Giants head coach Tom Coughlin likes to use the phrase “next man up” any time it’s feasible. And unfortunately for the grizzled coach, he’s had to use that credo more than he’d probably like during Big Blue’s offseason workout program.
Wideout Hakeem Nicks and defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul were all absent from Thursday’s voluntary organized team activity (OTAs), but of the three, only Nicks was unexcused — again.
Nicks continues to join fellow wideout Victor Cruz in abstaining from team workouts, although Cruz’s issue is due to him seeking a new contract. But in Nicks’s case, no real reason has been given for his absence and the lack of communication on his end is certainly starting to get under the skin of Coughlin.
“I have not, no. None,” Coughlin said when asked if he’s heard from Nicks or his representatives since he missed the last round of OTAs. “At one point Hakeem told me he was going to be here and then he was not here. ... In the strictest interpretation everybody knows it’s a voluntary program, [but] I am not balancing [guys missing time] very well.”
Coughlin went on to pine about the circumstances of the important missing pieces.
“It’d be great to have everyone here. But you deal with this pretty much on a yearly basis and it’s just a product of our system and that’s the way it is,” Coughlin said. “I can complain all I want, but that’s just the way it is. ... Most of the time, if a guy is in the program and he’s going to miss [a workout], he’ll tell us he won’t be in.”
The coach didn’t give reasons for the missing defensive ends, but added he was told in advance they wouldn’t be participating on Thursday. He then allowed that he “expects them both tomorrow.”
Tuck and Pierre-Paul are certainly in no danger of losing their starting positions, but their fill-ins, Mathias Kiwanuka and Adrian Tracy, looked fluid in their place. Both are converted linebackers, although Kiwanuka has played literally every front-seven position in his Giants’ career, including starting last season at strongside linebacker.
Tracy, who has yet to make a splash in the rotation during his first three seasons, said he’s relishing the opportunity to get in extra reps. And while he likely won’t unseat either of the starters, he’s soaking up everything being tossed his way and enjoying his temporary status running with the first unit.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of any opportunities. The way I see it, it’s more opportunities to get better ... get back into the playbook and be able to ask coaches questions, as well get some added work in the weight room,” said Tracy. “Whenever you’re able to take advantage of those things, you take it, because if you don’t someone else will take advantage of those opportunities of being here.”
Wideout Jerrel Jernigan echoed Tracy’s sentiments, but sounded a little remorseful that he hasn’t been able to pick the brains of either Cruz or Nicks.
“In the meeting room with the coaches I try and learn all I can in there because I don’t have Cruz or Nicks out there to coach me up on the field, so I just have to get it all in the classroom,” said Jernigan. “I’m loving that I’m getting more time with Eli [Manning] and getting an opportunity to get more reps and experience out there. I feel we’re getting on the same page and getting our timing together so I can feel more comfortable. ... No doubt, it’s an opportunity. Without [Cruz and Nicks] being here it’s just next man up to show what we’ve got.”
Big Blue notes ...
» The Giants signed two free agents this week, rookie tight end Chase Clement of LSU and fourth-year linebacker Kyle Bosworth of the Jaguars, by way of UCLA. If the latter player sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the nephew of former NFL linebacker Brian Bosworth, one of the most distinguishable players of the late 1980s — even though his playing career was cut short due to injuries.
Bosworth said he’s “not as flamboyant” as his uncle, but does have ties to the spotlight outside of the NFL, as he’s engaged to Kara Keough of “Real Housewives” reality television fame. While saying he’s not adverse to one day joining his fiancée on the reality television circuit, Bosworth said right now he’s totally focused on learning the Giants’ playbook. The younger Bosworth said the Giants were his first scheduled workout earlier this week after not being tendered an offer from the Jaguars, and he apparently won over the coaching staff because he immediately signed a deal with the team. Bosworth, a Texas native and lifelong Cowboys fan, said he’s looking forward to playing them and “has no problem” beating them.
He added that the relationship between him and his famous uncle is a bit distant right now, although adding they’re still “very close … it’s just been a matter of circumstances over the years since I got into the league.” Bosworth believes he has a “strong” chance to stick on the roster because he can play “every linebacker position.” Coughlin noted that having a guy like Bosworth can be invaluable.
“We felt Bosworth would be a nice fit with him being a linebacker and special teamer,” Coughlin said. “Just a good multiple-position guy.”
» Tight end Bear Pascoe saw action at fullback with regular starter Henry Hynoski out with a knee injury and likely lost for the summer. Coughlin said it was business as usual with Pascoe, who has subbed in at fullback before.
“We’re very confident in whatever role that Bear is placed in,” Coughlin said. “We’re very sorry about Henry’s injury, but Bear has had opportunities before to play [various positions] and has always done a nice job.”
» Jernigan appeared to injure is left leg midway through the session and was seen with an ice wrap around the hamstring. He noted it’s not a big deal: “Just a little tweak but I’ll be all right.”
» Second-year wideout Rueben Randle also took advantage of the missing starting receivers, and Coughlin took notice.
“He’s moving in that [ascending] direction,” Coughlin said. “He’s certainly getting the opportunities. If there’s a guy that really has a chance to step his game up and show what he can do, it’s happening right now with Rueben.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.