The Giants are preparing for the winless Dolphins as if they are the undefeated 1972 squad because that’s the only way head coach Tom Coughlin knows how to prepare.
Coughlin said the Dolphins (0-6) aren’t that far away from actually sporting a winning record.
“In my opinion, they have been in every game,” Coughlin said before rattling off all the close loses Miami has suffered, including a Monday Night game against the Patriots. “They’ve been in it during the fourth quarter of nearly every game. When you look at their team, they have a veteran defensive football team. They have lost their [starting] quarterback [Chad Henne], so now it is Matt Moore. He has had a couple games under his belt … ‘Respect all and fear none’ is the approach we take.”
The Giants (4-2) are in the position to capitalize on their current streak, winning four of their last five, before the schedule takes a brutal turn for the worse. Following Sunday’s tilt, Big Blue will play nine teams with serious playoff aspirations, so it’s imperative to jump on the Dolphins early and not let a bad team hang around.
It’s also important to not look ahead and think of Miami as a necessary nuisance on the schedule, according to quarterback Eli Manning.
“They have talent and they do good things and a lot of teams have had trouble with them,” said Manning, also calling the Dolphins dangerous. “Teams aren’t going in there and scoring a whole lot of points against them. You have to be sound. You can’t give them easy plays and you can’t give them turnovers or good field position … we have to take care of our business on all three phases of the game and make sure we’re doing good things.”
To a man, the Giants recognize that Miami can be pesky if they’re allowed to stick around, particularly quarterback Matt Moore, whom cornerback Corey Webster deemed “a gamer.” It was Moore who once torched the Giants’ secondary as a member of the Panthers in the final game at the old Giants Stadium in 2009. Moore completed 15-of-20 for 171 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and a 139.8 rating in a 41-9 win — their worst home loss since 1998. The performance essentially eliminated the Giants from the playoffs.
Many of the Giants defenders from that day are still on the roster, so they’re very much aware of what Moore can do. Webster said he won’t be taking Moore lightly again.
“We played against him when he was with Carolina and we know that he is going to get the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays with their run-after-catch abilities,” Webster said. “They have a good core group of athletic guys that can break a play at any time so we have to be disciplined and stay close in our coverage. We have to be very disciplined in our assignments and stay close when we are down the field.”
Moore is battling bruised ribs, but should still start. If not, and the Dolphins start their third-string quarterback, Webster said that still won’t be a time to exhale. He added Coughlin made sure to drill that message home every day.
“It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, we have to go out there and impose our will on them,” Webster said. “Our job as a defense is to stop them on offense. We are going to do what we were taught to do and trained to do, which is pressure the quarterback, get hits on him, try to get some sacks and turn over the ball. That is all we can control.”
What Big Blue can certainly control is their own mindset. Webster assured that the Giants won’t be looking ahead to next week’s opponent, at New England.
“It doesn’t matter who we are playing or what their record is, our next best challenge is the next team on your schedule, no matter what their record is,” Webster said. “Anything can happen. Everybody is professional, everybody is good and anybody can win. They haven’t put it together yet, but that doesn’t say that they are not going to be prepared and come out here and work hard to put their best foot forward. We have to do exactly the same and match their intensity and even be greater at that. We will get the ‘W’ if we do those things and take care of our business.”
Big Blue notes
» Running back Brandon Jacobs is back in the fold, but following a “Men’s Fitness” online magazine interview that ran Thursday, this might be one of the last few times Jacobs gets to don the blue. When asked about his future in New York and whether he sees himself with the Giants beyond his contract, Jacobs said “No, I don’t.” Jacobs may prove prophetic because he restructured his contract this past summer so the Giants could re-sign good friend Ahmad Bradshaw, taking a base-salary pay cut in 2011. His new backloaded contract stipulates he’s due a $500,000 roster bonus in March 2012, at which point the Giants will certainly waive him before ponying up the cash.
» Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake has been a focal point of the Giants’ offensive line preparation this week. Wake, a Pro Bowler last season after tallying 14 sacks, is as good a pass rusher there is. He already has five this season. Wake has publicly downplayed this game, but rest assured he remembers being cut by the Giants in 2005 as an undrafted rookie free agent, which facilitated his long journey back to the NFL in 2009 following a stint in the Canadian Football League.
Wake won’t be the only Dolphin pass rusher who will try to jam up the Giants’ passing game, as the Dolphins have been an aggressive unit all season. They have 14 sacks as a defense, with six coming last week. Miami has been known to not only send linebackers but defensive backs as well. 10 Dolphins have at least one sack. Coughlin said he’s most worried about guys like “[Linebacker Jason] Taylor, who historically has been physical. [Linebacker Karlos] Dansby is physical at the mike backer [middle linebacker]. And their safety [Yeremiah] Bell coming out of the secondary, he is a very physical player … you know they’re coming. That’s just the nature of the game.”
» Webster said he has his own worries when the Dolphins have the ball: “I just know that we want to be close to the playmakers that they have — the Reggie Bushes and Brandon Marshalls of the world. We want to be close to all of their playmakers so that hopefully they don’t get big plays down the field. We need to eliminate those to help us get the W on Sunday.”
» The Giants once again had near-full participation from its entire 53-man roster, Thursday.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.