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Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Giants' pass catchers not healthy

By Matt Ehalt

The Giants' aerial assault is running into some turbulence.

With the biggest game of the season on tap for Sunday, three of the Giants' top targets were on the injury report. Receiver Mario Manningham was limited in practice while receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Jake Ballard did not practice. The only receiver to not be on the injury report was Victor Cruz.

"I am optimistic that they both will be ready to go because we have a little bit of time left. I would like to see them both practice," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of Nicks and Manningham. "That has not been something that has been available all year long. We need that and we certainly need the timing work. ... We are going to try to work on that this week."

When the Giants faced Dallas on Dec. 11, and scored 37 points, they had all four players and were able to exploit Dallas' secondary. Going into Sunday, it's unknown how many of their primary pass catchers will be available to them beside Cruz.

Nicks sprained his hamstring against the Jets on Saturday, playing out the game despite not being able to dig in like he wanted to. He's hoping to be ready for Sunday night. Ballard, meanwhile, missed Saturday's game and has not practiced since injuring his knee against Washington on Dec. 18. He did some individual work on Wednesday and Coughlin said that Ballard is improving.

Manningham appeared to have taken a turn for the better, as he had a limited practice on Wednesday, having missed the Jets game just a few days prior. The knee injury has plagued the receiver throughout the second half of the season.

Even if the Giants' pass catchers recover for Sunday, they could be robbed of valuable practice time together before the biggest game of the year. Quarterback Eli Manning thinks his group will still be able to perform Sunday even if they only have limited practice during the week.

"The good thing is we have a number of veteran guys who have been here, been here all season, been here for a number of years. They’re going to know the game plan. Hopefully we can get some more guys out tomorrow and practicing," Manning said.

"It's one of those deals. This late in the season you're going to have guys banged up, you're going to have guys who are trying to get healed up. It's just a matter of making sure everybody's focused, everybody understands their assignments even though you might not be getting them live in practice. Get mental reps so when we get to game day guys are ready to play."

In case any receiver can't go, rookie Jerrel Jernigan could see an increase in playing time. The rookie found himself targeted during Sunday's game as he stepped into action with Manningham out.

"If they can't go, other players like me, Ramses [Barden] and Devin Thomas will have to step up to play," Jernigan said.