Commentary

Rash of injuries shakes up Giants

G-Men look to move on after losing Thomas, Witherspoon and Austin in short span

Updated: August 24, 2011, 3:17 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- On the same day that a 5.8-magnitude earthquake sent tremors from Virginia to New England, the New York Giants must have felt like they were at the epicenter of an 8.0 quake.

The Giants lost Terrell Thomas for the season on Monday night and then learned on Tuesday that promising second-round pick Marvin Austin and emerging backup cornerback Brian Witherspoon were also done for the year with injuries.

Time will tell how bad the damage ultimately will be from the injuries but clearly the Giants are shaken after losing their most productive cornerback and one of their most committed players.

"That's going to have a huge impact on our season and most of all on our hearts, you know, as players," safety Antrel Rolle said in an interview on SiriusXM Mad Dog radio. "I had a huge comfort level [on the field] with Terrell Thomas. We worked a lot together, we talked a lot, because our roles were similar in a lot of ways."

"Honestly, I don't know what to do," Rolle added. "I still don't know how to handle it at this point but I'm going to have to try to find a way. I have to. We have to as a defense."

Thomas wasn't a shutdown corner but his loss was felt not only on the field but off it as well. He was arguably having the best camp of any Giant and was emerging into a defensive leader. He was as vocal and as sound a tackler as any Giant on the team.

"He's one of our main guys," Giants CEO and co-owner John Mara said. "He's not only one of our best players, he's one of our smartest players and he's got a lot of leadership skills and we're certainly going to miss him. But we've got other guys on the roster that are going to get an opportunity now and they have to step up and play."

Cue the Aaron Ross redemption tour. The former first-round pick has started just two games in the past two seasons and had his share of injuries, but he is feeling healthy and confident that he can get the job done opposite starting cornerback Corey Webster.

Terrell Thomas
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe aftershock from Terrell Thomas' knee injury is still being felt by the Giants.

But the Giants will need more reinforcements. Besides Webster and Ross, the Giants' only healthy cornerbacks in camp right now are Michael Coe, Joe Burnett and Darnell Burks.

The free-agent market doesn't offer a ton. Perhaps Lito Sheppard is an option for the Giants, who will likely want to sign any veteran to the minimum. Then there are other free agents, such as Kelvin Hayden, who is coming off an injury from last year.

Mara did say that the Giants can create cap room if needed but it doesn't sound like Jerry Reese will be shopping for any pricey cornerbacks.

"There's always flexibility if you want to rework contracts and what not," Mara said. "We'll do that under circumstances but we're not going to create room just for the sake of creating because when you do that you have to pay for it in the future. I think we have a pretty solid roster right now. I like our team."

Tom Coughlin said the team will exhaust every opportunity available on the free-agent market and look into solutions within the team. But Rolle moving to cornerback doesn't appear to be one of those options.

"I'm aware of the fact that Antrel was a corner," Coughlin said. "We have designs for Antrel at safety and as a guy who can come down and match up and a guy we can use in a blitz situation. I'm reluctant unless I was to think that we would be keeping them there to put more on their plate in terms of learning. At this time ... we would like to keep Antrel at safety."

The team could play Deon Grant more and go with the three-safety look on passing situations. Ultimately, the Giants will need the team's biggest strength -- the defensive line -- to come up huge.

But while Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul will continue to terrorize quarterbacks, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell won't have Austin's 6-foot-2, 312-pound body to throw inside this season.

The Giants, though, still have plenty of wide bodies up front to stop the run with Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Rocky Bernard, Gabe Watson and now newly-signed Jimmy Kennedy.

It's been a tough preseason thus far. The Giants not only have been hit hard in the secondary with injuries but there's the loss of Kevin Boss and Steve Smith in free agency as well. And there's Osi Umenyiora's contract squabble and recovery from recent knee surgery.

At the moment, the Giants don't even have their first two draft picks in this year's draft. Austin is done and first-round cornerback Prince Amukamara is out until possibly late September with a broken foot that remains in a boot and needs the aid of a scooter to keep weight off of it.

Fewell will concoct ways to mask for any deficiencies. He still has a few more weeks in the preseason to adjust compared to last year when he lost another key defensive component three weeks into the season when Mathias Kiwanuka was lost to a neck injury.

But Thomas will be sorely missed when the Giants face the Eagles, Patriots, Saints, Packers and Cowboys this season.

The Giants will get a glimpse of life without Thomas right away when they are reunited with Plaxico Burress and his new Jets friends on Saturday.

"I think our guys will come rallying back," Coughlin said. "You have to move on."

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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