Commentary

No Osi Umenyiora, no problem

Jay Cutler won't have to face DE on Monday night, but Bears' backfield is far from safe

Updated: August 22, 2011, 7:37 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

The last time Jay Cutler saw the New York Giants, he was sacked nine times and left the New Meadowlands Stadium with a concussion.

While Cutler might not recall much from that October night last year, the Giants remember it very well.

[+] EnlargeCutler/Umenyiora
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesThe Giants' D-line took it to Cutler last season.

Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were twin tornadoes coming off the edge, destroying the Chicago Bears' offensive line and combining for a total of six sacks and three forced fumbles.

Monday night, the Bears and Giants meet again in a preseason game, but Cutler won't be seeing Umenyiora. The defensive end opted to have surgery on his troublesome knee so that he can return without pain, and he may be out for anywhere between three to six weeks or longer.

So Tuck's new tag-team partner is the emerging Jason Pierre-Paul. If the preseason opener against Carolina is any indication, the Giants will be fine without Umenyiora for perhaps the next month or longer. And the hope is that not only will Pierre-Paul spread his wings in the next month but that Umenyiora will come back healthy and refreshed physically and, hopefully, mentally.

Umenyiora has been unhappy with his contract and still holds out hope for a new deal or a trade to a team that will pay him.

While he will have weeks to ponder his situation some more, the Giants will get a taste of what they'll look like without their Pro Bowl speed rusher.

The Giants got a tantalizing glimpse in the preseason opener, when JPP collected two sacks in a quarter's work against Carolina left tackle Jordan Gross. And it easily could've been three sacks.

Pierre-Paul hopes to continue his ascension against the Bears.

"The more he plays, I think the better he's gonna get," Tuck said of last year's first-round pick. "So honestly, this could be a win-win for us. We know what Osi can do, and we believe in what JPP can do. He's gonna be that much more confident in his abilities. It's just gonna benefit us that much more."

By the Giants' estimation, Umenyiora could return within three to four weeks after what the team called a "simple debridement" procedure.

That timeline would put Umenyiora back on the Friday before the season opener at Washington on Sept. 11. It's hard to see Umenyiora being ready for that game, although head coach Tom Coughlin initially would not rule him out.

The fourth week would be the Friday before the second game of the year, a Monday night affair with the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 19.

The following game is the Giants' much-anticipated rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly on Sept. 25. Perhaps "Lady Gaga" will motivate Umenyiora to return to the field and settle his offseason beef with LeSean McCoy.

If Umenyiora needs six weeks or longer, he could miss the Giants' game at Arizona on Oct. 2 as well.

The good thing is that the Giants can survive without Umenyiora, thanks to Pierre-Paul and the easier portion of their schedule. The Giants play six games before their bye week in October and could get off to another quick start with their first half dozen games against the Redskins, Rams, Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks and Bills.

They can wait for Umenyiora with Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Dave Tollefson rotating in. Surely Perry Fewell will also find a way to send linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka to the quarterback as well.

But it's imperative that the Giants have a healthy -- and happy -- Umenyiora when the weather starts to get cold and their schedule starts to become unbearable. As good as JPP is, the Giants are better when they have Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul rotating with Kiwanuka sprinkled into the defensive front. That deadly front will be needed for a torturous stretch that will include the Patriots, Eagles, Saints, Packers, Cowboys and Jets in the final nine games of the season.

There's no telling where Umenyiora's knee and head will be at by then, but at least Pierre-Paul will be a better player as he begins what could possibly be a month-long stretch as the definite starter at right end.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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