The Giants head into tonight’s matchup with many defensive problems, but none bigger than the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback Cam Newton.
The second-year phenom hasn’t set the league on fire just yet, as he did during the first month of his rookie campaign last season, but everyone in the Giants’ defensive meeting room has been forewarned.
“We played him in our first preseason game last year and after that game I said he was a franchise quarterback,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “We pressured him a lot and he seemed to handle it. … I think they’re doing some really good things to enhance his athletic ability. The sky is the limit for this guy.”
The Giants hope to limit Newton to being just a pocket passer. Despite his immense throwing ability, Big Blue would rather take its chances with keeping Newton stationary.
Fewell acknowledged he might even assign a defender to shadow the gifted duel-threat passer.
“If it’s necessary I’ll use a spy, [especially] versus an athletic quarterback like Cam Newton or [the Eagles’] Michael Vick,” admitted Fewell, adding he thinks they have the necessary personnel to do so. “I like our athletes at [linebacker].When we face a guy like Cam you have to have 11 guys, not just the linebackers alone. But I do like the speed of our linebackers and the way that they can run and be able to defend these guys. … Because they can bust out at any point in time.”
“We’d like to be able to eliminate the run game and the option game, but he’s also a very accurate passer as well,” said Coughlin. “Cam is certainly powerful and he can run through an arm tackle, no doubt. He’s physically strong enough to withstand the blows that come from rushing the football [because] this guy is big, strong and fast.”
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora said although it’s been a short week of preparation, he’s already tired of listening to the pundits talk about how far the Giants’ vaunted pass rush has fallen. He added he’s specifically anxious to show a prime time audience that the Giants’ defense isn’t as bad they’ve shown in the first two weeks, when mobile quarterbacks Tony Romo and Josh Freeman were able to be evade the rush effectively.
“We’re very motivated. We all know we have to play better. We know we’re a better defense than when we went out there and played,” said Umenyiora.
“I know he’s a talented individual, [but] I think it’s mostly about what we do,” Justin Tuck said. “You can do everything right, [but] then he’ll still find a way to make you look bad. It’s another challenge that we have to be up for. They’re going to present a lot of things that we haven’t seen a lot of in person, [but] I think we’re going to have a good scheme prepared for them. … We just have to make sure that we run to the ball. That can kind of clear up some of the mistakes that we might make. Hopefully we can execute.”
Big Blue notes
» David Diehl has only missed four games since his rookie year in 2003. He has been ruled out for Carolina and will likely be replaced at right tackle by veteran Sean Locklear. Will Beatty, who was originally replaced by Locklear, will then retake his left tackle position. The line shuffling could present a problem if anyone else on the unit goes down, as there’s very little depth remaining, especially at tackle. Only second-year player James Brewer remains as a reserve tackle. Guards Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus have also seen time at tackle in the past.
»Wideout Hakeem Nicks was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his outstanding performance last week in the Giants’ 41-34 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nicks caught 10 passes for a career-high 199 yards and a touchdown. It was the third time Nicks caught at least 10 passes in a regular-season game. His career-high was 12 at Houston (Oct. 10, 2010). He also had 10 receptions in the Giants’ victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI. His previous career-high in yards was 165 at Green Bay in the divisional playoffs last season. His regular-season best was 163 at Dallas (Dec. 11, 2011). Nicks’s 199 receiving yards were the sixth-highest total in franchise history and the most by a Giants receiver since Plaxico Burress had 204 yards vs. St. Louis (Oct. 2, 2005).
Nicks’s sidekick, Victor Cruz, caught 11 passes for 179 yards in the Buccaneers’ game. The duo was the first team in NFL history with two players with at least 10 catches and at least 175 receiving yards in the same game. It was just the second time in the franchise’s history that the Giants had two receivers with at least 10 catches in the same game (Sept. 20, 2009 at Dallas). Mario Manningham had 10 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown, while Steve Smith had 10 catches for 134 yards and a score.
Manning passed for 510 yards in that Buccaneers’ game and along with the receiving duo, joined three Hall of Famers — quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and receivers Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsh and Tom Fears of the 1951 Los Angeles Rams — as the only teammates in history with 500 passing yards, plus two receivers with at least 150 yards in the same game (Sept. 28, 1951 vs. the New York Yanks).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.