The Giants (2-6) take on the Raiders (3-5) Sunday looking to extend their two-game winning streak.
Should Big Blue knock off the Raiders, they’ll be halfway to doing the impossible of getting to .500— this after dropping their first six contests.
But before the Giants can put a silver-and-black notch on their board, they’ll need to contend with an Oakland team that has more speed and talent than the average losing franchise. The Raiders have elite speed at nearly every position, particularly quarterback, where dual-threat Terrelle Pryor is amongst the fastest players at the position— as his untouched 93-yard rushing touchdown showed two weeks ago.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Pryor commitment
Pryor has been battling a nagging knee injury all week, but assured the New York media he’s “coming for you guys” during his conference call. While he said it in jest, the upstart signal caller noted he’s “feeling better” and “should play” after practicing fully on Thursday. Pryor is a unique athlete in that he’s as big as a defensive lineman (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) but as fast as most wideouts (4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash).
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said Pryor possesses an interesting problem for Big Blue since the second-year passer is good on the move as a passer and as an impromptu rusher— as his 485 rushing yards can attest.
“I think he’s a little more similar to a young Vince Young than [Panthers quarterback] Cam [Newton], but obviously there are similarities there between him and Cam, too,” Tuck said. “It used to be when I first came into the league there weren’t guys as big as I am that can run faster than me like there are now [because] all of them were slow. But now [big, fast quarterbacks] is the new phenomenon in this league. ... His style is a little bit different [than players like Robert Griffin III of the Redskins and Michael Vick of the Eagles], but his results of making huge gains is something that you can compare to other players.”
2. Cruz control
The Giants are getting healthy in the backfield with the readdition of Andre Brown. But they now must contend with the fact that wideout Victor Cruz (neck) is banged up from a hit he suffered two weeks ago. While Cruz practiced on Thursday and Friday after missing Monday and Wednesday sessions, the electric receiver said he’ll likely be ready for Sunday.
If he can’t go, however, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said next man up.
“I don’t know what the status is or what his condition is [for Sunday], but we’re just going about our business and we have receivers who can come in and play well,” said Coughlin. “And whoever is out there, we’ll have great confidence they can get open and we can win those individual battles.”
The Giants hope it won’t come to that since Cruz has been by far the most productive receivers on the team with team highs in catches (47), yards (677) and touchdowns (four).
3. Back problems
The Raiders offense is as explosive as any in the league, mainly because of their elite speed in the backfield and on the perimeter. Running back Darren McFadden (hamstring) didn’t practice again on Thursday and is doubtful for Sunday, making Rashad Jennings the primary ball carrier. Jennings has good speed, too, which will make the Raiders’ read-option looks just as stealthy without their starting back. The read-option, which was responsible for Pryor’s record-setting 93-yard touchdown run against the Steelers two weeks ago, puts a lot of pressure on Giants defensive ends Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he needs his bookends to be ready for the quarterback keepers and is “ready for them to have a breakout game.”
“It looks like most of the plays are improvised. Obviously they have some designed plays for [Pryor] but I think he’s more dangerous when he drops back and if there’s nobody there and he can scramble a bit,” Tuck said. “If they have a run/pass option up until that point, that’s when you’ve seen him be the most dangerous or consistently dangerous ... [because] he’s not going to stay [in the pocket] long. He understands how gifted he is as an athlete and considering that most people chasing him are nowhere near as fast as him, he has an advantage. He’s used it to pretty good success. I don’t know if he’s necessarily looking for it but when the opportunity’s there he’s not hesitating.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.