Giants shift focus to Cardinals
The Giants began preparing for the Cardinals yesterday, still riding high off their beatdown of the Eagles. Yet, head coach Tom Coughlin said in order to fully give their next opponent its undivided attention, they’d have to forget all about the Eagles and focus on another team with a bird moniker.
“Last week’s win is over. We can’t go into this game with great confidence if we’re not prepared,” Coughlin said. “We’re preparing ourselves for the Arizona Cardinals — a good football team that had a lot of changes this offseason. They’ve lost some close games and this isn’t a normal 1-2 team. They’ve lost both games by a total of four points.”
The Cardinals posses the same types of problems that the Eagles were thought to give the Giants last week. Arizona has its own Philadelphia ties, as former Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb is now at the controls. While not as skilled a runner as Mike Vick, Kolb is also mobile and possesses a very good arm. And like the Eagles, the Cardinals (1-2) have some dangerous weapons in the passing game. Led by annual Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald (15 catches for 259 yards), the Cardinals’ passing game includes receiving tight ends Todd Heap (109 yards) and Jeff King (two touchdowns), as well as Early Doucet (10 catches, 175 yards).
The Giants (2-1) are as stout against the run as any team in the league — only yielding 3.6 yards per carry — but still have holes in their inconsistent, injury-riddled secondary. Opponents have thrown for 847 yards so far in the first three games, an average of 282 yards per game. They’ll need to shore up that part of the defense because Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former offensive coordinator, will certainly try to exploit such mismatches.
Coughlin said that’s where early preparation is key.
“We’ll study, look at things and then we’ll prepare,” Coughlin said, stressing Wednesdays as the key day of preparation. “We have a universal approach at the beginning of the week and then it tapers its way down to a workable list or menu for the finished game plan.”
It’s been a couple years since these teams faced one another, and the Cardinals have undergone a huge facelift since then. Coughlin said his team would probably have to put in even more work this week than last. The Eagles are a longtime bitter rival, so knowing tendencies and getting up for that game wasn’t difficult, Coughlin noted.
“We don’t know this team very well [because] it’s been a couple of years since we played them, so there’ll have to be extra time put in to be prepared for them,” Coughlin said, adding the Cardinals’ schemes aren’t what the Giants usually face. “They’re a 3-4 team, much like the style of the Steelers, [and] they’re a very physical style. They’ve got good balance and are a tough and physical football team. We’ll need that same type of preparation as we had last week, which was outstanding.”
The one area Coughlin wants corrected is the Giants’ ability to eat up large chunks of the game clock, hopefully keeping Kolb, Fitzgerald and Co. off the field. Coughlin noted that while last week’s scoreboard indicated otherwise, the Eagles owned the tempo, possessing a 36:51 to 23:09 advantage in time of possession. He’d like to reverse that and one way to do so is to get running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs even more involved than last week. The duo combined for over 200 yards of total offense last week, but Coughlin feels they can carry even more of a load.
“We’ll keep chipping away,” Coughlin said of the clock, adding the winner of the turnover battle has a greatly-enhanced chance of winning. “The point has been driven home so hard that everyone [is aware] and can rattle off the [turnover] stats.”
Big Blue notes
» Wideout Mario Manningham (concussion) practiced yesterday and looked like his speedy self snaring deep passes.
» Brandon Stokley was escorted to a waiting car by trainer Ronnie Barnes with a huge ice pack and an ace bandage on his knee. The official report was a strained quad.
» Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee) also participated, while his bookend-brethren Justin Tuck (groin/neck) did not. Coughlin said there’s no guarantee that Umenyiora plays Sunday, as he’d like to see the pass rusher participate in a string of practices before deciding: “We’re hoping we can have at least one good day of practice and hopefully no repercussions [before deciding].”
» Coughlin decided to take the sarcastic route when discussing the healing process of injured cornerback Prince Amukamara. The rookie from Nebraska was the final first-round holdout, and promptly broke his foot during his first official practice as a Giant. Coughlin said lesson learned and he will ease Amukamara back into the mix once he’s 100 percent healthy, because “It didn’t work last time, remember?”
» Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who is on injured reserve (IR), was seen throwing passes during practice to oft-injured wideout Ramses Barden, who is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. The hitch, however, was that under league rules, any player on IR is prohibited from working out with teammates, as they can only work out with trainers. PUP players aren’t allowed to practice with teammates until Week 7, but they can return anytime between Week 7 and Week 9. After Week 9, the team must decide to activate the player or put him on IR. Rosenfels was not supposed to be throwing to Barden, since the veteran quarterback is on IR, so as soon as team officials saw him doing it, they stopped him.
» Despite the mounting injuries, Coughlin said he’s pleased with how resilient his team has been: “There’s a feeling in the room of accomplishment to get things done. You do realize that it takes everybody. Everybody on your team is going to get called upon at one time or another to make a contribution to help you win. Whatever position you are talking about, it is the ability to have some flexibility within that group that gives you the opportunity to plan.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.