The NFL bye week is time for teams to get healthy, assess where they are and devise a plan for improvement when they finally return to action.
The Giants will use the bye week for all of the above, but will also keep an eye toward the future. Of their remaining 10 games, the Giants (4-2) only have one gimme — home against the hapless Dolphins (0-5) in two weeks. But after squishing the fish, the Giants face a murderous schedule. Looking ahead, New York then plays at the Patriots (5-1), at the rejuvenated 49ers (5-1), home for the Eagles (2-4), at the Saints (4-2), home for the world champion Packers (6-0), at the Cowboys (2-3), home for the Redskins (3-2), “at” the Jets (3-3) in what should be a highly-charged Christmas Eve tilt and finally a home night game against the Cowboys on New Year’s Day. There’s not a patsy in sight.
Surely life will be much easier if the walking wounded return within two weeks. Big Blue can surely use the services of Justin Tuck (neck/groin), Brandon Jacobs (knee), Chris Snee (concussion) and Prince Amukamara (foot). Those are three stellar starters and one prized rookie that can go a long way in determining if New York’s fast start is yet another mirage, as it has been the last two seasons, or the start of a playoff-caliber season.
How well they rest, get healthy and assess what needs to improve is imperative in the second half of the season. Head coach Tom Coughlin said he’s confident his team got his message and rewarded the team with an extra day’s rest. As mandated by the new collective bargaining agreement, the players are scheduled to have four days off — from Thursday through Sunday— but Coughlin said they tied up all looses ends, watched enough film and he has a great feel for his team’s mentality going into their mini-vacation.
“I feel like we got organized and put in some good field work,” Coughlin said, adding while most of the players will go away, he and his coaching staff will mostly stick around the facilities this week. “We talked about what the plan is going forward, so I feel good where we are.”
Veteran left guard David Diehl agreed that the team got Coughlin’s message and said he feels everyone is going into the break with clear minds. He added while everyone uses their bye week differently, guys will be thinking of what lies ahead.
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“We are going to see what we need to do for these next 10 games and the rest of the season,” Diehl said. “We are going to see what we need to correct to make sure the rest of our season is successful.”
Big Blue notes
»The Giants employ a base 4-3 defense, but have gotten away from that in recent weeks. The past two games have featured more of a 5-2 nickel look, where there are five defensive backs and only two linebackers. The linebackers have been the speedier types like Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams, while starting strongside linebacker and converted defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka has been logging most of his time back at defensive end on obvious passing downs. Kiwanuka said all the moving around he does on defense is not a problem. The versatile defender said pass rushing is what comes naturally, as his two sacks in his last two games can attest: “It is always going to be there, because that is what I have been doing for the last 10 or 15 years, going all the way back to grade school. Whatever circumstance that we are in team-wise and who we are playing against will dictate the different positions I will play. It is always comfortable and it is always good, especially when you get a sack and can contribute to the game like that.”
» Sacks aside, injuries have really hampered Big Blue’s defensive gameplan. As many as nine regulars have missed time due to injuries, which has no doubt contributed to a once-feared unit allowing nearly 25 points per game. Rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara may return by the Patriots game. The first-round pick has been working on the sidelines with trainers, running and cutting, and is anxious to get out there and help his team.
“Of course,” Amukamara said when asked if he’s anxious to play in real practices and games. “I still have some work to do, but I’m making great progress. I’m able to cut and backpedal without a problem and will be able to work in individuals with my position [after the bye]. I’m very excited to see [how I stack up against NFL-caliber wideouts].”
» Coughlin said that rehab regiments “will continue this week, wherever the player is.” Meaning even if a Jacobs or Tuck goes away for the week, the team has made arrangements to keep the wounded on their rehab schedules.
»The Giants once again re-signed quarterback Ryan Perrilloux to their practice squad. He replaces former practice squad defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks, who was added to the 53-man roster on Saturday.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.