The physical state of the Giants has paralleled recent weather in the tri-state area because when it comes to Big Blue’s injury report, when it rains it pours.
You can now add starting middle linebacker Jonathan Goff to the list of defensive players who will not help Big Blue this season. Goff, who is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), was injured when he ran into an offensive player during Monday’s practice. The durable Goff didn’t show the usual signs of a player suffering from a torn ACL, as he simply applied ice to the knee afterwards and didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until the knee swelled overnight, however, that Goff decided to go in for further tests, which showed significant damage to his knee.
Head coach Tom Coughlin was as shocked and disappointed as anyone when told of the news — particularly because Goff was having a great preseason and starting to “get it.”
“We’re all shocked and greatly disappointed by the loss of Jon Goff,” said Coughlin. “Jon worked his tail off. He put himself in a position to be our starting middle ‘backer. He’s been an outstanding learner and individual and done a great job with the calls and the checks and done all those things throughout the preseason.”
As glum as Coughlin sounded during yesterday’s press conference, he quickly shifted gears and said he wouldn’t allow for a pity party because the Redskins will not take it any easier on his team.
“We re-group and we accept the challenge,” Coughlin said. “We look at it as another form of adversity. And on we go.”
Where the Giants go from here is anyone’s guess. Coughlin said he hasn’t decided if they’ll add a free agent or simply promote someone from within. But for a squad that has four rookie linebackers on its roster, it’s probably safe to say they’ll at least give a veteran free agent a call. Rumors are that the Giants will bring back Kawika Mitchell, who was a member of New York’s 2007 Super Bowl championship squad. Mitchell, though, has been injury prone since leaving the Giants following their title season.
Should Coughlin be daring, next in line on the depth chart is promising rookie Greg Jones. The former Michigan State star was a tackling machine in college, has a great motor and has impressed Coughlin. But there seems to be an archaic unwritten rule in the NFL to not start rookies — especially at vital spots like middle linebacker. They’re basically the quarterback of the defense, calling audibles and getting guys in the right spot.
Coughlin said he’s not one to label a guy unplayable just because they’re a rookie and said Jones will definitely get a long look.
“We’ll be looking at a couple of things here,” said Coughlin. “[Jones] has been here all preseason. He’s a good football player. He’s had a good preseason. He’s got that force, that inertia. He’s always been an outstanding tackler and physical player … sometimes it’s time to step it up.”
Luckily for the Giants, they have a number of ways to fill Goff’s shoes. They may be green in some areas, as 10 rookies made the cut, but what they lack in experience they make up for it in versatility and aggression. It’s a reason why Coughlin didn’t sound too panicked.
“We can certainly play the game the way we are right now [especially] with the way our breakdown goes positionally right now,” Coughlin said, adding he’ll also give rookie Mark Herzlich a look because the former Boston College star can play all three linebacker spots. “We have to move fast, think fast and make some decisions there — not under the best of circumstances … nevertheless, you press on. That’s what we’re charged with, so here we are.”
Despite a different player seemingly injuring himself daily, Coughlin added the team’s overall morale is fine. It’s the nature of the beast and guys will just have to circle the wagon.
“The way they [the players] presented themselves [yesterday] morning in the defensive meeting was outstanding,” Coughlin encouraged. “[Injuries] are not an excuse. You’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to go do it. ”
Goff is the sixth defensive player to suffer a season-ending injury since the start of training camp, joining cornerbacks Terrell Thomas, Bruce Johnson and Brian Witherspoon, rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin and linebacker Clint Sintim.
Adding insult to the injuries, the Giants’ depth will be tested because prominent players like defensive end Osi Umenyiora (arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 19) and first-round rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara (broken bone in his foot on Aug. 6) also won’t face the Redskins.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, who hasn’t practiced much since suffering a burner (neck) in the preseason game against the Jets, is feeling better and should be ready opening day, so Big Blue at least has some good news on which to pin its hopes.
Big Blue notes
» Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of big brother Peyton almost his entire life. But come Sunday’s opener Eli will have finally bested big brother in something. Peyton has started in 227 consecutive games, including 208 in the regular season — never missing a start in his 13-year career. That will come to an end this Sunday in Houston, however, as Peyton is still nursing his ailing neck.
Meanwhile, Eli is slated to make his 104thconsecutive start at Washington. When asked about Eli potentially becoming the new iron man of quarterbacks, Coughlin said he wasn’t shocked: “It means that he has been able to display toughness and competiveness. One week he was [hurt] with a shoulder and he played. He has that desire and he has that toughness, both physical and mental. He said the first time he walked into my office that he wanted to be the quarterback and leader of this team and he has demonstrated that consistently.”
» Rookie MLB Greg Jones got his first chance to practice with the first-string defense Wednesday and impressed some of the veterans.
“He’s confident,” said veteran strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka. “He’s a regular middle linebacker. He knows what he’s doing. He makes the calls, the adjustments and audibles … he’s intense — just the way we need him to be.”
If Jones starts against the Redskins on Sunday, the sixth-round pick will become the first rookie defender to start an opener for the Giants since 2006, when defensive tackle — and current Redskin — Barry Cofield got the nod in a 26-21 loss to the Colts.
Even if Jones starts Sunday, it’s likely he won’t be making all the pre-snap calls or the calls in the huddle. “It’s a decision for the coaches,” said veteran weakside linebacker Michael Boley, who could make the calls instead. Boley, however, added that even though he usually makes the calls, he’d still tell whoever the middle linebacker that “you run the show.”
Veteran safety Deon Grant was also giving of his advice to Jones: “Know that it’s your defense,” Grant said. “Play full speed. A Mike [middle] linebacker can’t wait on nothing.”
» Former Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn was in the Giants locker room during media availability, early yesterday afternoon. He said he was there to work out for the team in the late afternoon. Blackburn, who’s had shoulder and knee issues in the past, said he feels great and is ready to get to work.
» The Giants worked out 10 players on Tuesday, including cornerbacks Terrence Wheatley and Maurice Rolle, guard Keith Williams, offensive tackles Fenuki Tupou and Joel Reinders, wide receiver Chris Hogan, safety Mark Legree and defensive tackles Kiante Tripp and Sealver Siliga. Wideout Dan DePalma worked out and was added to the practice squad.
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