his attention. "The way I viewed it was, there wasn’t any other game this season when the starters didn’t finish the game. If I was benched, I was benched. I don’t know."

Speaking of sacks, second-year defensive end Damontre Moore had one of the Giants' two against the Cowboys (Kiwanuka had the other). But Moore played only six snaps and has played only 167 on the season, despite being active for every game.

"Young Damontre, everybody wants him in the ballgame. He did have some success the other day with one sack," Coughlin said. "He should have been playing a little bit more."

When asked why we haven't seen more of Moore, Coughlin indicated that poor performances in practice are the reason.

"Because there are times, to be honest with you, during the week when you talk about confidence level, whether it’s assignment football or whatever -- for whatever reason, it hasn’t been something that we thought he knows exactly what he’s doing and so on and so forth," Coughlin said. "The practices have to fulfill the idea that we can go ahead and play him under all kinds of circumstances is what we’d like to do, not just on third down."

The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants' opponent this coming Sunday, have given up 43 sacks through 11 games, the worst total in the entire NFL. So if the pass rush is going to come alive this season, this would be the week.

But the Giants have just 19 sacks in 11 games, ranking them 26th in the league.

At 3-8 and virtually eliminated from playoff contention, perhaps it's time for the Giants to give guys like Ayers and Moore a bigger opportunity to show what they can really do.

Tom Coughlin wishes he could have a do-over

November, 24, 2014
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A day after the New York Giants' bitter 31-28 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted that he'd do things differently, if given another chance.

Leading 28-24 with three minutes remaining, the Giants allowed the Cowboys to march 80 yards down the field with relative ease for the game-winning score.

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Al Bello/Getty Images
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was given all kinds of time, thanks to a practically non-existent Giants pass rush. Romo delivered and connected with Dez Bryant for a 13-yard touchdown with just more than a minute to play.

The Giants stayed away from the blitz on that final drive, choosing instead to rush just four linemen and try to beat Romo that way. It backfired, and Coughlin was asked Monday if he would have preferred more aggressive defensive play-calling down the stretch.

"Those things have been discussed long and hard in the meeting rooms today," Coughlin said, on a conference call with reporters. "I hear ya, and on paper theoretically I agree with you. We all feel that there should have been more done, more accomplished, perhaps even throughout the entire game but definitely on that last drive. You’d love to be able to do it over."

The drive began with short completions to Bryant and Jason Witten, followed by a nine-yard run by DeMarco Murray. Then, following the two-minute warning, on 1st-and-10 from the Cowboys' own 38-yard line, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was flagged for a neutral zone infraction. Coughlin revealed Monday that the Giants did have a blitz dialed up on that play.

"If you remember the play in which we jumped, there was a pressure called there," he said. "Quite frankly I think that we kind of scared ourselves out of [blitzing] because of the penalty."

Romo made the rest look easy, hooking up with Cole Beasley for 21 yards, Witten for 15, and then Bryant in the back of the end zone. On the touchdown play, Romo had a full six seconds in the pocket to wait for Bryant to break free -- an eternity by NFL standards.

"That is about as tough as it gets," Kiwanuka said Monday, of watching that play on tape. "Especially being out there and feeling personally responsible for the outcome of the game. That is a tough one to swallow."

On further review, Kiwanuka and the Giants' other three defensive linemen weren't even close to getting to Romo. And it's worth noting that Robert Ayers was not in the game at that point. In fact, Ayers played only 20 of a possible 54 defensive snaps Sunday, even though he's been the Giants' best pass-rusher this season, and leads the team with five sacks.

"I can just tell you there were reasons why perhaps Robert wasn’t in there," Coughlin said. "There was sound thinking behind that."

That's debatable. What isn't debatable is that the Giants' defensive line simply hasn't been good enough this season.

The team is ranked 26th in the NFL in sacks, with just 19 in 11 games. Not to mention that they are second-to-last against the run, giving up 142.6 yards per game.

"Obviously there's a lot that goes into it," Kiwanuka said, when asked about the team's lack of sacks. "The opportunities when they're there, we're not taking advantage of them. When they're not, we have to find a way to create them. We just have to find a way to make plays."

Jason Pierre-Paul has just 3.5 sacks, Kiwanuka has only 2.5, and you have to think the Giants will be looking to upgrade at defensive end this coming offseason.

"On a positive note," Kiwanuka added, "there is a lot of football left to be played and we could still change the story of this season before it is over."

That's highly debatable, too. At 3-8 and virtually eliminated from playoff contention before Thanksgiving, this Giants season can already be labeled a major disappointment.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If by some chance you haven't seen it by now, please do go watch. If you have seen it, it's worth seeing again. Odell Beckham Jr.'s leaping, one-handed touchdown catch in the New York Giants' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night was pure sporting joy -- a flickering oasis of brilliance in a two-year desert of Big Blue mediocrity.

The story of this Giants season has been -- and continues to be -- that they're just not good enough. Their opponents consistently have better players who can make plays the Giants cannot. But for that one breathtaking moment Sunday night when that ball was stuck to Beckham's hand as he plunged to the blue end zone turf, there was no one in the world who was any better.

This is how the hyper-talented rookie saves this Giants season. And no, I'm not talking "save the season" in the sense of turning things around and making a playoff run, because the Giants aren't going to do that. A full appreciation of Beckham's impact requires a recalibration of expectations and a refresher course in why we watch sports in the first place.

"I hope the fact that we lost won't keep people from talking about that catch," Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said early Monday morning.

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Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsOdell Beckham Jr. gives Giants fans something to watch over the final five games of the season.
It has not, and Kiwanuka is right that it should not. Kiwanuka is not happy about losing, and neither is Beckham or anyone else associated with the Giants. They've lost six games in a row, they're going to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and the only thing anybody on the outside is talking about is who's going to get fired. The Giants are miserable.

But amid that misery, faces lit up in the locker room when the questions turned to Beckham and his catch. Giants players and coaches talked eagerly about having never seen one better and about the brightness of Beckham's future given his eye-popping athletic ability. To stand out like that on a field of NFL players is a noteworthy accomplishment. Beckham's peers are not easily impressed.

"The man's a monster," Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said. "That catch? Outstanding. Whew. Some of my work. You've got to give it to him for real."

Winning has become the only thing about which fans care, which is kind of a shame. Personally, I watch sports in the hope of seeing human beings do incredible things. That's why I say Beckham is saving this Giants season. If you're a Giants fan, your team obviously isn't going anywhere, but you're still going to watch these last five games, right? You get 16 chances during the regular season to watch your favorite NFL team play. Just because they're out of it doesn't mean you're going to stop watching the Jaguars games each Sunday.

So you're looking for something to watch. You want something that makes you feel good about your team. You can't watch Giants games for the next five weeks if the only thing that matters to you is how long after the season they make a decision on whether to get rid of their two-time Super Bowl champion coach. That's just misery. What's the point of washing that old Strahan jersey every week if all you're going to do in it is sit around and mope?

Beckham gives you something to watch, and it's something truly fun and spectacular. He gives you hope throughout the week that you might tune in Sunday and see something you've never seen before. He gives you hope about next season, and about seasons to come, after the Giants have done more roster building and Victor Cruz comes back and brighter days are around the corner.

That's why Beckham matters. Because this is still sports, and it's supposed to be fun.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants scored a touchdown to take a four-point lead on the Dallas Cowboys with three minutes left in the game Sunday night. The Cowboys didn't even need two of those minutes to take the lead right back.

Romo
The kickoff was a touchback, setting Dallas up at its own 20-yard line, and quarterback Tony Romo opened things up with a quick 4-yarder to Dez Bryant on the right sideline. He found tight end Jason Witten for 5 yards on the next play, and then on third-and-1, running back DeMarco Murray scooted through the middle for 9 yards to get the ball to the 38. That got the game to the two-minute warning and bought the Cowboys time to talk.

"You just have to get yourself going, you have to get yourself started," Romo said. "Once you do that, it usually flows, and you just have to stay calm, stay in the moment and play each play by itself."

First thing out of the break, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was called for a neutral zone infraction, setting the Cowboys up with first-and-5 from the 43. Romo found slot receiver Cole Beasley for a 21-yard gain that for a second looked a little bit like the 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown Beasley had scored earlier. The Cowboys were in business at the Giants' 36-yard line with 1:30 left.

Romo took a shotgun snap and sat there in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity. The Giants were not blitzing, instead dropping seven into coverage and trying to get to Romo with only their front four. They could not, and he found Witten for 15 more yards. The next play went back to Bryant for 8 yards, and he went out of bounds at the 13 to stop the clock.

So on second-and-2 from the 13, Romo took another shotgun snap. This time, more than eight full seconds elapsed before Romo threw the ball. He did not have to leave the pocket. Kiwanuka explained after the game that part of the Giants' plan was to contain Romo in the pocket, since they consider him more dangerous outside of it than inside. But they still needed to find a way to get at least one pass-rusher through the Cowboys' offensive line, and they could not.

"Obviously, anytime you're afforded that amount of time with a couple of plays left at the end of the game, it's huge," Romo said.

Bryant got open in the back of the end zone and caught the game-winning touchdown. The Giants fell to 3-8 with their sixth loss in a row and were eliminated from the NFC East race with a week left to go in November.

Twitter mailbag: Head coach shopping?

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
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If it's Saturday, that means it's time for the New York Giants Twitter mailbag. Many thanks to you and your #nygmail-hashtagged questions.

We start with a question so good that it has since moved on from the mortal realm of Twitter: Are we shopping new head coaches for '15-'16 season?
@DanGrazianoESPN: This would seem to be the question on everyone's mind as it pertains to the Giants right now. Will this be the end of Tom Coughlin's time as the team's head coach? I still think a lot depends on how these next six games go. To this point, there's no evidence that the team has quit on Coughlin, and if they win, say, three or four of their final six games and bring their record back toward respectability, the Giants could easily convince themselves that this was the first year of a rebuild (which it was) and that it's not fair or prudent to make such a major change at this still-early time in that rebuild. If they finish 4-12 or something like that, then maybe it's easier for ownership to decide it's time for major change. The direct answer to your question is that Giants ownership says it's always got a list of candidates that it's evaluating for a potential time in the future when it might have to make a change. So if they decide to move on from Coughlin at the end of this year, they'll do so with a plan in mind for who succeeds him. And don't overlook the importance of that piece. People sometimes want change just for change's sake, but you have to be careful what you wish for. Coughlin is one of the very best coaches in the league, someone who's built a Hall of Fame resume during his time with the Giants. If they decide to replace him, they'll have to make sure they're bringing in someone with a clear vision for how to run things -- and a leader who can get the most out of his rosters the way Coughlin has been able to. It could be they see that potential in first-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo (whom they do view as a future NFL head coach), but it would be tough to hand the reins to him after only one year as a coordinator -- especially if it ends up being the kind of year that gets the head coach fired. If they decide McAdoo's not ready yet for the big job, that could buy Coughlin more time as well. Lots of moving pieces still here. Nothing is decided at this point.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I'm thinking auto-correct got you there, and that your contention is that the Giants should have kept defensive tackle Linval Joseph. I thought so at the time, given his age and how much he meant to their run defense. Second-year man Johnathan Hankins has indeed played well, but they lack depth at that spot, especially with Cullen Jenkins injured, and their issues at linebacker (middle linebacker Jon Beason out for the year) have compounded the problem. The Giants had tough financial decisions to make last offseason as they scrambled to find enough pieces to fill out their roster, and Joseph did get $6.25 million a year, which is a lot of money for a defensive tackle. But this is a guy who just turned 26 last month and was a good player and solid citizen for them. I'd have found room in the budget for him, yes, and I said so at the time.

@DanGrazianoESPN: If Jameis Winston is still on the board when the Giants' turn comes to pick in the draft, and there's a quarterback-needy team willing to trade three first-round picks and a second-round pick for him, the Giants would be nuts not to take that. I doubt it happens, because (a) Winston's talent alone makes him worthy of going even earlier, if not No. 1 overall, (b) the extent to which Robert Griffin III has flopped in Washington is going to make teams more leery of doing such deals, especially for a guy who comes with Winston's off-field baggage and (c) the Giants don't generally maneuver that creatively in the draft. So my thinking is that the Giants end up taking their best available player, which if they're smart would be an offensive or defensive lineman on which they can build some kind of foundation. But yeah, to your point, if they're in a spot where they could conceivably take Winston, they'd be wise to shop the pick. It just doesn't seem like their way.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I don't believe Eli Manning is at all interested in taking a pay cut, nor should he. You get the money you can get in this league, and few deals are ever advantageous to the player. He's earned the right to cash all of his checks as scheduled. The Giants could threaten to cut him, since his salary next year isn't guaranteed, and get him to take a pay cut that way. But he'd be wise to call their bluff if they did that, because they don't have a sufficient fallback option. They could get cap relief if they extended him and restructured the remaining year as part of the extension, but the question then becomes how much the extension will/should be worth, and I imagine that's still a source of contention between the player and the team. For all of his flaws, Manning remains a far better option at quarterback than most, and the Giants realize that. He's also got franchise-icon status, which plays into the extent to which they can play hardball. Regardless, with the cap set to rise another $10 million or so next year and with other big salaries like Mathias Kiwanuka's likely to get wiped out by roster cuts, I don't think they're going to be desperate for the room a Manning pay cut would provide.

Thanks for your questions. Catch you Sunday night from MetLife.

 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Justin Pugh has started all 26 games at right tackle for the New York Giants since the start of his 2013 rookie season, but that streak looks likely to end Sunday night. Pugh, who came out of last Sunday's game against the 49ers with a quadriceps injury, missed practice for the second day in a row Thursday, and the team is preparing to play without him.

Options to play right tackle Sunday night against the Cowboys, assuming Pugh can't go, include Charles Brown (who took over Sunday with disastrous results), James Brewer and Geoff Schwartz.

Schwartz was signed in the offseason to play left guard but has yet to suit up for the Giants due to a late-preseason toe injury. He's eligible to play Sunday and has been working at guard and tackle in practice this week, but at this point he's not sure where or whether he'll play. Schwartz said he was still working on technique and conditioning following his long layoff, though his hope is to play a full game Sunday if they'll let him.

"I think I could do it," Schwartz said. "Until I do it, I don't really know. But I've done it before after being hurt. You just find ways to get through it. I'm a veteran and I could do it. The conditioning's the biggest thing. You have to find ways to make sure you don't get too tired in the first quarter."

Also sitting out practice Thursday were linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee). Williams is unlikely to play Sunday, and Mark Herzlich should get a second straight start in his place. Jenkins says he's feeling better and has a chance to practice Friday and play Sunday. Kiwanuka has been resting his knee once a week for several weeks now and he should be fine to play Sunday.

Giants' last-ranked defense stands up

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All week long, the New York Giants defense was reminded time and time again that statistically they were the worst unit in the NFL.

Well, they did something about it Sunday afternoon.

The Giants held Colin Kaepernick & Co. in check, for the most part, giving up just 16 points. But that was enough for the 49ers, thanks to the Giants' ineptitude on offense.

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Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants defense held Colin Kaepernick to under 200 yards passing and just 24 yards rushing.
It was a much better defensive effort than last week's debacle in Seattle, but the players were not satisfied after the game.

"There were positives to take from it," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. "But a loss is a loss, and it hurts just as much."

"We lost the game. I’m not happy about nothing right now," said fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul.

A week after being gashed for 350 rushing yards by the Seahawks -- the third-most allowed in a single game in team history -- the Giants held the 49ers to a much more modest 148 on 37 carries.

Frank Gore (19 carries, 95 yards) had a pretty good day, but the Giants limited Kaepernick to 24 yards on eight carries.

"We executed our plays better, and handled that read-option better too," Pierre-Paul said.

In the air, Kaepernick completed just 15 of 29 passes, for 193 yards. The Giants gave up one big play, but it was a very damaging one -- a 48-yard touchdown grab and run by Michael Crabtree early in the third quarter, San Francisco's lone touchdown of the game.

"I think we played some good football at points. I think at points we gave things up," said middle linebacker Jameel McClain. "We got back to playing assignments and trusting in the scheme and everybody doing their job and playing passionate, so I’m very excited about that. But we obviously didn’t do enough."

Keep in mind, the defensive unit we watched Sunday looked very different than the one we saw at the beginning of the season. The Giants were without starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, starting linebackers Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams, and starting cornerback Prince Amukamara due to injury.

The Giants' other starting cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was shuffled in and out of the lineup as well because of a sore right leg. And he didn't look very good when he was on the field, getting beaten by Crabtree on the touchdown.

There's certainly room for improvement. The Giants' D got just one turnover -- a fumble by Gore on the very first possession of the game (recovered by cornerback Zack Bowman). They had just one sack (by Robert Ayers, who leads the team with five). And Pierre-Paul was quiet, with just one tackle on the afternoon.

But overall the Giants did have five tackles for loss -- one apiece by Ayers, Kiwanuka, McClain, Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich, who played well (nine tackles) filling in for the injured Williams.

"The defense obviously had listened to enough and they played with good physical play," coach Tom Coughlin said. "They made plays out there today and got a lot of stops."

The Giants may not be ranked dead-last in defense anymore once this week's games are over. But that would be little consolation with the team now 3-7, having lost five games in a row.

"I want to win, I don’t want anything else," Kiwanuka said. "I don’t want moral victories, I don’t want anybody to pat half of us on the back. I want us to get a win."

Giants' D vows to bounce back vs. 49ers

November, 12, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense has moved on from its historically bad performance Sunday in Seattle, but they haven't forgotten it.

The Giants gave up 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks -- the third-worst total in franchise history. They were outrushed 350-54 -- a 296-yard difference, the largest ever in a Giants loss according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"That’s not the Giants standard, and that’s not the way football is played," linebacker Jameel McClain said Wednesday. "Nobody wants records set on them, and I hate it, it still makes me sick. So the idea that I get to go back out there and hit someone and make them pay for what happened last week, I love it."

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Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch and the Seahawks outrushed the Giants 350 yards to 54.
Strong words, yes, but the task is more difficult than it sounds. The Giants' next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, are ninth in the league in the rushing (122.2 yards per game). Running back Frank Gore is ranked 10th in the league (553 yards), and Colin Kaepernick is second among all NFL QBs in rushing yards (298) -- behind only the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (500), who ran for 107 against the Giants last week.

The Giants, meanwhile, are ranked dead-last in the NFL against the run (144.7 yards per game). In fact, they are dead-last in total defense, too (404.9 yards per game), a fact that was brought up to several Giants defensive players Wednesday.

"We know it, we’re aware of it, and we have to change it," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "We have to have pride, and it comes from inside. It’s something that we’re not gonna accept, we’re not gonna tolerate, and it has to come from the players -- we’ve gotta go out there and do it on Sundays."

The Giants' coaching staff, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in particular, have come under fire in recent days. But the players largely took the blame upon themselves Wednesday.

"We watch things on film, it’s simple -- details, minor things that we’ve been taught to do, we’re just not going out there and executing," safety Antrel Rolle said.

The Giants may be missing another key player on defense Sunday against the 49ers. Linebacker Jacquian Williams, the team's leading tackler, has a concussion and did not practice Wednesday. Williams has played 563 defensive snaps for the Giants this season according to Football Outsiders, or 93.8 percent -- second only to Rolle (595, 99.2 percent).

The team has already lost two starters, middle linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Prince Amukamara, plus slot corner Walter Thurmond and his replacement, Trumaine McBride, for the remainder of the season.

"Jacquian I think he’s been playing good football, but right now with the injuries we’ve been hit with thus far, we’re kind of used to it already," Rolle said. "Next man up. We just gotta get ready."

The Giants have allowed 423 or more yards in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. They're giving up 9.1 "explosive plays" (rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 20-plus yards) per game -- the worst single-season figure since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking that stat in 2001.

There's little reason for optimism, but the defensive players sounded upbeat Wednesday, for what it's worth.

"We made our beds, we gotta lie in them," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "The bottom line is, we’ll dig ourselves out of that hole and make sure that this week is the start of getting out of there."

"We have to go out there and put out the best performance that we’ve had to date," McClain said. "I love the challenge of going out there, and I know my teammates look forward to the challenge. You get to see how people stand up at this point."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Perhaps the one New York Giants position group that absolutely can't afford to lose another player to injury is cornerback. So it was a bit jarring to learn Thursday that cornerback Zack Bowman was not at practice, but instead at the hospital, where he was being checked out for what the team described as a lower abdominal issue.

 Obviously, the first concern is that it's not a serious problem. But from a roster standpoint, if Bowman has to miss Sunday's game in Seattle, his absence would leave the Giants impossibly short at the position.

Earlier this week, the Giants placed starting cornerback Prince Amukamara on injured reserve with a torn biceps. Earlier this year, they placed nickel cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride and sixth-round rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson on injured reserve.

If Bowman is unable to play, the current group of Giants cornerbacks is as follows: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who himself has been severely limited over the past month with back and leg injuries), Jayron Hosley, Chandler Fenner, Mike Harris (signed last week off the Lions' practice squad) and Chykie Brown (claimed off waivers Wednesday after being cut by the Ravens). They also have rookie Victor Hampton on the practice squad.

Rodgers-Cromartie would be one of the starters, and after that, it's anyone's guess. Harris and Brown have experience but just got here. Hosley's struggling enough in the nickel spot as it is. The Seahawks don't have a high-powered downfield passing game, but they sure could look like they do if this is the group the Giants show up with on Sunday.

In other practice news...
  • Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury, took part in stretching but was only an observer when individual drills began Thursday.
  • Running back Rashad Jennings also warmed up with the team -- something he hasn't done in a few weeks. But he was absent from drills as well and still seems to be targeting Week 11's game against San Francisco for his return from a knee injury.
  • Offensive lineman Adam Snyder sat out of practice with a sore knee.
  • Left guard Weston Richburg was practicing in spite of the sprained ankle he suffered in Monday's game.
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz also was taking part in drills, but he has yet to be activated from short-term injured reserve and doesn't seem likely to play Sunday.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the more common frustrated-fan questions I get about the New York Giants is when they'll let second-year pass-rusher Damontre Moore play more on defense. General manager Jerry Reese mentioned earlier this week that he'd like to see it. Defensive line coach Robert Nunn said last week he planned to try it. Even head coach Tom Coughlin mentioned in his Thursday morning news conference that he'd like to get Moore involved in the pass-rush rotation, though Coughlin did add, "and Robert Ayers as well."

Moore
It's all reasonable and understandable. Moore has electrifying speed and talent and has shown an ability to make an impact on special teams and on defense. And part of the reason they picked him in the third round of the 2013 draft was because they thought his college production indicated he was a player who could help right away, at least as a situational pass-rusher.

But the answer I give when I get the question is that Moore is still quite young (he just turned 22 last month) and inexperienced and hasn't yet earned the trust of the coaching staff. You know who knows this as well as anyone? Damontre Moore does.

"We've been putting more of an emphasis on making sure I'm fundamentally sound in my technique, but Rome wasn't built in a day," Moore said Thursday. "This second half of the season, I want to make sure I'm more fundamentally sound and studying my opponent more, doing all of the little things and making sure I don't leave anything to chance. I have to prove I know my scheme and make sure my teammates know they can trust me not to make mistakes."

That's it. Once the Giants feel they can put Moore into a key spot and trust him not to jump offside or overpursue a running back or make any number of mistakes you'd expect a high-energy 22-year-old to make, they'll play him more. They only have 13 sacks so far, and it's not as though Mathias Kiwanuka is playing at such a high level at defensive end that there aren't reps to be had. With defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins likely out a few weeks with a calf injury, Kiwanuka and Ayers are going to have to play inside more, and that could be the chance for Moore to demonstrate whatever improvements he's made on his own reliability.

"I've got all the right people saying it," Moore said of his chances of getting more plays. "I'm just waiting for it to come when they say it's going to come, like everything else has. I think I can make some things happen."
Injuries could force the New York Giants' defense to look a little bit different in the weeks that follow this week's bye. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins strained his right calf in Sunday's loss in Dallas. Middle linebacker Jon Beason might need surgery to repair the toe injury that's been limiting him since June. And injuries at cornerback could lead the Giants to bring back the three-safety look they used on their way to their most recent Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

"The game plan last week was to have Stevie Brown in the game with the three-safety package versus certain personnel groupings," safeties coach Dave Merritt said Tuesday. "That worked out for us, because Stevie went in and did his job and did what we asked him to do. The fact that we used to play the three-safety package a ton back in the day was because of the fact that we had three veterans who were able to play. I'm talking about Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Right now, we feel like we've tested the waters and we have the same right now in our camp here."

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigStevie Brown could see more playing time as the Giants adapt to injuries in their secondary.
The plan coming into this year was to play three cornerbacks most of the time. The team signed Walter Thurmond to play the nickel spot, but he suffered a season-ending injury in September, and Trumaine McBride, who took over, suffered his own season-ending injury in Week 6. So they are down to their third-string nickel cornerback, Jayron Hosley, and they don't seem comfortable leaning on him to the extent that they leaned on Thurmond or McBride.

Brown entered the season as a starting safety, but he lost his job in Week 4 after a poor start to the season and was replaced by Quintin Demps. Coaches have been pleased with the work Brown has put in since the demotion, and they believe there are situations in which it's better to have him, Demps and Rolle on the field at the same time than it is to have three cornerbacks. This arrangement could force Rolle into the nickel spot, a position he has said in the past he's willing to play but prefers not to, but Merritt said they are comfortable with Brown in there as well.

On the defensive line, Jenkins' absence for at least a few weeks leaves the Giants thin at defensive tackle. But they have had success playing defensive ends Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka at interior positions in pass-rush situations this season, and they might decide to do that more going forward to augment the defensive tackle rotation. Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley likely will be elevated to the active roster in Jenkins' absence, but there's also a chance second-year defensive end Damontre Moore could get more looks on the outside when Ayers and/or Kiwanuka move inside.

"Damontre needs to continue to improve and stay focused on what we're doing on first and second down," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He can do it. He's a lighter body, not ideal, but he can play it. He has to stay focused and continue to improve in that area, and he will get more at-bats. He's going to get more opportunities on third down, so he just has to keep coming along and improve on first and second down. If he does that, then he's going to get those opportunities in pass-rush situations."

Moore has shown exciting ability in pass-rush situations and on special teams. But he has yet to earn the complete trust of the coaching staff as a player who can stop the run (and avoid jumping offsides).

No trust issues at linebacker, though. When Beason missed time early in the season, Jameel McClain filled in for him in the middle. At the time, rookie Devon Kennard was hurt, so Mark Herzlich replaced McClain on the strong side. This time, if Beason is out a while, Kennard could be the one who sees more playing time.

"Now that he's healthy, he's contributing on special teams, and last week was able to go in the game and do some good things," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said of Kennard. "It was good to see him get out and get some game experience, because that is invaluable for a young linebacker. The other guys love him. He's got a great personality, and he wants to be great. I think we'll see some really good things out of him."

Drive of the Game: Cruz goes down

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
10:00
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PHILADELPHIA -- One second there was hope, the next there was devastation. In the amount of time it took to run a simple fourth-down goal-line play, the New York Giants on Sunday night went from believing they were back in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles to wondering what they were going to do without their best receiver.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
AP Photo/Matt RourkeVictor Cruz saw his season crumble on a fourth-down play at the goal line.
Victor Cruz jumped to catch a touchdown pass in the back right corner of the end zone. But as he jumped, he felt pain in his knee. The ball tipped off his hands and fell harmlessly to the ground, but before Cruz himself hit the ground he was grabbing his right knee in agony. He lay in a crumpled heap as trainers, teammates and opponents rushed to his side. His right patellar tendon was torn, his 2014 season over.

Suddenly, the fact that the Giants were going to lose this game and lose it big seemed small.

The drive started, as no other Giants drive did on this night, in Eagles territory. Zack Bowman's interception of Nick Foles set the Giants up at the Philadelphia 21-yard line with 12:54 left in the third quarter and the Giants trailing 20-0. As poorly as they'd played, they were not out of the game, and a touchdown would have changed the look and feel of the whole thing.

Andre Williams picked up six yards on first down and none on second, and on third and four from the 15, tight end Larry Donnell made a circus catch in traffic for what looked to be a touchdown. But left tackle Will Beatty was called for holding, and the ball went back to the Eagles' 25.

Still on third-and-14, Eli Manning found Odell Beckham for 18 yards and a first down, rekindling hope. Peyton Hillis got a yard on first and goal. Manning threw incomplete to Donnell on second down. On third down, Manning threw short of the goal line to his left, and Cruz caught the ball, but the Eagles' defense swarmed and kept him out of the end zone. It was fourth and goal from the three.

Way up the field, Giants kicker Josh Brown started to jog on for a field-goal attempt. But Manning stayed where he was, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin made the call to go for the touchdown. With the Lincoln Financial Field crowd howling, Cruz got open and went up for the pass. The play ended in heartbreak for the Giants on every level.

"I don't think there are many men who have come into this organization who have worked as hard as he has and stayed as humble as he has," Mathias Kiwanuka said of Cruz. "It's very hard to see that happen to him."

Giants' Antrel Rolle: 'We took the day off'

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
12:40
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PHILADELPHIA -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 27-0 loss to the Eagles:
  • Giants safety and team captain Antrel Rolle said, "We took the day off. No rhyme or reason for it. In this league, you can't take days off, and we did. Everyone." That was the theme in the locker room -- that the Giants were beaten thoroughly on both sides of the ball from the start. "We just didn't come out and play physical enough," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "They were the better team and they won this game. They wanted it more today."
  • Obviously, the Giants were distraught over the season-ending injury to wide receiver Victor Cruz. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka hadn't heard the diagnosis of a torn patellar tendon until reporters told him. "That's about as bad as it can get," Kiwanuka said. "The sad thing about this game is, every week, somebody's season is over. Most times you don't even see it, they go to commercial and come back and the game keeps going. But that's our teammate out there. We feel that."

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