Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Injury meets opportunity for Giants
By Dan Graziano
The New York Giants made it official Wednesday, ruling starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, right tackle David Diehl and wide receiver Domenik Hixon out of Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers due to their various injuries. That's two offensive starters and their No. 3 wide receiver in a game that figures to offer the opportunity for lots of offense on both sides -- and, no, that's not good.
However, the injuries do open up opportunity for several other players who may well be poised to take advantage of them. In particular, with the way the Giants' running game has struggled since the start of the 2011 season, circumstances that require them to try solutions other than Bradshaw and Diehl might not be altogether unwelcome. A look at the people who could get a chance to play their way into larger roles Thursday as a result of the injuries:
RB Andre Brown. The team's fourth-round pick in the Hakeem Nicks draft of 2009 (there's a theme building here, by the way), Brown didn't do much in his first three years behind Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs on the depth chart. But he beat out D.J. Ware for the backup running back job in training camp, and he ran well in relief of Bradshaw on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Thrilled to finally get his shot as a starter in the state in which he played college football at NC State, Brown should see the bulk of the carries, including those on the goal line, in Thursday's game. The Giants have been coy about Bradshaw's status, but if Brown plays well and Bradshaw is slow to heal, this might not be the last you hear of him.
RB David Wilson. A lot of people assumed this year's first-round pick would be Bradshaw's backup or maybe even share carries with him. And Wilson was the first back to relieve Bradshaw in the season opener. But he fumbled early in that game and didn't see the field again until Week 2, when it was clear the coaches trusted Brown more. They have some plays in which they feel Wilson can help them, and you never know -- it could be that he's the featured guy Thursday. At the very least, he could get a chance to prove he can hold on to the ball and make things happen in the run game.
OT Will Beatty. One of two Giants second-round picks in that aforementioned 2009 draft, Beatty was the starting left tackle last year before an eye injury ended his season after 10 games. Back problems cost him his starting job this summer, but with Diehl out, it looks as though Sean Locklear will swing over to right tackle and make room for Beatty to get another shot as the starter at left tackle. Surely the Giants would like to see him play well enough to convince them to leave him there for the foreseeable future and beyond.
WR Ramses Barden. The Giants' third-round pick in -- you guessed it! -- 2009, Barden had a hard time finding the field in his first three years, as injuries slowed his development. But he showed a lot in training camp and in the preseason, and when he's been in games, Eli Manning has seemed comfortable throwing to him. Barden's size gives him an advantage over defensive backs, and he showed in the preseason that he knows how to use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He could be the one who takes over Hixon's snaps.
WR Rueben Randle. This year's second-round pick is a player for whom the Giants have high hopes, though there haven't been any indications yet that he's ready for an increased role. But Hixon's injury opens up opportunity in general, and if Randle gets on the field, he'll have his best chance yet to show what he can do.