Giants defense worried about facing Chargers’ offense

Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers presents the best QB the Giants have seen in recent weeks.
Credit: Getty Images

The Giants’ defense has been hot of late, but there are still critics who scoff at Big Blue’s recent success because many of their wins were against inferior quarterbacks.

That won’t be a question on Sunday, as they’ll face the potent Chargers offense, led by quarterback Philip Rivers. The 10-year veteran has regained his Pro Bowl mojo this season, sparked by the arrival of first-time head coach Mike McCoy. Rivers is a four-time Pro Bowler and has already passed for 3,500 yards for the sixth straight season.

“This is an explosive offensive team. They’re fifth in the league in total offense at 401 [yards]. And they’re second in the league on third down, which is outstanding,” Coughlin said. “Philip Rivers is having a great year. He has a 70 percent completion [percentage], 23 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 104 quarterback rating. The ball comes out quick [and] they’re diversified in how they operate. All you’ve got to do is look at that third-down number. That’s hard to do in this league now and because the nature of their offense, the complicated looks that they see on third down, you have to give them a lot of credit for that.”

Coughlin is known for pumping up the opponent, but one look at what the Chargers (5-7) have been able to do under McCoy is all any critic needs to see.

Linebacker Jon Beason, who’s been lauded as the guy who gave Big Blue a jolt of energy and swagger since coming over via trade in October, said he’s up for the challenge of trying to keep the Chargers out of the end zone.

“We haven’t given up many big plays, which we consider a big play as a play over 20 yards,” Beason said. “The good thing is that sometimes you may give up those big plays, but as long as they result in field goals, that’s OK. … Yards don’t really equate to points at the end of the day.”

By Sunday afternoon, the Giants (5-7) could have a good problem on their hands, as Trumaine McBride, who has filled in nicely at starting cornerback for the last few games as Corey Webster sat out with injuries, was back on the practice field and did some drills. McBride didn’t play in the Washington game, but will likely be ready for the Chargers. Webster was also seen practicing, while Jayron Hosley was on the field and looking sharp. Should most everyone return for the Chargers’ game, Big Blue could have a logjam at cornerback.

They’ll appreciate that glut considering San Diego has at least six reliable targets in the passing game — led by rookie wideout Keenan Allen (58 receptions, 843 yards and three scores) and future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates (64 catches, 726 yards and three scores).

Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has solidified himself as the Giants’ No. 1 cover guy, sheepishly smiled when asked his thoughts about the Chargers’ spread passing game — particularly the guys he’ll likely cover most of the game.

“I’ve been watching lots of film on [Allen] for the last couple days and he’s great. He just burst on the scene and is making plays and it doesn’t look like he takes plays off. It’s going to be a great matchup,” Amukamara said, adding he’s also paying close attention to the tight ends. “Gates is Gates. He’s done some great things. But that No. 89 [backup Ladarius Green], man, 6-foot-5, [and he] can run a 4.4[-second 40-yard dash]. He’s very athletic and learning from Gates. They’re both threats down the field.”

Amukamara said to prepare for the Chargers, a team they only see every four years or so, he likened what he saw on film to their NFC East rivals in Dallas. The Cowboys, Amukamara said, have weapons all over the field, like the Chargers. So, by already playing Dallas twice and seeing what they can do, it makes the adjustments easier.

“The personnel is quite similar. They are great in the same areas, especially with their scatbacks who can catch the ball out of the backfield,” said Amukamara, naming running back Danny Woodhead by name. “Everybody is going to have their work cut out for them. … It’s a good challenge.”

Big Blue notes …

» Justin Tuck was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week — the third Giant to win the award in the team’s last five games. Cornerback Terrell Thomas and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul were the other honorees. The nine-year veteran had a career-high four sacks of Robert Griffin III in the Giants’ come-from-behind 24-17 victory over Washington Sunday night. This is the Giants’ 39th NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award since it was instituted in 1984.

» The Giants’ prepractice injury report list didn’t have any additional names from last week. The list included running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), McBride (groin), defensive end Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and cornerbacks Thomas (knee) and Webster (ankle).

» Eli Manning will be playing in front of the San Diego crowd he shunned at the 2004 NFL Draft. Manning refused to play for the Chargers despite being the franchise’s No. 1 overall pick and forced a trade to the Giants. When asked about the trade that eventually sent Manning to the Giants and Rivers to the Chargers — and whether it was worth it — Coughlin smirked and said, “There’s a couple things [Super Bowl trophies] out in the hallway you might want to take a look at.” Manning, of course, is 2-0 in Super Bowls, while Rivers has yet to even play in the big game.

Manning, however, has yet to beat the Chargers in his career. San Diego is one of three teams that Manning has yet to beat, including the Colts and Titans.

» The Giants offensive line has given up at least one sack in every game this season.

» According to Pro Football Focus, the preeminent website that charts and grades every snap of every player in the NFL, Giants rookie tackle Justin Pugh has allowed just 10 quarterback pressures in the last seven games. Pugh is also the only Giants offensive lineman with a positive overall grade for the season.

» The Giants have allowed eight touchdowns to the tight end position this season, including four in two games by Jason Witten of the Cowboys.

» Big Blue has only allowed two 300-yard passing games all season (Peyton Manning of the Broncos and Scott Tolzien of the Packers). Rivers will be a big test considering he’s racked up four games of 350 yards or more.

» The Chargers are first in completion percentage at an astounding 70 percent.

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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