Friday, December 14, 2012
Giants will be shorthanded in Atlanta
By Dan Graziano
The New York Giants have ruled out running back Ahmad Bradshaw, cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Kenny Phillips for Sunday's critical game against the Falcons in Atlanta due to their injuries. All of the injuries are major as the Giants try to become the first visiting team to win in the Georgia Dome this year and hold off the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East race.
The significance of Phillips' absence has been somewhat overlooked this year due to the playmaking ability of his replacement, Stevie Brown, who has seven interceptions. But Phillips is a top all-around safety without whom the Giants' coverage units, run defense and even pass rush struggle to a greater extent than they do when he plays.
Amukamara has been a big part of making that better. In a down year for Corey Webster, Amukamara has emerged as the Giants' best cornerback. Playing against the No. 4-ranked pass offense in the league, the Giants will replace him with rookie Jayron Hosley. The Giants may be getting a bit of a reciprocal injury break, as star Falcons wide receiver Roddy White has missed the last three days of practice with a knee injury and is questionable for the game. But Atlanta still comes with Julio Jones at wide receiver and Tony Gonzalez at tight end, and each is very dangerous as a target for quarterback Matt Ryan.
Which speaks to the idea of keeping Ryan and the Atlanta passing attack off the field -- something the Giants could have a more difficult time doing with their running game banged up. Wilson ran for 100 yards last week against the Saints, and that along with his performance this year on kick returns has some Giants fans excited that he's finally getting a chance as the starter. But while he's looked more explosive than Bradshaw has this year, that's no guarantee he can hold up for a whole game as the starter, grinding out yards between the tackles and picking up blitzes in the backfield to help protect Eli Manning. Wilson is a rookie, the Saints have the worst run defense in the league, and he's likely to find a going tougher this week in Atlanta. With Andre Brown out for the season due to a broken leg, the only two backs the Giants have on the roster besides Wilson are Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin.
Now, very often, when the Giants have these kinds of games in which it looks as though injuries could do them in, they toughen up and play even better. The regular-season game in New England last season is among the most prominent recent examples, along with the game earlier this year in Carolina that Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks had to miss. So there's no reason to think these injuries mean the Giants can't beat the 11-2 Falcons. They're just going to have a harder time doing it than they'd have if they had all of those important starters healthy.