EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A decimated receiver corps isn’t the Giants’ only problem. Throw in the defense, too.
It hasn’t been able the stop the run this season. The unit has blown fourth-quarter leads in the last three games, and this week Steve Spagnuolo’s group is dealing with the indefinite suspension of veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for violating team rules.
In any given week that would be a lot to overcome. Having to find a way to do it in Denver on Sunday night against the Broncos (3-1) is asking a lot of a team reeling from a 0-5 start that has put second-year coach Ben McAdoo under pressure.
The task becomes even more difficult with the status of linebacker Jonathan Casillas (neck) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle) uncertain for the weekend. Neither practiced either Wednesday nor Thursday. Safety Landon Collins (ankle) also missed the practices, but he said he will play.
Some might wonder why even bother. Spagnuolo isn’t one of them.
“You can’t look at it that way,” Spagnuolo said. “We’d like to have everyone healthy and all the same guys for 16 or 20 games, whatever it is. Yeah, but that’s not the reality in the league. We have to find a way.”
Eli Apple will replace Rodgers-Cromartie as the starting cornerback and Ross Cockrell, who has been playing well in a limited role, will replace DRC in the slot in more obvious passing situations. Cornerback Michael Hunter, who has been inactive the last two games, and Donte Deayon, promoted from the practice squad this week, also may see action.
With all the problems, CB Janoris Jenkins said all the defense can do is prepare and play hard.
“Just stick together,” he said. “We know adversity is going to hit from all types of angles. And just staying focused and just being there for one another.”
Jenkins was actually the focus of some controversy in the waning seconds of Sunday’s 27-22 loss to the Chargers. He walked off the field, saying he did not realize the Giants had called their final timeout. He and McAdoo discussed the issue Tuesday and straightened things out. There was no fine or team discipline.
There has been penalty of criticism of McAdoo, who led the Giants to an 11-5 record in his first season and earned their first playoff berth since 2011. He has been short with the media and he barely addressed the Rodgers-Cromartie suspension, leaving it to a team spokesman to explain that the 31-year-old veteran was suspended for leaving the team facility before practice Wednesday.
The team also said Rodgers-Cromartie left the bench in the second half Sunday and returned, and that McAdoo told him Tuesday he would be inactive this weekend because of that.
It has created the appearance of a rift on a team struggling in a year when big things were expected.
Vernon didn’t want to address the Rodgers-Cromartie situation. He called DRC a great player and leader, but added someone has to step up and replace him.
“I know one thing, we’re the only guys going out there on the field, so whatever everyone else has to say, it doesn’t really matter,” Vernon said. “We’re just going to play Giants football and keep moving forward.”
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison said no one on the defense is feeling down or has stopped work in preparing for the Broncos, whose rushing game is No. 3 in the league, averaging 143 yards.
“You can’t try to change your mindset,” he said. “You just tweak some things you have done throughout the week and try to get a different outcome. It’s always been us against the world.”
NOTES: Besides Vernon and Casillas, S Collins (ankle), RB Paul Perkins (ribs), C Weston Richburg (concussion) and WR Sterling Shepard (ankle) did not practice. DE Romeo Okwara (knee) was limited. … Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said receivers Travis Rudolph and Ed Eagan, who handled punts and kickoffs in the preseason, are the top candidates to replace Dwayne Harris (broken foot). Odell Beckham Jr. (broken ankle) and Shepard were the next two backups, but they won’t be available. Rudolph and Eagan were promoted from the practice squad this week. RB Shane Vereen can handle the jobs, too, if the Giants want to use an experienced player.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)