NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Watching the Giants’ defense this season hasn’t always been easy for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell — or for fans of Big Blue.
One of the leading units in the league last season, the defense has struggled with a rash of injuries that sidelined cornerback Terrell Thomas and middle linebacker Jonathan Goff for the season with injuries and forced defensive captain and two-time Pro Bowler Justin Tuck to miss four of the first six games with neck and groin injuries.
Coming off a bye week, Fewell is smiling now. And not just because New York is set to face the floundering Fish.
Tuck has been practicing and is expected to play Sunday against Miami. The days of him standing on the sidelines waving a towel to pump up the crowd appear to be over and that’s bodes well for Fewell and his crew.
Tuck admittedly is excited at the prospect of playing after missing the last three games. He missed the season opener against Washington with a neck injury incurred in the preseason and the last three with a combination of the neck and groin.
“It’s a game I love to play and whenever you have the opportunity to go out there with your teammates it’s a good feeling so I’m looking forward to it,” Tuck said Thursday after practice.
The Giants have been limiting the amount of work Tuck is doing at practice as a precaution, hoping to avoid a setback while keeping him close to 100 percent for the game.
Tuck has concerns though, especially considering the neck injury has been his biggest problem.
“I am going out and see what happens,” Tuck said. “Obviously there is fear. Anything you have, any little tweak or anything, you are kind of self-conscious about it. That’s the game we play. You go for it and see how this story unfolds.”
The good news for Tuck and the Giants is that defensive end is now the strength of the defense with Tuck, fellow Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora, second-year pro Jason Pierre-Paul, Dave Tollefson and sometimes Mathias Kiwanuka playing on the line.
This will mark the first time that Tuck and Umenyiora have played in a game together, and the result might be less time for Pierre-Paul, who is third in the league with 7 1/2 sacks.
“We have a lot of talent on the defensive line and hopefully I can add to that,” Tuck said. “They’ve done well the past couple of weeks, Everyone knows how well we get after the passer. We’ll all tell you we have to stop the run in order to get into those passing situations, so we have to do a better job of that.”
Fewell has not figured out his starting lineup, and he said Tuck’s playing time would depend on how he feels.
However, it was clear that anything Tuck gave the defense would be welcomed, especially his ability to play the run, an area where the defense has struggled in recent weeks.
“When you have a guy that has talent, that knows how to play the game and he’s your captain and he’s on the sideline it is very difficult,” said Fewell, who added he always feels bad for players who are sidelined because it’s time they will never get back.
This has been a tough season for Tuck and it goes beyond his injuries. He grandfather died in August and his uncle passed away the next month. He made trips to Alabama on both occasions to be with family.
“It’s still a pretty difficult time,” Tuck said. “Time heals wounds. The time from those incidents has healed in a way. You go on with your life and understand those things happen. The only thing you can do to help that is try to become a better person day to day.”
Tuck doesn’t know if getting back on the field will help him personally. He hopes practicing this week will take some of the rust off his game and that he will be back to normal – both mentally and physically – by the end of the first series.
“You just want to go out there and help your team,” he said. “You don’t want to rush into it and do something stupid. It’s tough sitting on the sidelines. I am excited to have an opportunity to get out there. We’ll see what happens.”
First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara has been a member of the scout team most of this week and Fewell said the cornerback made an outstanding move in knocking down a pass by Eli Manning on Thursday. The only thing he didn’t do was intercept the ball.
Fewell was not sure whether Amukamara, who broke his foot in his second practice of training camp, will make his NFL debut on Sunday.
What do you expect from Tuck against Miami? Let us know in the comments below…
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