NFC East: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a celebration play, complete with celebrations that went a little bit too far over the top. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't love that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie high-stepped his way into the end zone with his interception of Zach Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of Sunday's blowout win, and he didn't love that veteran safety Antrel Rolle celebrated in a manner that earned him a penalty flag.

Moore
But the whole thing was undone by a different penalty -- one on second-year defensive end Damontre Moore for leveling Mettenberger after the interception. That penalty nullified the touchdown and prompted Moore to apologize to Rodgers-Cromartie after a sideline lecture from Coughlin.

Moore said the issue was a failure to understand the rules. He said he believed he could hit the quarterback after the interception to prevent him from making a tackle. But it's not that cut-and-dried, and there are rules that prohibit a player from leveling said quarterback if he's far from the play.

"That's bad on my part that I didn't know the rule all the way," Moore said. "If I had known the rule all the way, I would have made a smarter play. I should be better aware of all the rules of the game. That's my fault."

Coughlin bought Moore's explanation and said he honestly believed Moore didn't think he'd done anything wrong until he explained it to him.

"We all know I've got penalties before, and he's ripped me a new one," Moore said of Coughlin. "This time, he didn't rip me a new one."

Moore is in his second season in the NFL, but he's still only 22 years old. He has the physical talent to be a disruptive force for the Giants on defense, but Giants coaches have talked openly about his struggles to consistently understand and carry out his assignments. Even after the Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve last week, they used defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins as a starter at the position Sunday rather than elevate Moore to that spot. They don't believe they can fully trust him yet on running downs, and they cite discipline as a key issue for him as he works to improve.

"I apologized to DRC and to the whole defense. I took points off the board," Moore said. "But I don't apologize for being an aggressive player and trying to make a play. I just needed to know the rule better."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 36-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans:
  • lastname
    Coughlin
    The Giants hadn't won a game in 63 days. So coach Tom Coughlin told his team how proud he was of their continued week-to-week effort and to revel a bit in the fact that it finally paid off with a win. "We're going to smile," Coughlin said. "We're going to enjoy this. We're going to be joyous, and we're going to smile about this before we get started on Washington."
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he was upset with himself on his long touchdown-pass attempt in the first quarter because he should have gone to his second read, Preston Parker, who was "wide open." Quarterback Eli Manning laughed when he heard that. "He only had two receivers on the route, so there were only two reads," Manning said. "Receivers always want to go deep all the time. He wanted to throw it deep. So no surprise there."
  • Manning spent a little more time than usual in the trainer's room after the game but said he was "just getting iced down on some things, nothing serious." Manning has not missed a game since becoming the Giants' starter in 2004.
  • Defensive end Damontre Moore got an earful from Coughlin after his penalty for taking out the quarterback negated the touchdown part of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception-return-for-touchdown. Coughlin said he "truly believed" Moore didn't realize there were rules about when you can and can't hit the quarterback during an interception return. Moore said he didn't know, but that he should have. "I should be better aware of all the rules of the game," he said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants think Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is a really good player.

This was my No. 1 takeaway from the Giants' locker room Thursday. I learned a lot in there, including the facts that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie thought the movie "Interstellar" was too long and center J.D. Walton got a paycheck this week that was for $0.00 because his previous checks had failed to withhold federal income tax and they're in the process of correcting that. ("Tight budget," Walton joked.)

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Giants had issues containing Dez Bryant with a healthy Prince Amukamara in Week 7 and will have to cover him Sunday with a mix of cornerbacks.
But the biggest thing I took away was that the Giants believe Bryant presents a truly significant challenge for them in Sunday night's game against the Cowboys.

"When you have a dude of that caliber and he's got that dog in him, you have to have kind of a nasty attitude to go against him," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He's a tough cover. One of those big guys who's good to the ball. You just have to cover him for as long as you can."

He is, and it likely will fall to Rodgers-Cromartie to handle him as long as he can. Rodgers-Cromartie was too injured to play much of the Week 7 game in Dallas, leaving it to Prince Amukamara to handle Bryant, who caught nine passes for 151 yards in that game. Amukamara is out for the year now, so that's no longer an option. And while Rodgers-Cromartie is in better shape now than he was that week (read: actually practicing), his leg and back injuries continue to flare up and force him out of games for stretches.

That means the Giants won't be able to stick Rodgers-Cromartie on Bryant all game as they'd like to, and that they'll have to arrange coverage on one of the game's most fearsome receivers with some combination of him, Zack Bowman, Jayron Hosley and Chykie Brown.

"It does make it difficult to match up without a full-strength 21," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, oddly referring to Rodgers-Cromartie by his uniform number. "I'm encouraged by what we see out of 21. Obviously, he's feeling better, because before he just didn't practice. But we never know, because sometimes he's working well and then he'll tighten up in a ballgame and he'll need a break. So we never know."

Fewell said he was "very confident in Brown," indicating that he might draw the Bryant assignment if Rodgers-Cromartie can't. But the point is, whatever solution they come up with will be an imperfect one, and that's a tough pill to swallow, especially given the already tough matchup of their 32nd-ranked run defense against NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Seen and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 16-10 loss to the 49ers.
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin, talking about the last two games and looking ahead to next week: "We've had a defensive fiasco. Now we've had an offensive fiasco. Now maybe we can put something together." It's never good when you're comparing fiascoes.
  • Pugh
    Coughlin said right tackle Justin Pugh injured his quad in last week's game in Seattle, which was surprising because Pugh was never on the injury report this week. Coughlin said Pugh took every snap in practice, so they weren't worried, but he came out of this game early and did not return. Charles Brown did a poor job as his replacement.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to physically restrain safety Antrel Rolle from walking across the field to argue with officials following a pass interference call on Rodgers-Cromartie early in the game. I pointed out to Rodgers-Cromartie that his veteran mentor, Rolle, was supposed to be the one who did that for him. Rodgers-Cromartie grinned and said, "Sometimes the younger guy has to play the bigger role."
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SEATTLE -- When the New York Giants finished last season 7-9, owner John Mara famously declared the offense "broken," and the team set about totally retooling with a new coordinator and a new scheme.

Following Sunday's 38-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Giants are 3-6 and headed for another disappointing, non-playoff season. And while the offense isn't exactly setting the world on fire, this time it's the defense that looks broken and headed for major offseason change.

The Giants gave up a must-be-a-typo 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks on Sunday. Running back Marshawn Lynch had 140 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Russell Wilson had 107 rushing yards and the other touchdown. Four different players carried the ball for the Seahawks and every single one of them averaged more than five yards per carry. As a team, they averaged 7.8.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants' defense seemed helpless against the Seattle ground game, giving up 350 rushing yards.
"That hurts," said Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who could be seen hollering on the sideline in an effort to fire up his defensive teammates at various points in the game. "Because that means they're just lining up and hitting you in the mouth, they're more physical and they want it more. And I know that can't be the case."

The Seahawks did win the physical battles Sunday, but worse was the Giants' inability to figure out Seattle's zone-read offense. They appeared to guess wrong on almost every play, especially in an second half in which Seattle outscored them 24-0. When they should have been swarming toward Lynch up the middle, they were playing too wide. When they should have been playing contain on Wilson on the outside, they were swarming the middle. Wilson had easy decision after easy decision, and the Seahawks picked the Giants' defense apart.

"Our defense is all about knowing what your assignment is and doing it," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't beat yourself in this league. If you have the dive, take the dive. If you have the quarterback, take the quarterback."

The excuses are there for the Giants if they want them. They're playing without three of their top four cornerbacks and their starting middle linebacker, all of whom are out for the season due to injuries. Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins were playing hurt Sunday. It's clear they're outmanned on both sides of the ball, and the reason is that they're still piecing back together a roster that was so hollowed out by the end of last season that they had no choice but to load up on free agents in an effort to plug holes.

However, all of that understood, the defense is playing at an inexcusably poor level. The Giants are allowing an average of 456 yards per game during their current four-game losing streak. They did collect three turnovers Sunday, and the first two were the main reason they had a 17-14 lead at the half. But they're still allowing too many big plays due to too many missed assignments, and overall they're just not stopping anyone.

"We'll be OK," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul insisted. "We've just got to get it right. We've got seven games left. We'll be OK."

I don't know what Pierre-Paul is talking about. Yes, things could get better in December, when they stop playing playoff teams and start lining up against the Jacksonville/Tennessee/Washington/St. Louis portion of the schedule. And assuming they can run off some wins toward the end of the year as they did last year, head coach Tom Coughlin still has a strong chance to salvage his job.

But on defense, there's no one who should currently be assuming things will be all right. Coordinator Perry Fewell, at this point, does not deserve to return in 2015. Pierre-Paul, who's headed for free agency, isn't a sure thing to be back. Rolle is a pending free agent whom the team loves, but he's going to be 32, and how much money will he want? If the Giants react to this year's defensive performance the way they reacted to last year's offensive performance, all bets are off, and they have to think seriously about which of their current players fit into whatever new scheme their new coordinator will be installing.

"We've got to get better," Rolle said. "Everyone. Players, coaches, we have to find an answer, because right now the answer's not there."

Increasingly, as it did last year, it looks as though the answer is somewhere in the offseason, somewhere outside the organization. Because regardless of injuries, talent deficiencies or strength of schedule, an NFL defense simply has to be playing better than the Giants' defense is playing right now. There's no question the Giants' defense is broken, and will require an extensive fix once this season is over.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- First things first: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is not 100 percent physically, but he has no intention of sitting out games.

"I'm healthy enough," the New York Giants cornerback said. "The way things are, I don't have much choice. I'm playing."

Rodgers-Cromartie
Rodgers-Cromartie is something close to the last man standing among the Giants' group of cornerbacks right now. They have suffered season-ending injuries to Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride, and Zack Bowman missed Thursday's practice while being treated in the hospital for an abdominal issue. Rodgers-Cromartie has been limited for more than a month with back and leg injuries, but he's not on injured reserve or in the hospital, and that is the current standard one must meet to play cornerback for the Giants right now.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Jayron Hosley would move from the nickel corner position to the outside position opposite Rodgers-Cromartie in the base defense if Bowman can't play Sunday in Seattle. When the team goes to nickel (assuming no Bowman), Hosley would play inside and Chandler Fenner would be the outside corner opposite Rodgers-Cromartie. On the bench are Mike Harris, who was signed last week from the Lions' practice squad, and Chykie Brown, who was claimed on waivers this week after the Ravens released him Tuesday.

Fewell said Hosley and Fenner would get the first crack because they've been with the team all year, but that they would work to get Harris and Brown up to speed as quickly as possible. He also said the coaching staff would have to simplify their coverage plans because of the rash of injuries.

"When you have new faces, you cannot and will not do as much as you've done in the past," Fewell said. "We'll have to simplify our package."

Fewell said verbal communication would be key for a secondary that hasn't played together very much -- that guys will have to make sure they're calling out and repeating calls rather than relying on each other's body language. No easy task, and the players know it. But they also know it's a fact of life.

"It's football. There's a 100 percent chance of injury when you play this game," Hosley said. "That's why you have to have depth on your depth chart, and the team has to have confidence in those guys to get it done. It's a big loss in terms of experience in the secondary, but at the same time, we know we have talent on our defense and in our secondary. It might take a little bit of time for guys to get confidence in playing new positions, but it will work out."
Desperately in need of reinforcements for their injury-ravaged secondary, the New York Giants claimed and were awarded former Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown off waivers. Brown will take the roster spot of Prince Amukamara, whom the Giants placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday with a torn biceps.

Brown was a fifth-round draft choice of the Ravens out of the University of Texas in 2011. Baltimore released him Tuesday as part of a thorough overhaul of their own secondary in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger's six-touchd0wn performance against them Sunday. He's not likely to step in and replace Amukamara as a starter -- at least not right away. But he adds veteran depth to a group that's down to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Zack Bowman, Jayron Hosley, Chandler Fenner and Mike Harris, who signed just last week.

Cornerback was the Giants' deepest and strongest-looking position group in training camp, but Amukamara, Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride have all suffered season-ending injuries, and Rodgers-Cromartie is struggling as he plays through persistent back and hamstring injuries.

Brown's first name is pronounced "SHOCK-ee," in case you were wondering.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andrew Luck shredded the Giants' defense during Monday night's 40-24 Colts win, but the injury to Prince Amukamara is even more distressing.

A team can bounce back from an embarrassing defeat. But the loss of Amukamara to a torn biceps severely compromises the Giants' secondary, which was already stretched rather thin.

Nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond and his replacement, Trumaine McBride, have already suffered season-ending injuries. Now Amukamara is almost certainly done for the season as well. And Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who starts opposite Amukamara on the outside, is banged up, too -- in and out of the lineup the past few games, and clearly playing at less than 100 percent.

[+] EnlargeNew York's Prince Amukamara
AP Photo/Bill KostrounGiants cornerback Prince Amukamara suffered a torn biceps against the Colts.
"That's not a good one," coach Tom Coughlin said, of losing Amukamara. "Prince was playing well. He did a very nice job tonight and that was a blow to lose him."

Amukamara was having his best season to date since the Giants drafted him in 2011, with a career-high three interceptions in the first seven games.

The secondary was supposed to be the strength of the Giants' defense this season. But they entered this week ranked 25th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (262.4), and gave up 345 to Luck & Co. on Monday night.

Even on a play on which Rodgers-Cromartie had excellent coverage, early in the third quarter, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton wrestled the ball away while falling to the ground in the end zone for an Indianapolis touchdown.

"As I was coming down, he was coming up and the helmet hit the ball and adjusted it and he made the play, took it on the way down," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I gotta finish. That's a play I have to make."

The Giants stocked up on cornerbacks in the offseason, signing Rodgers-Cromartie to a big contract and bringing in Thurmond from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Yet now, only halfway through the season, they're left with a less-than-100 percent Rodgers-Cromartie and Zack Bowman on the outside, and Jayron Hosley in the slot.

Hosley did not look very good Monday night, so you may see the Giants turn more frequently to a three-safety look featuring Antrel Rolle, Quintin Demps and Stevie Brown, which they used a few times against the Colts after Amukamara went down.

"Man, it's hard. You already lose Walter, Trumaine, and now you lose Prince -- that's three core guys, three guys we need," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "If you look at them, all three of them were playing at a high level. So it's gonna be hard, but we gotta have a next-man-up mentality. Us in the secondary gotta fight that much harder, gotta go out there and play that much harder."

Unfortunately, that may not be enough.

More injuries: Starting left guard Weston Richburg suffered a right ankle injury in the second half and was carted off the field. Later on he was seen exiting the locker room on crutches, with his foot in a protective boot.

"I don't know. I haven't heard anything on that," Coughlin said. "He had X-rays. I would be foolish to say anything about it until I hear [more]."

Also, wide receiver Preston Parker was wearing a boot on his left foot after the game. We should get more details on these injuries Tuesday afternoon, when Coughlin takes questions from the media via a conference call.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 40-24 loss to the Colts on Monday Night:
    Ayers
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers had seven quarterback hits, a sack and a forced fumble but didn't feel like talking about it. "I don't do moral victories," he said.
  • Asked about the challenge of sacking Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Ayers said, "He's about my size and he's faster than me. He knows what you're trying to do. He's the real deal, one of the candidates for MVP."
  • Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he had Luck picked off in the end zone over top of T.Y. Hilton, but that Hilton's helmet hit the ball and adjusted it in Rodgers-Cromartie's arms, allowing Hilton to take it from him on the way down and turn it into a touchdown pass. "Just got to be stronger there," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That's a play I make 10 out of 10 times, but I didn't make it."
  • Rodgers-Cromartie says he's still troubled by back and leg injuries but will keep playing through them, especially in the wake of the injury to fellow corner Prince Amukamara. "When you're on that field, you get that adrenaline rush and you don't feel some things," he said. "I don't think 'limited.'"
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' coaches have one defensive game plan for Monday Night if cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie can play and another in case he can't. But based on the way Rodgers-Cromartie has practiced this week, they are optimistic he'll be able to help them against the Colts.

Rodgers-Cromartie
"We're working him, and it depends on how he feels," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Friday. "He's been good in back-to-back practices now, and that's something he didn't do before our last game. So we'll see how he feels (Saturday) and if it stiffens up, but it's that day-to-day assessment with him right now."

Rodgers-Cromartie has been dealing with leg and back problems for more than a month, and wasn't able to play in much of the team's Week 7 loss in Dallas. He's been getting treatment through the bye week, but his health issues obviously haven't cleared all the way up, and head coach Tom Coughlin said "I don't believe we can do that at this point" when asked about counting on Rodgers-Cromartie being able to play the whole game.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yardage, so he obviously poses a serious challenge to a Giants secondary that is already without nickel cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride. A limited Rodgers-Cromartie is a potentially big problem in a game like this.

On the offensive side of the ball, Coughlin called guard Geoff Schwartz "a long shot" to return from injured reserve this week. Schwartz just started practicing this week on the toe injury that's kept him out since training camp, and they still have 17 more days before they are required to activate him.

And running back Rashad Jennings, who has already been ruled out of a third straight game with his knee injury, said he's still a few days from trying to move laterally on his leg, and that Week 11's game against the 49ers is a more realistic goal than the Week 10 game in Seattle, though he wouldn't rule that out.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants still have six days until their next game, so Monday's practice was a shorter one than usual, designed to shake off the rust from the bye week and see where everyone stands in terms of health and readiness for the final nine games of the season. Here's a recap of what we learned Monday on that front:
  • Jennings
    We already went through running back Rashad Jennings and the reasons it doesn't sound to me as though he'll be ready to play Monday night against the Colts. You can read more about it here, but basically, Jennings is a highly positive and optimistic person who admitted between the lines Monday that his optimism in this particular case is likely not going to turn out to be justified.
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz, who hasn't played since the preseason because of a toe injury, is eligible to come off short-term injured reserve and play Monday, but there's no guarantee he will. He was on the practice field and moving around, but he didn't appear to be doing much. Coach Tom Coughlin said, "He's started," meaning Schwartz was just now beginning the process of getting back on the field. The Giants have 21 days to activate Schwartz from the short-term injured reserve list, which means there's nothing compelling them to play him or even put him back on the 53-man roster in time for this week's game.
  • Rodgers-Cromartie
    Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on the practice field, though Coughlin indicated Rodgers-Cromartie remained somewhat limited due to persistent leg and back problems. He has yet to miss a game, but he hasn't played a whole one in more than a month. Rodgers-Cromartie's injuries appear to be the kind that will bother and limit him all season, but at this point they're not considering sitting him for a long period of time. That could change.
  • In case you missed it, linebacker Jon Beason will have surgery on his toe and miss the rest of the season. "Hopefully we're not going to lose anything in terms of his presence," Coughlin said. "I think he's probably going to have to be away a little bit, but then he'll return and we'll have him in meetings, etc. I'm looking forward to that part, anyway."
  • And safety Antrel Rolle was struggling a bit with his left foot in the early portion of practice Monday, coming on and off the field while trainers worked on his foot and tried to adjust his shoe to alleviate some discomfort. But Coughlin said Rolle ended up taking every snap in the team period, and Rolle said after practice that he was fine. So that's something to keep in the back of your mind, but at this point it doesn't appear to be a major thing.

The Giants are off Tuesday, and Wednesday is an abbreviated work day with no media access, so the next time we check in with these guys will be Thursday.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Most of the New York Giants' players finished up meetings Monday and headed out for a long midseason break. The Giants are on bye next week and don't play again until Nov. 3. So guys who want to shut it down, get out of town for a few days, go fishing, whatever, they all go their separate ways.

Some will have to be around the facility, however, to get treatment for various injuries. And there are a few significant Giants injuries to monitor over the next couple of weeks.

Jennings
Schwartz
There is some hope that the return of running back Rashad Jennings from the knee injury that has cost him the past two games and of guard Geoff Schwartz from the toe injury that has so far delayed his Giants' debut will help get the running game going again. But to hear coach Tom Coughlin tell it, neither of those players is a sure thing to return in Week 9. Due to his short-term injured reserve status, Schwartz wasn't even eligible to practice until last week, and all he's done so far is some light running.

"Schwartz has got a long way to go," Coughlin said.

Coughlin also pointed out Jennings is trying to work his way back from a pretty serious knee injury -- an MCL sprain he suffered in the Week 5 victory over Atlanta. Jennings said his goal is to get back in time for the Week 9 "Monday Night Football" game.

"That's what we're trying to get to," Jennings said. "We've got the bye week and we've got some down time, so I'm just working. Preparing my body so that when it heals I can pick up where I left off."

Jennings said he would do more running this week and then "eventually get into the cuts." Schwartz said the goal for him was to practice on the field with the team next week when they return from the bye week.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are banged up as well. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left Sunday's game in Dallas in the first half with a calf strain. An MRI on Monday confirmed the strain and nothing more, but Jenkins was still on crutches and in a walking boot Monday and said it was "probably going to be at least a couple weeks" before he could play again.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason re-aggravated the toe injury that cost him all of training camp and three games earlier this season, and Coughlin said Beason likely would go back to see the same foot specialist he's seen a few times this year. It's possible the Giants will end up having to shut Beason down due to this injury, but Coughlin said that's not in the plans at this point.

And cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie plans to continue to play through the leg and back injuries that have been limiting him. "It's going to be a continuous kind of thing here," Coughlin said, though he's hoping the two weeks of rest will help.
Rodgers-Cromartie
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is active and expected to play for the New York Giants here Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Rodgers-Cromartie was listed as questionable after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday and being only a limited participant Friday due to continuing leg and back injuries.

It remains to be seen how much Rodgers-Cromartie will be able to play. He was in and out of the Giants' Week 4 and 5 games due to leg injuries, and he left last week's game for good in the second quarter due to back spasms that the team said were related to the ongoing leg problems. Zack Bowman will fill in for Rodgers-Cromartie when he's not on the field, but if Rodgers-Cromartie can play at all, he'll have a tough time containing top Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant if he's less than 100 percent.

On the offensive side of the ball, newly signed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree is active and rookie Corey Washington, for the first time, is not. Due to last week's season-ending injury to Victor Cruz, the Giants have only four wide receivers active for the game -- Ogletree, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr. and Preston Parker -- and are likely to deploy a run-heavy game plan that leans on the tight ends as blockers and receivers.

The full list of inactives for Sunday's game here at AT&T Stadium:

GIANTS
RB Rashad Jennings
WR Corey Washington
OL Brandon Mosley
OL James Brewer
OL Adam Snyder
DE Kerry Wynn
DT Jay Bromley

COWBOYS
LB Bruce Carter
RT Doug Free
DE Jack Crawford
QB Dustin Vaughan
S Jakar Hamilton
DT Davon Coleman
OT Donald Hawkins
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Left tackle Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys just became the first lineman in 10 years to win an Offensive Player of the Week award. New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is not among those who might be surprised by that.

"He's that good, definitely," Pierre-Paul said of the 23-year-old Smith. "He's as tough as there is in the whole league."

[+] EnlargeTyron Smith
AP Photo/James D. SmithTyron Smith, the first offensive lineman in 10 years to win player of the week honors, is just one Cowboy who presents the Giants with matchup challenges.
This will be the second week in a row that Pierre-Paul faces a tough test in the opposing left tackle. He had his worst game of the year last week against Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. And things don't get easier Sunday in Dallas against Smith, who's a huge part of the reason the Cowboys and DeMarco Murray are leading the league in rushing.

"He's playing at such a high level, JPP and our defensive linemen will have to play at their best to neutralize this guy," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "And that's what you want to do -- neutralize him."

It won't be easy, but you can look all over the two depth charts for Sunday and find matchups that aren't going to be easy for the Giants.

The Cowboys are 5-1 and playing extremely well. The Giants (3-3) are without their best wide receiver, best running back and maybe their best cornerback and are coming off an ugly 27-0 loss. A list of Dallas' offensive personnel includes wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, tight end Jason Witten, league-leading rusher Murray and Smith, who's one of three recent first-round picks starting on their impressive offensive line. Line up the Giants' offensive depth chart against that, and on paper it clearly looks outmanned.

Which is why, when it comes to the Pierre-Paul/Smith matchup, Fewell may have summed up the key to the Giants' chances in this game.

"Our best guy is on him," Fewell said. "So I think it'll be a heavyweight battle."

It has to be. If Pierre-Paul loses his matchup with Smith the same way he lost Sunday's to Peters, the Giants are going to have a hard time overcoming that. All over the field, there are Giants who have to play as big as possible in this game. It's possible cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won't be able to play, and even if he can he's obviously not himself. (He estimated himself at "60 percent" Thursday). That could mean Prince Amukamara needs to cover Bryant and deliver a flawless performance if he's to stop him. Quarterback Eli Manning -- assuming his line can keep the pass rush off of him for at least a couple of seconds this week -- needs to play the way he did in Weeks 2-5, and to outperform a very comfortable Tony Romo.

In short, the Giants' top players have to be at the very tops of their respective games for this one, because there aren't going to be enough of them there. On offense, they're without Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and Geoff Schwartz, who represent more than 18 percent of their offensive salary cap spending. On defense, they're without Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride and possibly Rodgers-Cromartie, who make up more than 13 percent of their defensive cap spending. These are players to whom the Giants have committed major resources, and they're not available to them. That means the other big-resource guys -- Manning, Pierre-Paul, Amukamara, Jon Beason, etc. -- have to excel to make up for the losses.

It won't be easy, but the Giants believe in the players they're running out there Sunday. This is a chance for many of them to justify that belief and deliver a win that would qualify in almost anyone's eyes right now as an upset.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed a second straight day of practice Thursday, casting significant doubt on his availability for Sunday's game against Dez Bryant and the Cowboys in Dallas.

Rodgers-Cromartie
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday morning that Rodgers-Cromartie would practice on a limited basis. But Rodgers-Cromartie did not practice at all Wednesday, and he was not on the field for the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media.

Rodgers-Cromartie has been struggling for weeks with a leg problem that has been described at various times as an ankle, hip or hamstring injury, and he left Sunday night's game in Philadelphia with back problems. His official listing on Wednesday's injury report was "Did not practice (back/hamstring)."

If Rodgers-Cromartie can't play, Zack Bowman likely would take his place as a starting outside cornerback along with Prince Amukamara, who likely would draw Rodgers-Cromartie's usual assignment of covering the opposing team's top wide receiver. For the Cowboys, that means Bryant, who's one of the best and most physically dominating wide receivers in the game. Amukamara is having a strong season, but he does tend to look better when Rodgers-Cromartie is on the field.

The Giants also are down to their third option at nickel cornerback. With Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride out for the season with injuries, Jayron Hosley will draw that assignment Sunday, though it's possible safety Antrel Rolle could play that spot as he has in the past. If that happened, the Giants might have to revive their old three-safety look, which could bring benched starter Stevie Brown back into the mix.

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