By Curt Macysyn
New York Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin thought that tight end Daniel Fells would be able to suit up against the Buffalo Bills, so when the veteran tight end did not even make the trip to western New York, it certainly raised eye brows. Later on, we found out that Fells was hospitalized over the weekend with an infection, a far cry from the ankle injury that the Giants had listed on their injury report. Fells remains hospitalized with a staph infection that was discovered as doctors cleaned out the joint that was giving him problems. And this year’s rookie class had high expectations to perform early on, as the Giants clearly went in the direction of a youth movement. So, how often are the first-year players on the field? And how well are they performing?
The MRSA (staph) infection, which sidelined New York Giants’ tight end Daniel Fells against the Buffalo Bills this weekend, has ended his season. The team announced on Wednesday that Fells was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Head coach Tom Coughlin indicated that the team has taken precautions against the spread of the infection and had a players’ meeting to discuss the matter on Wednesday. “We had (senior vice president of medical services) Ronnie Barnes, we had team doctors, we had the person in charge of our facility in here to talk about the way the cleaning process is normally underway, and what we have done in addition to that, as well,” Coughlin said.
Fells remains in the hospital, where he will likely stay until Thursday at the earliest, and the team is hopeful that the worst is over. “We are concerned about Daniel Fells, we’re very concerned about that,” Coughlin emphasized. “We still do not know the reason for the infection or where it came from. But the players were all obviously very supportive of Daniel.”
With Fells and rookie Jerome Cunningham both missing Sunday’s game, the Giants’ signed free agent Will Tye of the practice squad. Tye had huge dropped pass in the third quarter against the Bills, that helped stall a promising drive for New York. It was reported on Tuesday that the team had four tight ends in for a workout, including old friend Adrien Robinson. Robinson caught five passes in three mostly injury-plagued years with Big Blue. The full tight end quartet included Robinson, Cameron Clear, Dominique Jones and Brian Leonhardt.
None of the try out participants are going to make Giants’ fans forget Mark Bavaro, or even Howard Cross for that matter, so surely general manager should be lobbing a phone call into the Bears’ front office to see what it might take to pry Martellus Bennett away from the Windy City. As currently constructed, the Giant’s tight end corps remains the weakest link on the offensive side of the ball.
For the first time in a while, the Giants have relied on a number of rookies to fill key positions entering the season. With injuries to Jason Pierre-Paul and Will Beatty, and no incumbent starters at safety, the team had to inject some of their young players right into the fire this season. As with most young players, the Giants’ rookie are a work in progress, but progress is clearly being made.
Safety Landon Collins had his best game as a professional against Buffalo on Sunday and graded out in the green (+1.0) according to Pro Football Focus. Collins was on the field for all 78 defensive snaps and was credited with seven tackles and a quarterback hurry. He also missed four tackles, according to PFF, but that falls under the category of work in progress, and will likely improve as he gets more time under his belt.
Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers returned from an ankle injury, and he played 63 snaps with a (+2.0) grade, his best of the season. Having the rookie left tackle in the line-up allows Justin Pugh to slide to the guard position, and the unit clearly gets strengthened with that combination. Something that has flown under the radar thus far is the fact that Geoff Schwartz is rounding into shape and has had two solid games in a row. Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle at right tackle (-9.2), so the Giants hope that Will Beatty can make a return to the line-up in the next month. Perhaps, we can circle November 15 against the New England Patriots as the target date?
Rookie full back Nikita Whitlock played 13 snaps on offense, and he also played nine snaps on defense. Whitlock is a battering ram with a constant motor, and he attained his first NFL sack on Sunday against the Bills’ Tyrod Taylor. Simply put, number 49 is fun to watch. Linebacker Uani Unga was in for 20 plays on defense for Big Blue, mostly spelling Jon Beason who played 33 snaps. Defensive coordinator Steve Spanuolo has seemingly played the hot hand, especially in his linebacking unit, as Jonathan Casillas has seen 81 snaps in the past two games.
Finally, Owa Odighizuwa saw his first action as a professional on Sunday, and he logged significant time at defensive end in his first game. Odighizuwa was in for 48 snaps and graded out to be the worst Giants’ defender with a (-3.3) grade by Pro Football Focus. The Giants led for most of the contest against Buffalo, so the Bills had to rely on their passing game too heavily, which is why some of the snap counts may seem out of the ordinary for Big Blue.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.