NFC East: New York Giants

Geoff Schwartz was the big offensive line pickup of the New York Giants' offseason, and he has yet to play a meaningful game for the team. A toe injury he suffered late in the preseason forced Schwartz to short-term injured reserve, and he wasn't eligible to practice with the team until last week. The first game in which he's allowed to play is their next game -- Nov. 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. But while Schwartz and the team are hopeful he can play in their first game after the bye week, they're still not certain.

Schwartz
"That's a great question, and I don't know the answer," Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said Tuesday. "Geoff has been very active in our meetings. He's stayed on top of everything. He's worked his tail off in there, and from all reports I get, he's done the same thing in the training room. As far as how close he is to playing, I'll know more next week when I see him."

Aside from obsessing over the World Series (he's a San Francisco Giants fan), Schwartz has been spending his bye week getting treatment at the Giants' team facility. He said Monday that he wasn't sure whether he'd be able to practice with the team next week when they all got back to work. A lot will depend on how that toe feels once he starts really testing it out. He did some running on the side during practices last week, but hasn't tried to block or punch anyone, and he doesn't know how his foot will hold up right now to the rigors of his position.

"I would think he's not going to stand on the sideline [once he's cleared]," Flaherty said. "But how much? Is he ready to play 75 plays? That's the question. If he's not, then he's got to play X number of plays, and we have to figure out when to insert him into the games."

They also have to figure out where. Flaherty said Schwartz looked good in the preseason making the transition to left guard after playing on the right side of the offensive line for most of his career. But it's hard right now to identify where the greatest need is on the offensive line. Rookie Weston Richburg has had his share of struggles at left guard since replacing Schwartz there late in camp, but John Jerry hasn't been Mr. Reliable over at right guard, either. The Giants might have to decide where they think Schwartz can best help them once they decide he's ready to help them.

"I'm really not closed-minded on one side or the other," Flaherty said. "I think wherever he fits and can help us, he can adjust, because he's had that versatility of playing on the left side and the right side. So at this point, I'm not sure what side it's going to be. We'll have to see how it unfolds as he progresses."
When New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings sprained his knee in Week 5, the presumption was that rookie running back Andre Williams would ascend to the starting role and handle it. There were questions about Williams' abilities as a pass blocker and especially as a pass receiver, but in terms of actually running the ball, it was believed he would do fine filling in for Jennings for at least a couple of weeks.

Williams
Jennings
He has not been fine.

Williams has rushed for a total of 110 yards on 35 carries in the two games since Jennings got hurt. That's an average of 3.14 yards per carry. Jennings' average in the season's first five games was 4.35 yards per carry. Both of Williams' games have been losses, but that's no excuse, because as we've already discussed here, the Giants have been running ball even though they've been behind.

There are two key aspects to examine as we try to figure out why Williams hasn't been as effective as Jennings was as the Giants' lead back, and they are:

1. The offensive line has had two poor games. Jennings this season is averaging 2.53 yards per carry before contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Williams is averaging 1.31. That's a significant difference in the amount of room in which the Giants' backs can operate. And while it's possible Williams isn't identifying the hole as easily as Jennings was (and we'll get to that later), a stat like this is pretty much all on the offensive line.

"Yes, if that's a stat, then yes," offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said Tuesday. "The running game is a combination of the offensive line, the tight end, the fullback and the running back. And there's no question we need to be better at executing the schemes, better calls. But more so than anything, it is on the offensive line to make sure we have better holes to get our running backs through."

Each of the Giants' starting five offensive linemen has earned a negative run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in both of the past two games. During the three-game winning streak that preceded those two games, only right guard John Jerry (in Week 5 vs. Atlanta) had a single negatively graded game. The offensive linemen aren't beating the people in front of them consistently enough to open holes for Williams to run through. However...

2. Williams isn't always seeing the holes when they do show up. As a very successful collegiate running back at Boston College, Williams was used to power running schemes. The Giants' running schemes this season incorporate a great deal more zone running than Williams has seen before. Jennings, who'd been only a power runner in Jacksonville and Oakland before arriving in New York, struggled himself in the preseason with some of the zone concepts, and there were times when the film would show him almost inexplicably running into one of his blockers instead of hitting the hole. Williams is dealing with that now, at least to some extent, as his reps have increased.

"What he's going through right now, getting more carries, is timing and rhythm with the offensive line," running backs coach Craig Johnson said. "That's the bottom line. They block and a certain rhythm and a certain pace, he runs at a certain rhythm and a certain pace, and everybody's trying to mesh that together."

The problem, such as it is, is that Williams is learning on the job. Different players develop at different rates, and developing while starting in the NFL is no easy trick. The only way for Williams to master what Johnson is talking about is to keep at it.

"You have to learn the defenses, where their fits are going to be, and that's through film study," Johnson said. "And then you find out when can I set a good pace to the hole and then hit it. And how you do that is rep after rep after rep. It is a rhythm and a pace and a feel. And how do you learn that? You have more reps. The more reps you get, the more you get with your timing, the more your timing happens, the more you have a chance to have the big runs."

The Giants hope to get Jennings back in Week 9 after the bye. But the meantime has been a valuable learning experience for Williams, who'll only get better with time and practice and a bit better offensive line play than he's had since they gave him the starter's job.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you feel like the New York Giants have been running the ball a lot, you're not crazy. So far this season, the Giants are running the ball more than almost any other team in the NFL.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Giants' rush percentage (the percentage of offensive plays on which the quarterback does not drop back to pass) is 45.1 percent. That's the fourth-highest percentage in the league, behind only Dallas, Cleveland and Houston.

They run the ball on first down 52.2 percent of the time, which is the ninth-highest figure in the league.

They run the ball on second down 48.3 percent of the time, which is the second-highest figure in the league.

They run the ball on third down 24.5 percent of the time, which is the third-highest figure in the league.

The Giants run and run and run and run. They run when they're ahead in the game and they run when they're behind. They run whether it's working or not.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Brandon WadeEli Manning and the Giants are committed to balance in their offense this season.
And they're not going to stop anytime soon.

"You've got to have balance," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after the Giants ran the ball 42.4 percent of the time in Sunday's 31-21 loss in Dallas. "We're not just going to turn the ball over because we refuse to run. That's not what we're about."

There you have it. This reliance on the run is not the result of sloppy or haphazard play calling. This is a deep-rooted philosophy to which Coughlin and the Giants have committed in the wake of a 2013 season in which they committed 44 turnovers -- a stomach-turning figure that led the league by 10. The Giants are scared straight, which is why they're not throwing the ball downfield as much, why their quarterback is throwing it away more often, and why they're leaning so hard on the run.

The Giants have given the ball away 13 times so far this year, which isn't great. It's tied for the fourth-highest total in the league, and only two off the league-leading total of 15 shared by Jacksonville and Washington. But of those 13, only five have been interceptions, and four of those five came in the first two weeks of the season. Eli Manning hasn't thrown an interception in any of his last three games.

"We haven't had an interception in a couple of weeks, and that has been a very important part, I think, of our ability to control our game," Coughlin said Monday. "If we can get it under control, we will do it that way. Now, what to do about guys who can't catch the ball, put it away, cover it up without getting it stripped? That's another issue. We have had our issues with that."

The Giants do lead the league with eight lost fumbles, three of which have come on special teams. But those can't be controlled by game-planning or strategy. Those are either the result of luck, which corrects itself, or poor technique, which the coaches can correct on the practice field.

Running the ball more and taking fewer risks in the passing game is a way for the Giants to try to get control of their turnover situation. And remember to keep this year's numbers in perspective. Tied for fourth in the league in turnovers is a heck of a lot better than leading the league by 10.

"It's tough in this league if you sit back there and throw it 50 times a game," Manning said. "That puts a lot of pressure on the offensive line and me and the receivers, because you're going to get a lot of coverages. When you're running it and you have a commitment to run like we were Sunday, it's going to bring a safety in the box, it's going to give you some better throwing situations.

"We're going to be committed to doing it. We just have to get back to where we're getting successful runs. It's not like we've got to run for 150 yards, but on first and second down, when they're giving you the run looks, we've got to get those four and five yards just to keep the down and distance in shape. We're just having too many runs where we're losing yards, we're getting negative-two yards. We can't be going backwards. That's what hurts you."

For more on how they fix that, check back in Thursday.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- "Where did Larry Donnell come from?" is one of the big early questions of this New York Giants season, and the answer defies simple explanation.

Donnell was on the team last year in a reserve role -- a special-teams player who was working to develop as an offensive asset at tight end. He was a basketball player early in life and a quarterback when he arrived at Grambling for college, so tight end was new to him and he had to learn it. He's still learning it.

"One of the big things is his confidence level," Giants tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said Tuesday. "He didn't play with a level of confidence last year that he's now playing with in the passing game, certainly, and that he's starting to develop in the run game, as well."

[+] EnlargeLarry Donnell
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsLarry Donnell made three receptions as a Giants rookie. This season, he already has 33 catches for 332 yards and four red zone touchdowns.
That's a word -- "develop" -- that gets tossed around and often ignored in today's hyper-impatient NFL. We hear so much about how precious those 53-man roster spots are that we forget that some of them are occupied by players who aren't ready yet to make major contributions. Every roster has at least a handful of developmental players -- guys who aren't yet ready to start or even be active on Sundays but who've shown at least some inkling of promise that makes it worth the team's time to keep working with them throughout the week.

Donnell was such a player last year. Heck, he was such a player as recently as August. In many ways, he's still such a player. But he's better, for example, at getting open now than he was a year ago or even a few months ago, and the Giants' coaching staff can get really specific if you want to know how.

"One specific is a release off the line of scrimmage where a linebacker has inside leverage and he's going to try to collision you," Gilbride said. "In the past, what Larry would do is just try to bow around the defender, and that's not a good thing. What the defender does at that point is, he collisions you and widens you outside of where we want you to be. It muddies the picture, the whole picture for the quarterback.

"And what [Donnell] has done is, he's taken the coaching point of, if the defender takes that approach, attack to his inside leverage and then be violent with that defender. Don't try to bow around him. And you'll see, as you see him running routes, he'll take his single hand and swipe down and he slips right by defenders. And that puts defenders in an adverse situation and gets him an opportunity to get down the field."

That's one example. "One of many," Gilbride said. But it didn't happen overnight. Donnell's improvement is an example of slow, persistent work and development -- a player who understands the value of learning and practicing things with which he's not automatically comfortable.

"It doesn't necessarily just 'click.' You have to do it," Gilbride said. "And that's what he's done. Instead of continuing to take his bad habits and bang his head against the wall because it's not working ... he tries to put it into practice. And when you attempt to put it into practice and then you have some success with it, then moving forward, you like to keep that approach."

Donnell is still just 25 years old, and in spite of the obvious gains he's made as a player, he remains obviously inconsistent. Three touchdown catches one week, no catches at all the next. Two fumbles this past week in a close game in Dallas. Some weeks he's a good run-blocker, other weeks he gets overrun in the run game. That's his next frontier, and it's an important one.

"Finishing blocks with effort and strength in his hands," Gilbride said, "that's another area that still does need to continue to improve. But when he does play that way with confidence, he does well."

Donnell is still developing, so the gains are interspersed with setbacks and struggles. The encouraging thing for the Giants is that Donnell is an eager and willing student, and the successes this year are proof that his hard work and open-mindedness to teaching can pay off. That makes them believe the development will continue, and that he'll continue to get better. And as the Giants work this year to incorporate all of their new, young faces into their new offense, they need as many guys like that as possible.
New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday to once again see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson about his persistent toe injury. In a radio interview Tuesday, Beason said a determination would be made Wednesday about whether to finally have season-ending surgery to repair the injury, which cost him all of training camp, three full games already this season and the second half of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Beason
"It's gotten progressively worse over the last couple of games," Beason said on WFAN radio in New York. "Right now I'd say it's 50-50. I'm still deciding if the smart thing is to go ahead and get it fixed and get ready for next season."

Beason injured his toe in the spring and sat out all of training camp with the injury. He aggravated it in Week 2 and missed three games in a row (all of which, he jokingly pointed out last week, the Giants won) before returning in Week 6 in Philadelphia. He aggravated it again Sunday, prompting the latest doctor visit.

When Beason has not been on the field, Jameel McClain has moved to middle linebacker to replace him and either Devon Kennard or Mark Herzlich has replaced McClain as the strongside linebacker. The Giants have at least five defensive backs on the field enough, however, that they usually only need two linebackers on the field.

Still, they made re-signing Beason a priority in the offseason due to the effect his play and leadership at middle linebacker had on them after they acquired him in a trade in 2013. So their strong preference would be to have him healthy and available for the rest of the season. They may find out Wednesday that they don't.

The Film Don't Lie: Giants

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Giants must fix:

The New York Giants are off this week before returning for a "Monday Night Football" game Nov. 3 against the Indianapolis Colts, and when they get back they're going to have to block better in the run game.

Running back Andre Williams rushed for a pitiful 1.0 yards per carry before contact in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, according to ESPN Stats & Information. For the season, Williams is averaging 1.31 yards per carry before contact. Before he was injured, starting running back Rashad Jennings was averaging 2.53 yards per carry before contact, which is a monster number and clearly indicates the Giants were blocking the run much better in their first five games than they have in their last two.

Now, some of that may indicate Jennings' ability to identify and hit the holes better than the rookie Williams. But a disparity that significant is mainly on the linemen, who have been dominated physically by their opponents in Philadelphia and Dallas the past two weeks. The Giants are going to need to get back to showing the toughness they showed in their three-game winning streak and dictating the game at the line of scrimmage. They're determined to stick with the run all game even if it's not working early, but in order for that philosophy to work, they're going to need to run the ball more effectively. And it's on the offensive linemen to play better and make that happen.

Jason Pierre-Paul believes Giants can run the table after bye week

October, 20, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The view from the outside is that the New York Giants are basically what their 3-4 record says they are, an inconsistent team that might not be good enough to be a contender.

Jason Pierre-Paul isn't buying it.

He looks at the Giants, and sees a team ready to go on a roll. He looks at the rest of the schedule and sees nothing but victories, despite a string of tough opponents in November.

"I think the bye [week] is good," the Giants defensive end said Monday. "What have we got, nine more games to play? Let's win all the nine games. I think we can do it.

"We've just got to believe."

Pierre-Paul
Pierre-Paul was one of the Giants' top performers in Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, playing so well that coach Tom Coughlin singled him out in Monday's team meeting. Pierre-Paul was credited with six tackles, including two sacks and three total tackles for loss, but he looked even better than that on the game film.

"He was dominant," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "Just getting in the backfield and blowing things up, against the run, against the pass, you name it."

Pierre-Paul was on the field for all but two of the Giants' 62 defensive plays. His performance was even more impressive because he was lined up against Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, who was so good the week before that he was the first lineman in 10 years to win the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week award.

"[Pierre-Paul] played hard, and I thought he played well, both run and pass," Coughlin said. "His energy level was high. He had outstanding endurance. If you were going to find someone that gave the kind of effort you were looking for and played well, he would certainly be at the top of the list."

The problem for the Giants was that not enough of them have played well, at least not from week to week. They lost their first two games, won their next three, and now have lost two straight to division opponents. The 27-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was ugly, but Sunday's loss to the Cowboys left a bad taste, too.

"We basically let them win," Pierre-Paul said. "We made mistakes, and it cost us big-time. [But] there's a lot more football in the second half to play. We'll be ready."

The Giants will come back after the bye with a Monday night game against the first-place Indianapolis Colts, followed by Seattle, San Francisco and a rematch with Dallas. But Pierre-Paul isn't concerned.

"I think we're fine," he said. "Tough loss [to the Cowboys], but as far as a team, we know what we can do. It's like we told everyone, do what you want this week, get away from football.

"When we come back, it's time to turn it on."

There are nine games left, and for Pierre-Paul, that can mean nine wins.

He thinks they can do it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning didn't get to watch his older brother set the NFL's all-time record for touchdown passes Sunday night. Manning and the New York Giants were on a flight back home from Dallas when Peyton Manning whizzed past Brett Favre and into first place all time with 510 touchdown throws. But Eli knew what was going on and was excited to see the highlights when he landed.

"You never play for individual awards and records, but the touchdown record is pretty special," Eli Manning said Monday. "And I think it has a chance to stick around for a long time."

Eli said he sent Peyton a text, but as of 3:30 pm ET on Monday he still hadn't had a chance to speak to him. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are preparing for a quick-turnaround Thursday night game this week, and so the schedule is a bit off.

"I just sent him a text message, told him congratulations and that I'm proud of him," Eli said. "Obviously, I know he was proud to get the win with it."
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.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New York Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left AT&T Stadium on Sunday night on crutches and with his injured right leg in a walking boot. Jenkins left the Giants' 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the first half with a calf injury and will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of it.

Jenkins
"Felt like somebody hit me with a hammer," Jenkins said. "It was one of those things where you're running and you feel like you got hit, then you realize there was nobody behind you, and you're just like, 'Aww, man.'"

Jenkins' injury would be another tough blow to a Giants' defense that may be more banged-up than the banged-up offense. In addition to Jenkins, middle linebacker Jon Beason left Sunday's game early with a re-aggravation of the toe injury that's been bugging him since June. Beason has missed three games this season after missing all of training camp and can't seem to shake the injury.

"I really wanted to put that behind us, but it cropped up again," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who's been missing practice with leg and back injuries, was active for the game and was in on some early third downs (and on the field-goal-block team for Dan Bailey's late game-clincher), but he's clearly not healthy either. His hope is that next week's bye gives him time to heal and that he can be back to 100 percent in time for the "Monday Night Football" game against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 3. With nickel cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride out for the year, the Giants' once-deep secondary is leaking oil.

"If I get on the field, I have to feel like I'm myself," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Can't go out there half-steppin'."
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The two weeks that were going to tell us all about the 2014 New York Giants went about as poorly as they could have gone and told us everything we needed to know.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Giants 31-21 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium to improve to 6-1. They lead the NFC East by a half-game over the idle Philadelphia Eagles, who are 5-1 and beat the Giants 27-0 last Sunday. The Giants are 3-4, well behind two teams that just beat them, and as they head into their bye week, they look absolutely nothing like a team with playoff hopes.

"This is our bye week, and when we come back, we want to be a great team," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a good football team. When we get those kinks out of there, we'll be all right."

That is the right way for the players in the locker room to think, because their job is to take the field every week and give an honest effort to win games. But to those of us who stand on the outside and evaluate these teams against one another, it's clear that these Giants are not that good. They're not a terrible team, as they were this time last year, but they're not a contender either. They are a rebuilding team and clearly have been since they changed up the offense and blew out the free-agent budget in the offseason, signing more free agents than any other team.

And while the remainder of this year is likely to feature periods of encouraging progress, right now the Giants just don't have enough good players to hang with the top teams in the league.

"We've got to figure out a way to get better," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have to eliminate the mistakes and the little things so we can execute better and find a way to sustain more drives."

The Giants were penalized six times for 40 yards, and the timing of the penalties was backbreaking. They lost two fumbles, the first of which came at a point when the game was still in question.

These are the mistakes to which Manning refers, and the Giants aren't a team that can overcome such mistakes. Given their significant personnel deficiencies relative to their division rivals, they need to be just about perfect to win games.

The Cowboys' offensive skill-position players Sunday around quarterback Tony Romo included Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and emerging tight end Gavin Escobar. Their opposite numbers on the Giants were Rueben Randle, Andre Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells. Size those groups up against each other and there's no reason to believe the game should have been close. That Giants' core has talent and promise, but no neutral observer could think it compares to the Cowboys' offensive personnel at this stage in the careers of the people on those lists.

Add in the fact that the Giants are missing top wide receiver Victor Cruz, starting running back Rashad Jennings, top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and starting middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury and lost starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins early in Sunday's game. These are significant losses to overcome, and the Giants at this stage in their roster rebuild don't have the depth to overcome them.

"We keep forgetting about that, because we have to come back and play next week," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But when you do lose key players, it definitely can hurt your team."

It's crippling the Giants, who needed everything possible to go right to contend this year. In the end, the best they can hope for this season is to be able to say at its end that they made progress in the new offensive scheme and have a plan for patching the remaining holes next offseason. Any talk of firing coaches is likely to be unjustified -- as it usually is -- because this is a roster-in-progress and a project that likely needs at least two years to bear fruit.

That's the reality of what the Giants are dealing with in 2014, and it always has been. Players like Beckham offer hope for the future, and this Giants team is likely to be better this time next year than it is right now. But right now, the simple fact is it's not good enough to be a contender. Not this year.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
    Kiwanuka
  • There are any number of reasons the Giants have lost the two division games they've played in the past eight days, but the players don't want to hear any of them. "There's no reason to mince words," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "I'm tired of losing, and I'm ready to win." The Giants will have to wait awhile to try again. Their next game is not for 15 more days, as they are on bye next week.
  • Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left the locker room on crutches and with his right lower leg in a plastic boot. He said he "felt like he got hit with a hammer" and will have an MRI on Monday on his injured right calf.
  • Cornerback Prince Amukamara said he tried to jam Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant at the line on the play that ended up being the game-clinching touchdown. "Just a dumb move on my part," Amukamara said. "I should have just played him straight-up and pressed him. He made a great play."
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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