It’s déjà vu all over again for the Giants, as injuries remain the top story for the second consecutive preseason.
Luckily for the Giants, they seem to whether the storm as well as any team in the league. Last year at this time, they lost five players in the secondary to injured reserve. The roster gouging hasn’t been as bad this summer due to general manager Jerry Reese adding depth to the roster — specifically on defense — by either adding affordable veteran help (Keith Rivers and Shaun Rogers) or stockpiling the bottom-third of the roster with young talent like Adewale Ojomo, Mark Herzlich and Adrian Tracy. All three have had nice summers and will be counted on to contribute in some way this season.
Such depth is probably why head coach Tom Coughlin isn’t stressing too much over key guys going down. Plus, as Coughlin noted, this is happening in the preseason when the team has enough time to adjust.
“I love it when you ask me if I’m concerned,” Coughlin said gruffly when asked if the accumulating injuries cause sleepless nights. “I don’t know. No, I’m not concerned. If anything drives you nuts in this business, it’s that stuff.”
Coughlin’s crankiness could be attributed to the fact that instead of discussing the injuries, he’d rather talk about the guys who are admirably filling in.
“We’ll look for people to step up [because] there’s going to be ample playing time for a lot of people who are in position to prove whether or not they can help us. People that we can utilize their skill level will have another opportunity against another good opponent [New England] to prove this,” Coughlin said. “Whether they’re young, they’re rookies, or whatever status they are. We’re always looking and always evaluating and always challenging.”
One guy who will look to improve his standing on the depth chart is Ojomo. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound rookie free agent from the University of Miami leads the team in sacks this preseason and has certainly caught the coaches’ eyes. Ojomo has benefitted from injuries along the defensive line to showcase his underrated pass-rushing skills and stout play against the run. So far he looks like the best option to replace the departed Dave Tollefson as the first end off the bench.
Chris Canty, whose knee injury has opened the door for guys like Ojomo, can only watch from the sidelines and be supportive. But he said he likes what he’s seen from fill-ins like Ojomo, Tracy, Dwayne Hendricks, Markus Kuhn and Matt Broha.
“These guys have had strong performances in the preseason, picking up on the learning curve and understanding what this game is about,” said Canty. “I’m excited to see what those guys can do production-wise. We’ve seen glimpses of it in the preseason. They’re going to become more consistent as they get more snaps playing. It’s exciting to see their development.”
Ojomo’s development in particular is stunning. During his three-year career at Miami, Ojomo played in 35 games (14 starts), tallied 79 tackles (42 solo and 16 for losses) and just 9.5 sacks. That’s hardly a dominating tenure, so his ascension this summer has been a pleasant surprise.
But the rookie has seized the opportunity created by increased playing time as the regulars nurse injuries. He’s also been smart enough to soak up whatever knowledge shared to him by the veterans ahead of him.
“There’s some real good guys giving you little tips,” Ojomo said of veterans like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. “But I also learn from just watching them on film. It pretty much gives you an edge on everybody else because this is one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. … I’ve been working with Tuck a lot and there’s a lot of technique that goes into it. Just working with those guys I came a long way.”
Ojomo added he’ll continue to maximize his time on the field against the Patriots and wants to show he’s no fluke.
“I’m not really surprised [with his early success] because I just believe in myself, believe in the coaching that I’m getting from coach Robert Nunn and from what I’m getting from these guys,” said Ojomo. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I went out and had a couple more sacks this game, so, no, it’s not surprising to me. I don’t consider myself a guy with a flash. I did it the week before, I did it this past week and I’m going to do it again this week.”
Big Blue notes
»Canty didn’t sound as if he agreed with the coaching and medical staffs on being put on the PUP list, but added it ultimately wasn’t his call: “I feel like I’m close [to recovery]. But at the end of the day, the coaches and medical staff feel it’s in the best interest of the team for me to be on PUP right now. So, that’s what we’re doing [because] they did not feel comfortable putting me back on the football field with full confidence that I will be able to compete at a high level. … Basically, I was told what the decision was so it doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I was brought here to do a job and right now they don’t feel that I could do that job, so that’s what it is.”
»Ojomo isn’t the only young player that’s been a surprise, as Coughlin said he’s been pleasantly surprised with the way maligned wideout Ramses Barden has progressed: “I like the way he defines his routes, the utilization of his hands and the position of his hands to make catches. He’s also been involved in special teams [and] done a pretty good job with the kickoff and punt return teams. … He’s contributed and made a strong statement.”
»Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said not to worry about his groin. Kiwanuka was injured on the final play of the first half against the Bears, but said he’ll “definitely” be ready for the opener: “I was on the ground and somebody fell on top of me. Legs aren’t made to go that way, so it was a ‘side swipe’ or whatever you want to call it. It shouldn’t be too serious. … I’ll just take a couple of days off, rest it, rehab it, whatever they have scheduled. I have a timetable, but I do not anticipate being more than a week.”
»Cornerback Terrell Thomas also thinks he can be ready for opening night. Thomas is trying to strengthen an aggravated ACL injury and has started running on the underwater treadmill, squatting and lunging. Thomas said he’s “hoping” to get the go-ahead from Dr. Russell Warren to start running later this week: “I’m doing everything like I was 100 percent but obviously we’re still taking it slow. It’s in the doctor’s hands [but] I’m never going to sell myself short. I always want to compete and I’ve been pushing myself very hard in the weight room and in the training room. I feel great. I feel like I’m improving [and] my leg feels great. … My goal is to play tomorrow if they’d allow me, but I’m sure they want to save me for the long haul and I understand the process since I aggravated my injury. I missed all last year so I don’t want to do that again.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.