New York Giants: Michael Cox

Each day this week, and then in the week of July 14, we're taking a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' roster in advance of training camp. Today we look at the running backs group.

Starter: Rashad Jennings

Backup candidates: David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Andre Williams, Michael Cox, Kendall Gaskins

*Fullback candidates: Henry Hynoski, John Conner

Starting with the halfbacks, Jennings was signed to be the workhorse back and is likely to lead the team in carries if everyone stays healthy. They like him as a between-the-tackles runner and as a receiver out of the backfield, and they will work with him in camp to make sure he can handle the necessary protection responsibilities to play on third downs.

But the wild card is Wilson, the 2012 first-round pick who's coming off neck surgery. Wilson still hasn't been cleared for contact, and while he hopes to receive his clearance July 21, it's no sure thing until it happens. If Wilson can play, he has a chance to become a major factor and challenge Jennings for carries and catches. The Giants believe Wilson offers a home-run threat from the running back position, and if he's healthy they will find a way to get that into their lineup.

Hillis, the veteran, impressed the Giants in a short trial last year as a pass-blocker and a receiver. But at this point in his career, he's a backup who could be beaten out for his roster spot. Williams, the rookie, is a fourth-round pick who led the NCAA in rushing yardage last year at Boston College. He's a work in progress but will get a chance to develop in the new offense as a between-tackles runner. Cox, the 2013 seventh-round pick, was able to stick last year because the Giants needed him on kick returns. This year, he'll have to make the team as a running back, and a healthy Wilson could make that tough. Same with Gaskins, who got a lot of looks in minicamp with Wilson sidelined but is a guy the coaching staff likes.

*As for fullback, this shapes up as a straight one-on-one competition between Hynoski and Connor, who signed last year when Hynoski got hurt. Tough to handicap it at this point, but if he is healthy Hynoski could have the edge as a player the Giants know better and who's shown an ability to contribute something as a receiver out of the backfield. They like them both as blockers, but Hynoski is a bit better on the rare occasions when the fullback has to have the ball in his hands.
Today has a chance to be a big day for New York Giants running back David Wilson. He told us last week that the next scheduled checkup for his surgically repaired neck would be June 4, which is today. Wilson's hope is that he gets cleared by his doctor for contact, which is the last hurdle he has to clear before getting back on the field. If this next round of tests doesn't show the required improvement, Wilson's status remains in limbo and the Giants have to continue to confront the idea of playing without their 2012 first-round pick this season. If it does, there is a good chance they have a full-strength backfield for this month's minicamp and for training camp.

Wilson
The Giants guarded against the possibility that Wilson wouldn't be cleared when they signed Rashad Jennings and re-signed Peyton Hillis in free agency. They also drafted Andre Williams in the fourth round and believe 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox can be more of a factor on offense this year. They have loads of depth at running back. And given the injury issues they dealt with at the position last season, that is a wise approach.

But Wilson offers something extra. Of all of the Giants' running backs, none has Wilson's speed and big-play ability. If he is healthy, the Giants will find ways to get him the ball and make plays with it. Jennings was signed to be a workhorse back, and Williams was drafted because they believe they could plug him right in if need dictated it and he could pick up tough yards up the middle. But the Giants have always seen Wilson as a player of special ability -- the kind for whom they would make room in their offense even among other qualified running backs.

The Giants and Wilson have been optimistic for months that Wilson would be cleared to play in 2014. Today could go a long way toward determining whether that optimism was justified.
This week's New York Giants Twitter mailbag, thanks to those of you who used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week.

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Giants' last five drafts: 2013

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Twenty days remain until the NFL draft, which is still too many, but this week we've been taking a look back at the New York Giants' five most recent drafts. Today, we look at the most recent -- last year's, which produced a surprise 16-game starter at tackle in the first round.

The Picks

First round (19th overall): Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse
Second round (49): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Third round (81): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Fourth round (110): Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Fifth round (152): Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond
Seventh round (225): Eric Herman, G, Ohio
Seventh round (253): Michael Cox, RB, Massachusetts

Still with Giants: All

Games played for Giants

Pugh: 16
Hankins: 11
Moore: 15
Nassib: 0
Taylor: 10
Herman: 0
Cox: 14

Review: Pugh was drafted because the Giants believed him to be versatile enough to play several positions and they didn't know what their specific line needs were going to be in the future. They thought that maybe he could go to training camp and challenge David Diehl for the starting right tackle spot, but they were fine if he needed a year to develop. But injuries in the preseason elevated Pugh to starting right tackle, and he started all 16 games there and did a competent job. He projects as the starter there again this year and into the future, and there's even been some talk of possibly moving him to the left side if things don't work out with Will Beatty.

Hankins likely could have played more if the Giants hadn't had so much depth at defensive tackle last year, and he's slated to start there this year with Linval Joseph gone.

Moore could be a starting defensive end to replace Justin Tuck, but he'll have to beat out Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers for the spot. He's got the talent, and showed enough on special teams to get the Giants and their fans excited about him. He needs to show a more reliable understanding of his role on defense this spring and summer.

Nassib was drafted as a project and it's still too early to know what they have in him. He'll get more reps this summer, and he could conceivably win the backup quarterback spot, but there's no way to project. Taylor and Cox both helped on special teams, Cox as a return man.

All in all, one first-year starter and possibly three second-year starters make this look like the best Giants draft we've reviewed this week. It will come down to how good Hankins and Moore turn out to be, and if Nassib becomes a worthwhile player and/or trade chip, that could make this draft a whopper.

Grade: B+ (for now)

Big Blue Morning: Happier returns?

February, 14, 2014
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Mentioned this on NFL Insiders on Thursday, but it bears noting as the New York Giants get going on their offseason that they are determined to upgrade their kick-return and punt-return game. The Giants ranked 27th in the league in kick-return yardage per game and 26th in punt-return yardage per game in 2013, and when free agency opens March 11 they could have their eyes on some guys with return experience. They're looking for wide receiver help anyway, so free agents like Julian Edelman, Golden Tate and Dexter McCluster could rank higher on their wish list than they might as receivers alone. They looked into signing Josh Cribbs last year and didn't do it, so you know this is on their radar.

Running back David Wilson was a great kick returner for the Giants in his 2012 rookie season. And a source close to the situation told me this week that Wilson is recovering very well from his neck surgery, lifting weights and working out and that there's "no reason to believe he won't be playing" in 2014. That's good news, but even if Wilson does come back 100 percent, they won't want to run him out their as a kick returner. They weren't going to do that in 2013 before he got hurt, and the neck injury that ended his season in October surely rules it out for the future. Michael Cox, Jerrel Jernigan and Wilson were the primary kick returners this year, to little effect. Wide receiver Rueben Randle was the primary punt returner, and even if he'd done well, the likelihood that he'll assume a larger role in the offense could mean they'd want to wean him off punt-return duty in 2014.

Big Blue Morning: Holiday break

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Giants coach Tom Coughlin offered no concrete updates on any of the players who were injured in Sunday's game. He said running back Andre Brown, who had a concussion, seemed all right on the flight home but admitted "that doesn't mean anything." If Brown can't go and Peyton Hillis, who has his own concussion, is still out, Michael Cox would have to handle tailback responsibilities for the Giants in the season finale against the Redskins. Also hurt Sunday was guard Brandon Mosley, who has a broken hand and looks likely to miss Sunday's game, costing him a chance to show the coaching staff something for the future. There will be further updates on these players Wednesday, when the team practices but is not available to the media.

Behind enemy lines: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan continues to insist he wants to return to coach the team next year and that he expects to know his fate soon after the finale. By this time next week, this situation is likely to have been resolved one way or the other.

Around the division: The big news in the division and the league Monday was the news that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. That obviously means the Cowboys will have to play their NFC East title game against the Eagles on Sunday night with Kyle Orton at quarterback, which puts them at a significant disadvantage against an Eagles offense that's really humming.

Around the league: Mike Sando ranks that NFC East game as the biggest of Week 17, but there are a ton of games Sunday with postseason implications, in case you don't feel like watching Giants-Redskins the whole way through.

Are Giants down to sixth string at RB?

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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David Wilson, Brandon Jacobs, Da'Rel Scott, Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis all have started games at running back for the New York Giants this year. The first two are on injured reserve, the third has been released and the other two are being treated for concussions. It's entirely possible that none of them will be available for the season finale Sunday against the Redskins at MetLife Stadium.

Which would leave the Giants' running game in the hands of rookie Michael Cox, who was the next-to-last pick in this year's draft and has seen significant work as a kick returner but has carried the ball only 22 times (for 43 yards) on offense.

The Giants have a running back named Kendall Gaskins on their practice squad and could conceivably elevate him to give themselves an extra body. And tight end Bear Pascoe lined up at running back and got a carry on the Giants' game-winning drive in overtime Sunday in Detroit. But if neither Hillis nor Brown is cleared to play, Cox is next in line to see the bulk of the carries. And with quarterback Eli Manning's protection already a big issue, that could be a big problem.

"He's had games where he's shared the role on first and second down," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Cox. "And he certainly will have to again."

Cox was a very late-round flier who wasn't supposed to play this year. The Giants used him on kick returns in the preseason to give Wilson a break from that duty as they anticipated Wilson being their starting running back, and Cox earned the right to keep the kick-return job based on performance. So he has talent and explosiveness, and if given room to run he could conceivably contribute with a big play.

But the Giants require their running backs to contribute in pass protection, by picking up blitzes and helping in the effort to keep Manning clean and upright. Lack of consistency in that regard from the running back position has been a significant part of this year's problem, and Cox isn't all the way up to speed yet on the blocking schemes. If he's pressed into duty as the every-down back Sunday, it's going to be even tougher to keep Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan out of Manning's grill.

Of course, it's also possible that Brown and/or Hillis could practice Wednesday and be cleared to play Sunday. With concussions, there's no way to know. But it says everything about what's happened with the Giants' run game this year that Cox might end up starting and playing the bulk of their 16th game.

Drive of the Game: Giants go for it in OT

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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DETROIT -- The third-down pass picked up 6 yards, which left the New York Giants facing a fourth-and-7 from the Detroit Lions' 42-yard line with the game tied and 9:24 left in overtime. After Giants coach Tom Coughlin went over the situation in his head and with his coaches and decided they'd go for it, he looked up to see quarterback Eli Manning still in the middle of the field.

"He didn't want to come off the field," Coughlin said. "I'd say that's about as close to 'lobbying' as he gets."

The Giants picked up that fourth down on a 15-yard pass from Manning to Jerrel Jernigan. Four plays later, a 45-yard Josh Brown field goal delivered a 23-20 Giants victory that eliminated the Lions from contention for this year's postseason and gave the Giants something about which to feel positive at the end of their own lost year.

The 11-play game-winning drive started at the Giants' 28-yard line after a 7-yard Rueben Randle punt return. Michael Cox, the only healthy tailback the Giants had after Andre Brown left earlier in overtime with a concussion, picked up a yard on first down. Manning threw incomplete to Bear Pascoe on second, then hit Randle for a 26-yard gain on third down. After an incomplete pass to Jernigan on first, Manning and Jernigan connected for 6 yards, but a holding penalty by left tackle Will Beatty pushed them back to second-and-20 at their 45. Manning hit Brandon Myers for 7 yards and then Randle for 6 to set up Coughlin's fourth-down decision. Then he delivered the 15-yarder to Jernigan that all but assured the win.

Tight end Pascoe was in at halfback on the first-down play that followed, and he picked up 2 yards. Manning then threw incomplete to Randle on second and knelt in the middle of the field on third to set up Brown with a straight-on look at the kick. Brown delivered his third field goal of the game in three tries.

Giants injury report: Brown concussed

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
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DETROIT -- New York Giants running back Andre Brown left Sunday's 23-20 victory against the Detroit Lions after suffering a concussion in overtime. It was the play on which Brown fumbled away the ball. Brown seemed fine getting dressed and leaving the locker room with his teammates, and shortly thereafter he was on Twitter saying he was all right and going through the occasional corny-joke routine he does on there. ("What does a policeman say to his belly button? You're under a vest!) But obviously, Brown will have to pass the league-mandated concussion protocol before he can be cleared to practice or play in next Sunday's season finale against the Redskins.

If he can't, it's possible that rookie Michael Cox would be the only healthy tailback on the Giants' roster. David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs are on injured reserve, and Peyton Hillis missed this game with a concussion. Hard to imagine the Giants going out and signing a running back for the final game of a long-lost season, but it's possible they'd have to. They also have a running back, Kendall Gaskins, on their practice squad.

In other injury news Sunday:
  • Tight end Adrien Robinson, active for the first time all season, sprained his knee on the opening kickoff and did not return to the game. Can't make this stuff up. Robinson was on crutches after the game and said he'll have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Lost season for him.
  • David Diehl, who's been starting at right guard since September due to Chris Snee's season-ending injury, was inactive for the game due to a knee injury. Brandon Mosley, who replaced him, broke his hand on the opening drive and did not return to the game. Dallas Reynolds replaced him and earned praise from coach Tom Coughlin for his effort. The Lions' defensive line had a field day against the Giants' banged-up offensive line in the second half, but the line held up well enough in the first half to build a 13-3 lead, which obviously mattered.
  • Defensive end Justin Tuck had an ice pack on his right knee after the game. He also appeared to injure his neck in the third quarter, but he didn't miss any time as a result of that injury.

Big Blue Morning: Back to work

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Coming off their bye week, Giants players will return to work Monday after seven days off and go through a late-morning practice. Andre Brown should be front and center in the running back mix, as he's eligible to come off of injured reserve and make his season debut Sunday against the Raiders. It remains to be seen how things will shake out with Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox once Brown is activated. And they will need to clear a roster spot. But as Adam Schefter reports this morning, starting running back David Wilson is going for an MRI this week on his injured neck. If it's determined that Wilson must miss the rest of the season, which is possible and may even be the wise course of action given the Giants' 2-6 record, then that's the roster spot. Anyway, Brown has been practicing for a couple of weeks now and is eager to get going.

Behind enemy lines: The Raiders sure didn't look like much Sunday, as they allowed an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes to Nick Foles and lost 49-20 to the Eagles one week after the Giants beat the Eagles 15-7. The Raiders also saw starting running back Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor leave that game with injuries. Add in the fact that the Raiders are flying cross-country for a 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, and you start to like the Giants' chances of a third win in a row. Of course, for the third game in a row, that opinion is based on the quality of the opponent, and not the way the Giants themselves have played.

Around the division: Rough week for those who insist on believing the 2-6 Giants can get back into the division race, as all three NFC East teams won. Apart from the Eagles' demolition of the Raiders, the first-place Cowboys squeaked out a final-seconds victory over the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 5-4 (including an important 3-0 record in division games). The Eagles sit a game behind them at 4-5. And the Redskins, who beat the Chargers in overtime, are 3-5. The Giants' best-case scenario for the next couple of weeks involves beating the Raiders on Sunday and the Packers at home a week later to improve to 4-6 in time for the Nov. 24 home game against the Cowboys, by which time the worst Dallas can be is 5-5, since they have a bye in Week 11. But there are also those other two teams in front of them, and again, that requires a four-game winning streak (and a victory over the Packers!) by a Giants team that continues to rank among the very worst in the NFL in a wide variety of categories. When considering the opportunity presented to the last-place Giants by the relative weakness of the rest of the division, you must also consider the Giants' ability to take advantage of it. They are not a good team.

Around the league: The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin case is going to continue to be a big story this week, as the issue of what's appropriate behavior in a football locker room and what isn't gets dissected. I guess one thing to note here is that, when it gets to the point where a key player (Martin, in this case) feels as though he can't be a part of the team, it has hurt the team, and has clearly gone too far. I have plenty of thoughts on the unnecessary-cruelty-to-fellow-human-beings aspect of it as well, but I kind of feel as though those should be obvious.

Andre Brown should play vs. Raiders

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Brown is eligible to return to action when the New York Giants host the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 10, and running backs coach Jerald Ingram believes Brown will play.

Brown
"I'm very confident," Ingram said Tuesday. "I think he's practiced well in the last few weeks. He's eager to get out there. He's a competitor and he's gone through an awful lot and he has a lot of pain in his heart and I think he'll be ready to go."

Brown has been on short-term injured reserve since breaking his left leg in the Giants' final preseason game, but has been practicing with the team since Oct. 17. Ingram is eager to get him back on the field.

"Andre is definitely going to fit in," Ingram said. "We had plans for him before he got hurt. He's very athletic. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and he runs the ball well and he's got good speed. He's that multipurpose back that can do a lot of things in first, second down and third down."

Brown was supposed to be part of a two-headed monster at running back this season, along with second-year pro David Wilson. But Brown has missed the entire season, and Wilson suffered a neck injury against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5 and has been out since.

"He's still day-to-day and I think early next week he's going to have some more tests to see where things have progressed to," general manager Jerry Reese said Tuesday, of Wilson, "and we'll make some decisions as we move forward with him."

Because of the injuries to Brown and Wilson, the Giants have had five different starting running backs in the first eight weeks of the season.

Brandon Jacobs, who wasn't even on an NFL roster at the start of the year, is the team's leading rusher, but has just 154 yards. Wilson (146 yards), Peyton Hillis (106), Da'Rel Scott (73) and Michael Cox (42) have all gotten at least one start as well.

It all adds up to the 29th-ranked running game in the league. The Giants are averaging just 69.9 rushing yards per contest.

Brown could certainly provide a boost -- in 10 games last year, he had 73 carries for 385 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. But he may not get the bulk of the carries, at least right away.

"You look at the New Orleans Saints a few years ago, they played four running backs. And it works," Ingram said. "Once you figure out what they do best and how it works with your quarterback, you can get it done. I think that's what we'll continue to do as these guys come back. They'll all have a role."

Scott was waived two weeks ago, and Jacobs has missed the team's past two games with a hamstring injury. But Jacobs could be ready for the Raiders, along with Hillis and Cox.

We'll see how it all shakes out, but Ingram likes his group.

"What's great about my room as far as running backs, we all have something to prove," Ingram said. "You've got a bunch of guys that are trying to prove that they exist in the NFL, they exist on this team, that they have worth to contribute and you couldn't ask for anything more than that."

Running back logjam looms for Giants

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's important to remember that Andre Brown never thought he should have been put on injured reserve (designated for return) in the first place. So when you ask the New York Giants running back whether he'll be ready to take the field when first eligible in the Giants' next game Nov. 10 against the Oakland Raiders, you get a fairly eager response.

"I feel great," Brown said Monday. "Legs feel great. I'm exploding. I'm cutting really well. Ready to go."

Whether the Giants let him go to that extent 13 days from now remains to be seen. Brown himself admitted he still needs to experience contact as part of his rehab. And he said he'll be wearing a shin guard -- likely for the rest of his career -- over the twice-broken part of his leg. But the Giants had a clear-cut role in mind for Brown in the preseason, when they were preparing to use David Wilson on early downs and Brown on passing downs and at the goal line.

Brown's broken leg, along with Wilson's two Week 1 fumbles and subsequent neck injury, blew up those plans, and the Giants have started Da'Rel Scott, Brandon Jacobs, Michael Cox and Peyton Hillis at running back in the interim with varying degrees of success. With Brown eligible (and Wilson still possible, though there's no new news on him) to return, the Giants may have some decisions to make at the running back position in the next couple of weeks.

"I don't know," Jacobs said when asked how he thought it would shake out. "All I care about is that there's still a No. 34 hanging over that locker."

It's certainly possible the Giants could cut Jacobs, who's missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. But he's also the only back they have who's rushed for a 100 yards in a game this year. It's possible they could cut Cox, though they've passed up prior chances to do that when it might have made sense and they could have used the roster spot, and they like the improvements he's shown in recent weeks. Hillis seems an unlikely cut, as he rushed for 70 yards Sunday and has been an asset as both a blocker and a receiver in the passing game. They could wait to activate Brown, which would aggravate him but certainly be their right. Or they could put Wilson on season-ending injured reserve if his neck injury hasn't improved.

Those are the possibilities, and the last two seem the most likely at this point, depending on Jacobs' health. It's just important to remember, when predicting this situation over the coming days and weeks, that Brown was part of their Plan "A" at running back this year, and that if he had not broken his leg in the final preseason game, it's possible that Jacobs and Hillis never even show up here. A conundrum, for sure, as the Giants work to continue to improve a run game that's still ranked just 29th in the league at 69.9 yards per game.

Peyton Hillis looks like a helper

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- Peyton Hillis' 70 rushing yards on 20 carries Sunday isn't exactly an eye-popping stat, but it's more than satisfactory for a New York Giants' run game that has ranked at or near the bottom of the league all season long. Mix in Michael Cox's 19 yards on nine carries and the team very nearly got to 3.0 yards per rush for the game. Again, nothing special, but a significant upgrade over the state of the run game in September, when it was basically crippling the offense.

Hillis
Hillis
"I think I'm a good fit here, and whatever it is they want me to do, I'm going to do it," Hillis said after the game. "I'm grateful for the opportunity."

It came because of injuries to David Wilson, Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott, but the Giants are glad they found Hillis at the bottom of that pile. Not only is he banging out two- and three-yard gains that allow them to feel they're balancing their offense, he's also helping in the passing game -- as a receiver out of the backfield and as a blitz-pickup running back in pass protection. Those two aspects of his game are critical in helping quarterback Eli Manning feel more comfortable than he felt earlier in the season.

"I think we need to get in better position and continue to work hard to open up some more holes on the offensive line to be able to run the ball better," Manning said. "I have to do a better job seeing the clock and not making us rush through things on offense. I think Cox ran the ball really well and has done a nice job."

Work in progress, this running game. And with Brown eligible to return from his broken leg in Week 10 and Jacobs presumably over his hamstring injury at some point in the future, their options in the run game could be expanding soon. Wilson isn't even officially out for the season with his neck injury. The Giants aren't a running team and won't be anytime soon. But at least what they have in the run game now is representative, where it wasn't before.

Brandon Jacobs inactive as expected

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who did not practice all week and was listed as doubtful on the team's most recent injury report, is officially inactive for the second game in a row due to his hamstring injury. Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox will share running back duties for the Giants on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles as they did in Monday night's victory over the Vikings.

Jacobs
Also inactive for the Giants are running back David Wilson, cornerback Jayron Hosley, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, tight end Adrien Robinson, center Dallas Reynolds and third quarterback Ryan Nassib. None of those is a surprise, as the first three already had been ruled out due to injury, Robinson hasn't played all year due to a foot problem, Reynolds is new and Nassib is more or less redshirting.

Rogers being inactive means that rookie Johnathan Hankins will be involved in the defensive tackle rotation, as he was in Weeks 5 and 6 against the Eagles and the Bears. Hankins was inactive Monday against the Vikings with all of the veteran defensive tackles healthy.

Michael Vick will start at quarterback for the Eagles, as Nick Foles is inactive due to a concussion. Vick has not played since injuring his hamstring in the second quarter of the Eagles' Week 5 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

In other Giants news, Adam Schefter reported on ESPN on Sunday morning that the team is "resisting all overtures" for wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in advance of Tuesday's trade deadline. That's not to say there's no chance Nicks gets dealt, but as we have discussed here, his value isn't very high right now and the Giants haven't yet given up on their season or the idea of keeping Nicks beyond this season. Perhaps that changes if they lose Sunday, but either way, it's obviously unlikely they trade Nicks by Tuesday.

Hillis, Cox get another crack vs. Eagles

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For the New York Giants, Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles is a chance to get back in the NFC East race.

For Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox, it's a second chance to make a first impression.

With Brandon Jacobs almost certainly out with a hamstring injury, Hillis and Cox will again share the carries on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Al Bello/Getty ImagesPeyton Hillis scored a touchdown for the Giants just five days after joining the team.
Hillis and Cox combined for just 59 yards on 29 carries (2.0 yards per carry) Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, but the passing game and defense propelled the Giants to a 23-7 victory.

The Giants will likely need more from their running game to take down the Eagles and their high-octane offense, ranked third in the NFL in yards per game (425.3).

Hillis, who was signed just five days before the Vikings game, was thrown right in the fire, with 18 carries for 36 yards. That's a lot of work for, and pounding on, a guy who'd been sitting at home since being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late September.

Hillis admitted Friday that he is still "a little sore" four days later. "I expect that it's gonna be here for a couple more weeks. But I've gotta work through it and try to produce."

He only averaged two yards per carry against the Vikings. But Hillis did have five catches for 45 yards out of the backfield, and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He also did a nice job in pass protection.

"I'm very proud of the effort that he put forth," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. "The good thing is he's a bright young man and I think we had the good fortune that he had at least been exposed to our terminology, our system having been down in Tampa Bay. That certainly expedited the learning curve a little bit, but not everybody could have done what he did.

"I think the thing that was really impressive was the physicality that he brought to the game. He turned north-south on a couple of those catches. It's something we need as an offense. It's nice to be finesse. It's nice to throw the ball, but it's nice to show that physical prowess, too."

Cox, the team's seventh-round draft choice this past spring out of UMass, got his first NFL carries against the Vikings -- 11 of them. He only accumulated 23 yards, but gained some valuable experience in the process.

"I definitely feel my confidence rising a little bit having more experience and knowing what it's like already," Cox said Friday.

This may be Hillis' and Cox's final opportunity to prove they belong, at least this season. The Giants have their bye next week. The following week, Andre Brown is eligible to come off short-term injured reserve. And David Wilson may be back before the end of the season, too.

But for one more week, the Giants have no choice but to turn to these two.

Hillis is the veteran with the track record, having a 1,000-yard season with the Cleveland Browns three years ago on his résumé. Don't be surprised if he handles the bulk of the load.

He wasn't happy with his performance last week, but predicted better things to come.

"Especially me, when you get in the groove of things and start going through it bit-by-bit, day-by-day and week-by-week, you get slowly better," Hillis said. "I expect to do that. I expect that this Sunday is going to be a lot better."

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