EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara is finally playing like a first-round draft pick.
After missing time in his first two seasons, Amukamara has stayed healthy. He is second on the team in tackles with 76, and tied for the team lead in passes defended (11) and forced fumbles (2) heading into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
“I think I have been progressing and improving from my first year,” Amukamara said. “I am definitely not where I want to be. My goal this year was to make more plays on the ball and I feel like I missed out on opportunities so there is definitely something to work on.”
The Lions might present the former Nebraska star and the Giants’ secondary their biggest challenge. They have to find a way to slow down Calvin Johnson. “Megatron” leads the NFL in yards receiving with 1,449 on 81 catches, a 17.9 yard average.
The Giants might be catching the 6-foot-5 receiver at the right time. He has been held under 100 yards in the last two games, including one in a snowstorm in Philadelphia.
However, he also missed the Lions’ practices Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury, so his status is uncertain.
Amukamara doesn’t plan to do anything different facing Johnson, who is one of the most physical receivers in the league.
“I think there are different ways to play them,” Amukamara said. “Some guys might play a little less physical because they don’t want to get into that hand match with the guy. I haven’t changed my game for anyone. I am just as aggressive as anyone. I use my hands. You only get five yards and I think that’s the fastest way to slow a receiver down.”
There was some speculation that the Giants might have the 6-0 Amukamara shadow Johnson because fellow cornerbacks Jayron Hosley and Trumaine McBride are a couple of inches shorter than Amukamara and would be giving away too much height.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday that shadowing Johnson can be a problem because he never seems to line up at the same spot. The confusion of trying to get the match up might leave another receiver wide open.
The more likely scenario is that the Giants would provide help against Johnson, having a safety play over the top of the receiver in double coverage.
“They’re a very talented group and their offensive line is good,” coach Tom Coughlin told the Giants’ official website. “(The Lions) have one of the fewest sack operations in the league. For throwing as many times as they throw, they’ve done a very good job.”
Veteran cornerback Terrell Thomas believes Amukamara has made strides this season. His rookie year was slowed by a broken foot in training camp and his second season included ankle and hamstring injuries.
“Some games he is the first rounder and the corner that we all see and envision. How he practices in some games, he goes through his cycles. That’s one of the main things that me and Corey Webster and Trel (Antrel Rolle), the veterans, try to stay on him, to let him know he has the potential and the talent. All he has to do is go out there and play with confidence and show the wide receiver. He has shown that in every game, but hasn’t been as consistent, which every young player goes through. Hopefully, he has a good showing Sunday against a quality wide receiver.”
NOTES: G David Diehl (knee) missed his second straight practice. WR Jerrel Jernigan (knee), G James Brewer (ankle) and DT Cullen Jenkins (shin-quad) returned to practice. Jernigan is expected to replace Victor Cruz (knee surgery) as the slot receiver.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)