Giants Face Rodgers-less Packers In Key NFC Clash
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By Curt Macysyn
Before the season started, no one would have imagined that the New York Football Giants would be going for their fourth win of the season in week 11. But the team suffered some key injuries during training camp, played poorly and ran into a string of bad luck in starting the season with six straight losses. Yet the streaky Giants have reeled off three straight wins and now take on a team missing its most important player, as Big Blue continues its trek to relevancy in the NFC east.
For the Green Bay Packers, the next few weeks will be a test of will power. If the Pack can steal a win or two, until quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from a broken left collar bone, then their chance at the post-season could still be alive. At the center of the storm is journeyman quarterback Scott Tolzien, a mere two weeks removed from running the Packers scout team in practice. Tolzien was anointed the starter at QB after backup Seneca Wallace injured a groin muscle in the loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wallace was placed on injured reserve this week, ending his season, and the team also signed former backup Matt Flynn to provide depth at the position.
New York Giants
As the season has progressed, the Giants have gotten their sea legs under them. The offense received a big boost last week with the return of Andre Brown from the injured reserve-designated for return list. Brown ran for 115 yards on 30 carries, as the G-men topped the Oakland Raiders 24-20 for their third straight win. Brown’s comeback boosted a patchwork offensive line that includes one rookie (Justin Pugh), a backup (Jim Cordle) and a veteran playing out of position (David Diehl). The line has not been perfect, but its ability to open holes for the shifty Brown has ushered a return to “Giants football” last week.
With the return of Brown, the season-ending neck injury to David Wilson has been relegated to a secondary story.
After losing safety Stevie Brown to a knee injury in the pre-season, New York’s secondary floundered in the early season. Safety Antrel Rolle tried to do too much in Stevie Brown’s absence, and cornerbacks Corey Webster and Aaron Ross were injured, leaving a hole at the left cornerback position. But the return of Will Hill after his four game suspension, as well as the play of Terrell Thomas and Trumaine McBride has solidified the secondary. Thomas had the play of the game against the Raiders last week, when the veteran cornerback stepped in front of a Terrelle Pryor pass and raced 65 yards to thwart a Raiders drive and set up the Giants game-winning touchdown. The new stability in the secondary has allowed Rolle to concentrate on his role in the defense, and the unit has thrived. Routinely, Thomas does not practice early in the week, which allows him to rest his thrice-injured knee.
Once again, Webster has not practiced this week, raising questions on whether his groin injury may be more severe than the team has indicated. On Friday, the Giants announced that Webster will miss Sunday’s contest.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has been slow to recover from off season back surgery, but came alive against the Raiders with his second quarterback sack of the season. Pierre-Paul injured his right shoulder trying to tackle Pryor in the backfield and did not practice for the Giants on Wednesday and Thursday. The good news for Giants fans is that Pierre-Paul was at practice on Friday, although limited, and will almost certainly be a game time decision for New York.
Rookie Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) may see action along the defensive line should Pierre-Paul miss the contest. Moore has been a special teams beast with a real knack of getting pressure on the punter. In addition, veteran Mathias Kiwanuka has been an unsung hero for Big Blue at the defensive line position. Kiwanuka has 3.5 sacks on the season, including one last week in part-time duty.
Tight end Bear Pascoe is nursing a sore ankle that left him limited in practice this week. With the emergence of fullback John Conner, Pascoe has been shifted to his more natural position of tight end. When starting fullback Henry Hynoski was injured, Pascoe had assumed more of an H-back role with the team, until the team signed Conner.
Green Bay Packers
While there have been some mumblings around Green Bay about Aaron Rodgers healing sooner than expected, chalk that talk up to wishful thinking. Why would Green Bay risk their all world quarterback to further injury?
Recently Giants general manager Jerry Reece was criticized in some quarters about his roster decisions at the running back and linebacker positions, but this week his Green Bay counterpart, Ted Thompson, took some fire for the revolving door at the backup quarterback position. In essence, Scott Tolzien is the Packers’ third string quarterback. Tolzien, when pressed into duty last week against the Eagles, went a respectable 24-39 for 280 yards, but had two costly interceptions.
At the heart of the controversy is that Green Bay went into training camp with Graham Harrell as Rodger’s backup, but Harrell was cut before the pre-season was over. Thompson brought in Vince Young for a look and that did not work out either, so journeyman Seneca Wallace was installed as the backup. Rodgers’ injury may be the deciding factor of whether or not the Packers make the playoffs.
Tight end Jermichael Finley underwent a spinal fusion procedure this week after suffering a horrific injury against the Cleveland Browns. In his place, the Packers have installed Andrew Quarless as the starter, but he is not the receiving threat that Finley was. Also, top receiver Randall Cobb was placed on the injured reserve-designated for return list with a broken fibula, a similar injury to what the Giants Andre Brown had, meaning he can return after eight weeks have elapsed. In his place, James Jones has become the starter but only has five catches in the past two games. Second-year man, Jarrett Boykins, has a breakout game against Philadelphia with eight catches for 112 yards.
On defense the Packers play a base 3-4, and right defensive end Johnny Jolly has missed practice this week with a groin injury. Chances are he will be able to play, but if he cannot, then Mike Daniels, the team leader in sacks, slides into the starting role. Outside linebacker Nick Perry is nursing foot and ankle injuries, and if he cannot go, that would be a big loss for the Pack. Perry has three sacks and two forced fumbles in only six games this year. Replacement Mike Neal has his own injury problems (abdomen) and is more of a hand in the dirt defensive end than he is a linebacker, so that would disrupt the Packers scheme, especially with linebacker Clay Matthews still nursing a hand injury.
Starting right tackle Don Barclay has not practiced this week with a knee injury, his backup Marshall Newhouse is a former starter, who has played in every game this year for the Packers. Looks like Derek Sherrod, who just came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list last week, will be pressed into action.
New York Giants
- CB Terrell Thomas (Knee)
- TE Bear Pascoe (Ankle)
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Shoulder)
- RB Brandon Jacobs (Hamstring/Knee)
- CB Corey Webster (Groin)
Green Bay Packers
- DT Johnny Jolly (Groin)
- DT Ryan Pickett (Knee)
- LB Clay Matthews (Hand)
- DE/LB Mike Neal (Abdomen)
- OT Don Barclay (Knee)
- LB Nick Perry (Foot/Ankle)
- OG/C Evan Dietrich-Smith (Knee)
- LB Andy Mulumba (Knee)
- Aaron Rodgers (Collar Bone)
- CB Casey Hayward (Hamstring)
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.