The Giants injury report bring bright news on an otherwise gloomy day in New Jersey, as it contains only four names, a wondrously short report for any NFL team in the middle of the season. Jon Beason (foot), Odell Beckham (hamstring), Devon Kennard (hamstring), and Steve Weatherford (ankle) are expected to practice on at least a limited basis, which is how they were listed on the Giants Wednesday practice report. Tom Coughlin confirmed this during his Wednesday press conference.
Coughlin credits the continuation of the recovery stretches that the team started on during training camp with helping improve the Giants injuries. The team has done them on Monday following games during the regular season, and the results are evident above. Beckham has also been working with Rashad Jennings to incorporate more stretching into his personal routine in order to keep his hamstring loose and avoid another pull.
Coughlin expects Beckham to participate in practice both today and tomorrow, and if he sees, “hard back-to-back practices,” then Beckham will make his season debut against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Adding that the offensive game plan now includes some preparation for Beckham’s presence on the field, Coughlin sounds fairly confident that we will finally see the twelfth overall pick in May’s draft on the playing field. While Beckham has attended meetings and has a good grasp of the basics of the offense, Coughlin cautions that, “Under fire and with adjustments and signals, we have to see where he is with that too.”
During the open portion of today’s practice, Beckham returned punts, went full speed, and showed good burst. They key to whether he gets into the game on Sunday will take place in the closed portion when he faces off against teammates in the contact portion and after, when trainers, coaches, and Beckham himself gauge his recovery.
As one would expect, Coughlin was highly complimentary of the Falcons, mentioning their highly ranked offense and the spark Devin Hester has provided to both the offense, and special teams. Saying that Hester “Looks like a young man” when he looked at the game film of his punt return for a touchdown, Coughlin admitted that placing the ball well on punts and kicks, as well as covering them will is critical against a top returner like Hester.
Coughlin would not comment on the Falcons injury issues, saying only, “I’m worried about our team. They do have some injuries. They are a veteran staff and will take care of their team.” With a flair for understatement, Coughlin glossed over that two starting offensive linemen, center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes, were places on injured reserve yesterday, giving the team less than a week to integrate at least two new starters into their offensive line. Also injured during Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings was left guard Justin Blalock, who suffered a back injury, and may not be ready to go against the Giants. This will certainly diminish the effectiveness of the Falcons potent offense.
The message for the team from Coughlin remains consistent, “To play well and win. That’s what we’re here for. That’s the message. To capture the very good preparation we’ve had the last couple of weeks.” Asked if the “Pats on the back” following their two consecutive victories has him worried about a let down, Coughlin quipped, “What pats? [Giants Vice President of Communications Pat] Hanlon tell me that everyone has the sledgehammer out.”
Coughlin complimented Trumaine McBride on his play as nickel cornerback replacing Walter Thurmond, “He did very well the other night. He’s a good player.” Tight coverage off the line of scrimmage will be key against Atlanta as quarterback Matt Ryan will need to get the ball away quickly given the shaky offensive line he will have protecting him.
The Giants offensive line, meanwhile, has been a pleasant surprise over the past few games, as it’s started to come together and play more cohesive and effective football. It’s not a surprise to Coughlin however, who takes full credit for himself and the coaching staff as they tried, “Different combinations until we found the right one.” Coughlin added that the solid line play sets the stage for everyone to play well.
After practice, Beckham said he ran fully in practice, despite being listed as limited on the practice report, and even caught a touchdown late in the session. He felt good afterward and definitely thinks he will play on Sunday. They key will be how he feels tomorrow.
Devon Kennard also practiced with teammates, on the strong side, and said his hamstring feels good. He is “Optimistic” about playing against the Falcons.
The quote of the day goes to tight end Larry Donnell, who said, “I would’ve won if I played myself,” referring to his decision to bench himself in favor of Vernon Davis in fantasy football. His team lost by 15 points. A lot of people shared in his pain on Friday morning.
A big storyline for this week’s game is the return of long time Giant Osi Umenyiora who signed as a free agent with the Falcons prior to the 2013 season. Coughlin responded, “Like Osi,” when asked how Umenyiora looked on game film, then added, “He’s been very, very close on some back door plays.”
Umenyiora spoke with the New York media and admitted that he wishes he had handled some things differently when he was a younger player, but that he has “No regrets.” He does not view this game as an opportunity for revenge, but just another game on the schedule.
Perhaps learning from early outspokenness, Umenyiora wouldn’t comment on his role in the Falcons defense. He’s being used as a pass rush specialist, and while he believes he could contribute more, will do what the coaches tell him is best for the team.
Speaking tongue in cheek, Umenyiora takes credit for Will Beatty’s improved play this season, “Last year, his performance slipped off. This year, he sees me on the schedule and steps up. All of a sudden he’s an All-Pro left tackle.” He continued to poke at his former practice partner, saying that Beatty’s poor performance in 2013 was the result of not having Umenyiora to push him in practice.
Umenyiora has a great deal of respect for Eli Manning, saying that he sees the ball coming out of his hand faster, and that he has command of the new offense. He views Eli as a brother, so he’s not particularly looking forward to facing him. Umenyiora will not be trying to punish him with hits, but “If I have to, I have to.”
He sees his exit from the Giants as a matter of business, with both parties taking the best steps for each of them, and doesn’t expect a chilly reception from fans. Asked if he wishes he was still a New York Giant, Umenyiora replied, “I can’t answer that.” He similarly deflected a question about possibly returning to the team, saying “I can’t think that far ahead.”
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