By Ernie Palladino
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It’s happening again.
Only one preseason game in, Giants fans must get the feeling they’re watching a Stephen King movie played on a perpetual loop in their minds.
It’s not so much the 23-10 loss to the Bengals Friday night, but the fact that injuries once again are ravaging an area the Giants can least afford the manpower shortage.
In years previous, it was a scanty cornerback spot, and Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas dropped out and left the cupboard bare. Saturday, the team awoke to find widespread problems across the entire secondary, including a safety reservoir that started shallow and has now reached drought conditions.
This is the year the Giants are supposed to return to the playoffs, the season they make good on co-owner John Mara’s win-or-else proclamation at the end of last year’s 6-10 disaster. This is the year that potentially would provide Tom Coughlin a winning career exit and a smooth transition of power, perhaps to offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
But unless the Giants can figure out a way to stop an opposing offense, none of that happens.
Not if the big question remains, “Who the heck can we line up?”
The list of the sidelined is far more impressive than the list of the physically able.
Amukamara, impressive last year until his bicep popped in Week 9 against the Colts, is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the secondary this year. He didn’t practice in Cincinnati due to a groin injury that needed a cortisone injection. He may have to sit another week or two, and even then, groin injuries tend to be tricky and long-lasting.
Nat Berhe, who is supposed to be battling Cooper Taylor for a safety spot, didn’t even make the trip because of a calf strain. Cornerback Chykie Brown stayed home with a bad leg.
That was before they even snapped the ball. After the first snap, a whole parade of others hit the locker room prematurely.
Granted, losing fifth-round pick Mykkele Thompson (Achilles) for the season will never be regarded as a death blow, but he was making headway on the safety depth chart as well as special teams. But not having second-rounder Landon Collins for the foreseeable future as his sprained MCL heals is going to hurt badly. Collins is a starter despite his rookie status. The more snaps he misses, the less the hands-on learning so vital in picking up defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system.
That gaping hole Antrel Rolle’s and Stevie Brown’s free agent departures caused at safety? Well, it’s wide open again. And stopping it up with former Raven Jeromy Miles or cornerback convert Bennet Jackson next to Taylor offers little confidence that the Giants can stop any throw to the deep middle zone.
Don’t think for a minute that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant aren’t already cooking up a little something to exploit that in the Sept. 13 opener, even if Collins does get back in a couple of weeks.
Until then, Coughlin and Spagnuolo will stake a lot of their hopes on former Patriot and Redskin Brandon Meriweather.
When it comes to injuries, though, the Giants never leave things half-done. Jayron Hosley, a cornerback who was making progress, went out with head and neck problems. Trumaine McBride, a solid nickel cornerback, strained a hamstring.
It may be too early to start ringing the funeral bell, especially if the 31-year-old, former first-rounder and Pro Bowler Meriweather proves to have enough left to be effective. But history speaks poorly of these occurrences. In a sport where the healthiest team wins, the Giants look like they’re on that hospital train again.
And all Coughlin can do is hope his wounded return quickly, hope any future signing is slightly more useful than a mere spot filler, and hope his back line doesn’t become the Giants’ gift to opposing offenses.