For the first time perhaps all season, the Giants are the healthier of the two teams going into a game.
Looking to take advantage of opportunities recent events have given them, coach Tom Coughlin has made his team well aware of the circumstances. The Falcons are already beaten up, by the the time they walk off the field at Giants Stadium, Coughlin wants them bloodied and bruised.
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“It felt pretty good to have everybody out there working,” Coughlin said of perfect attendance at Thursday’s practice. “That was a good sign. We had enough room to accommodate all the new bodies.”
Conversely, the Falcons have key players that have either practiced sparingly or not at all this week. Pro Bowl wideout Roddy White missed two practices, Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner will be a game-time decision and left tackle Sam Baker has been limited in practice all week with an ankle injury. Baker, a first-round pick last season, has been an anchor and the linchpin of a unit that hasn’t allowed a sack in 18 consecutive quarters.
“I hope he goes,” said Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. “He’s that good of a player that I think they’ll be confident enough to leave him out there by himself.”
Umenyiora said he would rather see one-on-one blocking instead of the chip-blocking running backs and tight ends do on defensive ends.
“If they put someone in there [instead of Baker] it’ll be a chip-a-thon and slide [blocking],” he offered. “I like when the good ones play because when the sorry ones are playing that’s when all the chips and help come.”
He stressed that a renewed Giants defense can be a factor again and pointed out they’re still the league’s top defense in yards allowed per game.
“We’re stopping people for the most part but are giving up the big plays here and there, ever since the New Orleans game,” said Umenyiora, who thinks a healthy defense can be the difference. “We’re not going to give up as many big plays [the second half of the season]. We eliminate the big plays and we should be OK.”
A zone-blocking team, the Falcons can plug in Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling in place of Turner and not miss a beat.
“That is their bread and butter,” Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said of Atlanta’s zone-blocking scheme. “If you get two guys in the same gap or you have an undefended gap, that is inevitably where the ball finds itself and that is where they rip through your front seven.”
Atlanta is second in the league in rushing yards per game [152.7] but Umenyiora stressed the Falcons’ ground success wasn’t all about Turner.
“The offensive line is the one creating the holes for Turner,” Umenyiora said. “I think whoever they put back there is going to be able to run effectively if we don’t do our jobs.”