- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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The reeling New York Giants have lost five of their last six games and are entering the most critical stretch of their season.
Starting Saturday against the New York Jets, coach Tom Coughlin will certainly learn what he has inside his locker room and whether his leaders will be able to help lift the Giants out of this funk and propel them to an NFC East division crown or enter another postseason-less offseason that could lead to some changes.
Coughlin said he has and will lean on the team's leaders and believes they will rally this week. But he also said he would like to see more "peer pressure" applied as well.
"We've tried to spell it out to our players and our players understand what's going on," Coughlin said. "I think there is peer pressure. I wish there was more. I don't know that necessarily that's the way that it is in our league anymore, but I wish it was."
"You have strengths in people to be looked at in terms of how to prepare and how they play the game," Coughlin continued. "And hopefully there's enough of that, that everyone rallies around it right now. And I think we will. I think there will be a unified commitment to playing well together. There's no finger pointing. There's none of that. There's plenty of blame to go around."
Leadership has been a topic brought up every now and then ever since Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce retired. The Giants believe they have enough veteran leadership in the locker room to go with their captains -- Eli Manning, Justin Tuck and Zak DeOssie.
But Pierce recently said that the Giants need somebody in the locker room to hold players accountable. The Giants' former defensive captain and current ESPN analyst said earlier this month that his old team may be missing that fear factor in the locker room that often came with having a Strahan-type on the roster.
"To me, a leader, you got to have a little fear factor, the guys got to fear you somewhat," Pierce said. "I didn't want Stray coming at me saying, 'Come on A.P., pick it up.' I didn't want him coming near me. You got to have that."
"Now the leadership role and the voice, you can't force-feed somebody to be the captain and be the leader on that team," Pierce added. "Here you go, you got the title, you talk, maybe that is not the guy that gets everybody going."
Antrel Rolle has tried to take on a more vocal role, often saying whatever he believes will help the team. The fiery and outspoken safety wants to make sure nothing is left unsaid if it can make a difference.
Following the Giants' abysmal 23-10 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, a frustrated Rolle said the Giants need to mentally fight through everything, including having injured players practice if they can and push through minor injuries.
Rolle made it clear he was not calling out any of his teammates and emphasized that he was not singling out Tuck, who did not practice last Wednesday and Thursday due to a toe injury before going limited on Friday. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) was the only other Giant to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday as well and play.
Tuck, the team's defensive captain, said on his weekly appearance on WFAN that he spoke with Rolle and that the two are on the same page.
"If you know 'Trel, then you know he's one of those guys who try to light fires under guys," Tuck said. "Sometimes in the heat of the moment, I know 'Trel, he's a competitor and I know he was frustrated after this loss. So, sometimes you say things and not necessarily knowing what the ramifications are gonna be. I talked to 'Trel since and we're on the same page -- there's no animosity either way between me and him."
It's incredibly important that every Giant is on the same wavelength on the eve of their biggest game of the season. The Giants can still win the NFC East by winning these last two games. Even if they lose, they might still be able to squeeze into the playoffs with some help.
But the Giants don't want to leave their fate in the hands of others. They still have control of their destiny and this is the time for the leaders on the team to step up and do something about a season that is spiraling downward.
Tuck has said he has spent numerous sleepless nights trying to figure out this team and the right buttons to push. The soft-spoken defensive end prefers to lead more by example and talk individually to players rather than sending messages through the media.
But Tuck, who is growing as a leader, admits it has been hard to lead by example when injuries to his neck, groin, ankle and toe have slowed him down all year long.
"It's been tough," Tuck said back on Dec. 1. "I've thought about how to be a captain more mentally this year because the (personal) numbers are not there. When numbers aren't, I think a lot of people can misunderstand (and wonder), 'How can you say something to me?'"
"I'm trying to (be that guy to hold teammates accountable)," he added. "But I found myself turning that down a few times this year and kind of relying on other guys when I'm not having the normal year I've had. Obviously that shouldn't matter, but it does to me."
After the Redskins debacle, Tuck said he was searching for answers as to what went wrong. Many of the Giants echoed the same sentiment as they had plenty of soul searching to do.
Tuck was asked if he will challenge the Giants and try to light their competitive fire this week. Or, as Coughlin might phrase it, apply some peer pressure.
"We'll see," Tuck said. "I try to light the fire in just about everything I do. You all know me, I don't like talking much and unfortunately this year, injuries have kept me from playing the way I want to play too. In searching for those answers, we are going to try everything possible."
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.
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