NFC East: New York Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings missed a third straight day of practice and has officially been ruled out of Sunday's game in St. Louis. Jennings has a sprained right ankle that he aggravated on the first play of last Sunday's game against Washington.

Jennings
Earlier this season, Jennings missed four games with a knee sprain. This is the first game he'll miss due to the ankle injury, which he suffered in Week 13 in Jacksonville, but he was a non-factor in Week 14 in Tennessee and was injured on the first play of the game in Week 15.

Jennings said Friday that his hope is to return to practice next week and play in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles next week. In the meantime, rookie Andre Williams will make his sixth start of the season. Orleans Darkwa will serve as his backup, and Chris Ogbonnaya is likely to be active for the first time as a Giant.

The only other Giants player on the injury report this week was middle linebacker Jameel McClain, who missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury but practiced Thursday and Friday. McClain is listed as probable and is expected to play.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We've talked a lot about the development of the New York Giants' young players, and you know every case is different. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. is a comet; third-year receiver Rueben Randle continues to frustrate. Second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is having a dominant season, while second-year end Damontre Moore continues to make slow progress in understanding his responsibilities in the defense.

Lost in this, on occasion, is the fact that Giants offense coordinator Ben McAdoo is himself a rookie. Prior to this year, the 37-year-old McAdoo had never been a coordinator at any level and had never been an in-game playcaller. He's been both for the Giants this year. On Thursday, I asked him what he's learned this season and how he's different as a coach than he was a year ago.

"You don't fall into the trap where you think the system is everything," McAdoo said. "In tough times, you think about players, not plays. That's the first thing that comes to mind."

McAdoo said expanded exposure to a variety of viewpoints has helped educate him about his new job as he's done it. Having been a position coach (tight ends and quarterbacks) during his time in Green Bay, he's now in a position to hear a variety of opinions and perspectives as a coordinator overseeing several different position coaches. And the on-the-job lessons about in-game play calling have helped as well, as there's no better teacher than experience.

But I found it interesting, especially as we watch the offense run through the red-hot Beckham every week instead of a run game that has faltered, that McAdoo's first answer to the question of what he's learned is that there are times when you have to rely on your personnel rather than your plan or your scheme. Understanding that is the mark of a good coach, I believe.

"Simply, the best play may not be the best play because it doesn't get the person the ball who gives you the best chance to win the game," McAdoo said. "Getting the ball to the right guy at the right time is critical."

McAdoo stands as an interesting figure for the Giants in the coming years as a young, developing offensive coordinator the team views as a potential head coach. It should be fun and interesting to track and analyze his development along with that of the players.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Odell Beckham Jr. is so good, he might need only three-quarters of a season to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Beckham is now the favorite to win the award at 1-2, according to odds released by Bovada on Wednesday. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is the second choice at 2-1, followed by Panthers wideout Kelvin Benjamin (7-1) and Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (25-1).

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Beckham
The Giants' young phenom was not available in the locker room after practice Wednesday, but veteran teammate Antrel Rolle was asked whether Beckham should win the award.

"There's no doubt about it," Rolle said. "There's been some rookies out there obviously making some splash -- Mike Evans, a couple other names. But what Odell has done in a short period of time -- obviously he battled some injuries at the beginning of the year, but the sky's the limit for this guy. I think what he's done for this team and just for the league itself has been phenomenal, and I'm not just saying that because he's my teammate."

"Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl, you name it -- I definitely put him up there right now with the elite receivers in this league," Rolle added.

Despite missing the entire preseason and the first four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury, Beckham has 71 catches for 972 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games.

Evans, in three more games, has fewer catches (59) and yards (948), and just two more touchdowns (11).

Beckham's per-game averages of 7.1 receptions, 97.2 receiving yards and 0.9 touchdowns are the highest among rookies in a season dating to 2001, per ESPN Stats & Information.

"He's been playing at a high level these last few weeks," quarterback Eli Manning said. "Hopefully he can continue to make plays for us."

Manning was a little more diplomatic when asked about Beckham's Rookie of the Year candidacy.

"I haven’t seen all the other performances, so I’m probably not qualified to give that answer," Manning said. "[Beckham's] played very strong and played well for us, and so definitely should be in contention, I would think."

Beckham already owns the Giants' record for receiving yards by a rookie, breaking Jeremy Shockey's record of 894 yards. Barring injury, he almost certainly will surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season this Sunday in St. Louis, but the Rams' defense should pose a challenge -- they haven't given up a touchdown the past three weeks and are ranked 10th in the NFL against the pass (232.4 yards allowed per game).

"I think there’s a physical challenge every week for the number of roles that [Beckham] plays," coach Tom Coughlin said. "But this certainly will be one, and each week he grows and develops and he sees new things, and that may very well be the case this week."

The best news of all might be that, despite all the attention Beckham is getting, he hasn't developed a swelled head, according to his quarterback.

"No, I think he’s done a good job," Manning said. "He practices hard. He does a lot of things correctly. ... He’s done everything the right way."
The New York Giants on Tuesday placed linebacker Jacquian Williams and offensive lineman James Brewer on season-ending injured reserve due to lingering concussion symptoms. The moves raise the total number of Giants players on injured reserve this season to an absolutely stunning 22 -- enough to field a full offense and defense (though they'd be without a quarterback, a tight end and a couple of other key positions).

To replace Williams and Brewer on their roster, the Giants promoted defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton from their practice squad and signed guard Adam Gettis from the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad.

Williams was the Giants' starting weakside linebacker and leading tackler for the first nine games of the season, but he never fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in the Week 10 loss at Seattle. He'd been cleared to return to the practice field a couple times since then, but he would develop symptoms again after practicing and had to be shut down.

Brewer was inactive for the first 10 games of this season but was playing right tackle in Week 13 in Jacksonville when he suffered his concussion.

The Giants also signed safety Thomas Gordon to their practice squad to fill Hamilton's spot.

Here's the full list of Giants on injured reserve:

CB Prince Amukamara

DE Robert Ayers

LB Jon Beason

OL James Brewer

RB Michael Cox

WR Victor Cruz

WR Marcus Harris

RB Peyton Hillis

KR Trindon Holliday

CB Travis Howard

WR Jerrel Jernigan

DE Mathias Kiwanuka

OL Troy Kropog

LB Terrell Manning

WR Mario Manningham

CB Trumaine McBride

OL Geoff Schwartz

OL Adam Snyder

S Cooper Taylor

CB Walter Thurmond

LB Jacquian Williams

RB David Wilson

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
1:00
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A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and the way he played in the New York Giants' 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday:

Manning
 You cannot evaluate Manning right now without intertwining him with rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. All three of Manning's touchdown passes Sunday went to Beckham. Manning was 12-for-15 (80 percent) when targeting Beckham and 11-for-19 (57.9 percent) when targeting anyone else. His yards per attempt when targeting Beckham were 9.5, compared to 5.6 on his other targets. Manning is acutely aware of which side his bread is buttered.

Overall, once again, the numbers from Sunday look good. Manning threw for 250 yards and no interceptions, and he has only two interceptions in the four games that have followed his five-pick Week 11 meltdown against San Francisco. He's in a comfortable little groove right now, avoiding mistakes and completing a high percentage of his passes. But as you saw Sunday, it's pretty much all about Beckham.
Jason Pierre-Paul AP Photo/Bill KostrounNew York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has turned up his production in recent weeks.
Six sacks in his last three games have raised Jason Pierre-Paul's season total to 9.5, which isn't an elite-pass-rusher number, but Pierre-Paul says it doesn't matter.

"Just numbers, man," the New York Giants defensive end said after his big game Sunday against Washington. "If you look at the film, really break down all the statistics, I'm having a great season."

The Giants, as you know, are not. But if Pierre-Paul truly is, he's setting himself up well for a free-agent contract push that could force the Giants into an interesting offseason decision.

Pierre-Paul turns 26 in two weeks and is eligible for free agency a couple of months after that. Given his age, the brilliance he flashed during the Giants' 2011-12 Super Bowl run and what's shaping up to be a strong finish to his walk year, he's likely to generate a high level of interest on the open market. Elite pass-rushers are a rare commodity, and if Pierre-Paul can sell himself at that -- at his age -- he has reason to dream of a deal in the $12 million or $13 million-a-year range.

The Giants will have enough cap space to do a deal like that if they want to keep Pierre-Paul. But they have many other needs as well, and the way the Giants generally act with their free agents is to set a price they think is fair and tell the guy he's welcome to go try to get more elsewhere if he thinks he can. It's unclear at this point whether the Giants would break the bank to keep their 2010 first-round draft pick, though they are happy with the way he has performed in 2014.

"JPP is playing very well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Technically, early on, he was doing some things that we could correct and help with, and we did, and he has really adapted his game again to the way and manner in which we would like him to rush."

The Giants' pass rush as a whole has taken off the last three weeks in games against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Washington. After recording a total of 19 sacks in their first 11 games of the season, the Giants have 22 sacks in their last three games, pushing them all the way up to No. 4 in the league in that category. Much of that has to do with the contributions they're getting from young players like linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive ends Kerry Wynn and Damontre Moore. But Pierre-Paul is the centerpiece player -- the all-around defensive end who can take on left tackles, play the run and find his way to the quarterback with his speed and instincts. That's the player they saw in 2011, and after two injury-plagued seasons that followed, the Giants believe they're seeing that player again this year.

They will need a foundation piece for the pass rush this offseason. If it's not Pierre-Paul, they'll have to find it somewhere else -- either in free agency or with a first-round draft pick that currently would be No. 8 overall. I can't tell them how to spend their money, and I understand being hesitant to commit five or six years and $12 million or $13 million a year to a guy who's struggled to stay healthy. But Pierre-Paul may end up being their best option.

He also would be the first of GM Jerry Reese's first-round draft picks to sign a second contract with the team. Aaron Ross (2007), Kenny Phillips (2008) and Hakeem Nicks (2009) all went elsewhere at the end of their rookie deals for reasons of injury or ineffectiveness. Prince Amukamara (2011) is no sure thing to break that trend. They hold a 2015 option on him and it remains to be seen what effect his season-ending injury has on their long-range assessment of his value. David Wilson (2012) had to retire in August due to neck injuries. And it's far too early to know what the future holds for Justin Pugh (2013) or brilliant rookie Odell Beckham Jr. (2014).

First-round picks are supposed to be long-term foundation pieces. The questions for the Giants are whether they believe, after five years, that Pierre-Paul is a foundation piece and how much they're willing to bet on it.
New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his sprained right ankle on the first play of Sunday's victory against Washington and did not return.

Jennings
"He did have a reoccurrence of the ankle and was not able to go back in the game," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Whether or not we are all the way back to Square 1, I don't know yet. I don't have anything on that today yet."

Jennings sprained his ankle in the Week 13 loss in Jacksonville and played a minimal role in the following week's victory in Tennessee. He was slated for a slightly larger workload Sunday, as evidenced by the fact that he got the first carry of the game. But says he "tweaked" the ankle on that very play, and now his status for the final two games of the season is obviously in doubt.

Assuming the injury is where it was after the Jacksonville game, it's impossible to count on Jennings for Sunday's game in St. Louis, and it's possible they could just shut him down for the rest of the season and give the starting running back work to rookie Andre Williams. We likely won't know for sure until Wednesday, when the Giants return to the practice field. But it's obviously not looking good for Jennings to have the strong finish to the season for which he was hoping.

Jennings is in his first year with the Giants, having signed a free-agent contract in March. Early in the season, when the offense was having success, he looked like a good fit as the all-purpose starter at running back. He had 176 rushing yards in the Week 3 victory against Houston and averaged 4.35 yards per carry during the Giants' first five games. But he injured his knee in Week 5, missed the next four games and wasn't back to full strength until the Jacksonville game, in which he injured the ankle. So Jennings' first Giants season will turn out to have been about injury and time missed, and his health issues will make him one of their question marks going into 2015.
Over the past six seasons, Tom Coughlin's record as coach of the New York Giants is 52-46. That counts the three playoff games and the Super Bowl he won during that stretch, and, no, it's not a very good record at all. Better than some? Yes. Enough to justify the kind of job security Coughlin has? Not by most teams' standards, no.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
Kathy Willens/AP PhotoTom Coughlin is the public face of the Giants, a role ownership places a high priority on.
But Coughlin doesn't work for most teams. Coughlin works for the Giants, and in spite of the guarantee of a second straight losing season and a fifth season out of six without a playoff appearance, the strong likelihood is that Coughlin returns next year for a 12th season in his current job. I'm not able to put a percentage on it as the New York Post did, but the sense I get from talking to people in that building is that a lot of minds would have to be changed in the next two weeks for the Giants to decide to replace Coughlin.

Which means that wins and losses aren't the only criteria the Giants' owners are using to assess Coughlin. If they were, it would be extremely easy for the Giants to stand up at the end of this season, point to that .531 winning percentage over the last six years, proclaim that it's not up to their standards, thank Coughlin for his long and meritorious service to the organization, and move on to someone else. That is what most professional sports teams in their situation would do.

But the Giants, quite proudly and stubbornly, do not operate this way. Not with this two-time Super Bowl-winning coach. Not with a general manager, Jerry Reese, whose lousy draft record is the real reason for the playoff drought. Both of those men appear safe in their current jobs as the offseason looms, and the reason is that the Giants view themselves as more circumspect than most organizations.

The Giants' decision-making process on these matters contains a level of nuance that doesn't jive with today's knee-jerk sports-fan sensibility. Most people see a coach consistently missing the playoffs, or a GM consistently missing on important draft picks, and decide the answer is change for change's sake. Fans (and quite a few team owners) view coaches and GMs as disposable or replaceable. They seem to believe that the key to success is shuffling new people into those positions until one of them wins a Super Bowl.

Not so the Giants, who will arrive at their offseason two weeks from now determined to find solutions but not prejudiced toward any one particular path. Before deciding to part ways with a head coach who's ingrained in the franchise's history at a celebratory level, the Giants will ask whether such a move is likely to solve their problems. The bet here, as I've said, is that they'll decide it won't and will instead involve Coughlin in the search for solutions.

If the Giants believed Coughlin was among their biggest problems, they likely would make a change. But the Giants don't view Coughlin as a collection of wins and losses. They look instead at the tone he sets week to week in the locker room and in the meeting rooms, the energy he brings to the job, the way the players respond to him and the public face he puts on the organization as the one who has to face the public on a daily basis. These are all very important aspects of a head coach, and the Giants choose to prioritize them on a high level -- maybe even higher than they prioritize the win-loss record, which they view as subject to the whims of injuries and week-to-week tumult in an unpredictable league. There is evidence throughout Coughlin's career that a decision to stick with him through lean times can bring the sweetest of rewards, and the Giants choose to focus on that when deciding he's still the man for their biggest job.

You may disagree. You may want change for change's sake. You may believe Coughlin is simply not good enough a coach, or that his time has passed, or that the Giants aren't far enough into their current rebuild to justify the return of a coach who'll be 69 when next season starts. It is your perfect right to believe any or all of that. But to this point, the people deciding Coughlin's fate continue to believe he's the right man to coach their team. And they're looking well beyond his record to arrive at that decision.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rashad Jennings was the New York Giants' starting running back Sunday, but that's quite literally all he did. After carrying the ball for three yards on the first play from scrimmage, Jennings left the game and did not return. The Giants beat Washington, 24-13.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin, asked whether Jennings re-injured his sprained right ankle on that play, said, "Yeah, right away, he did."

Jennings
Jennings wasn't around after the game to ask, which lends credence to the idea he did indeed re-injure the ankle and that it could be a problem that lingers into the season's final two weeks.

Jennings sprained his ankle two weeks ago in Jacksonville, and while he was active last week in Tennessee, he was the backup to rookie Andre Williams and played a minimal role as the Giants blew out the Titans. My understanding as of Friday was that Jennings' ankle was feeling better but not 100 percent even though he practiced all week, and that the Giants would try to use him in a bit of a lesser role for one more week before letting him loose again next week in St. Louis. They did not get that chance, and we'll wait to hear Monday whether there's a negative prognosis that could cost Jennings a chance to play in the Giants' final two games.

Williams had 131 yards on 24 carries last week against the Titans' No. 32-ranked run defense, but only 44 yards on 18 carries Sunday against Washington's top-10 run defense that loaded up to stop him. If Jennings can't play in the final two games, you can expect the Giants to give Williams a heavy workload, and the benefit of that would be a chance for him to develop and for them to evaluate him in advance of next season.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Odell Beckham Jr. is collecting superlatives as quickly as he's piling up touchdowns. His one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys was hailed in some circles as the best ever. He's a late entrant into the rookie of the year race. He's breaking records. He's having dinner with LeBron James. He's trying out for the new "Avengers" movie.

(All right, yeah, I made up that last one. But how surprised would you have been, really?)

The thing is, while we all sit here dazzled every week by what the New York Giants' rookie wide receiver is doing, it turns out he's just doing what he was told.

"I set expectations as high as possible," Beckham said after catching a ho-hum 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in the Giants' 24-13 victory against Washington. "Back in Week 5, when I played my first game, Antrel [Rolle] came up to me and said, 'Don't forget, you still owe me 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.'"

It's entirely possible that Rolle was kidding -- a veteran team captain just trying to motivate a rookie who'd missed the first four games of his career with a hamstring injury. Asking a guy who'd never played in the league before to run up 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in three-quarters of a season is a bit much.

Unless that particular guy is a Marvel superhero.

"Nothing this guy does amazes me," Rolle said Sunday afternoon.

With two games left in the season, Beckham has a Giants rookie record 972 yards to go with nine touchdown catches. A little quick math indicates that he needs only to average 14 yards and half a touchdown per game the rest of the way to complete the homework assignment Rolle gave him in October. Since Beckham has had 90 or more yards in each of his past seven games -- and 100 or more in five of those -- it's difficult not to like his chances.

"The young man is having outstanding success," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's a very good football player. He has the ability to go the distance any time he gets it, whether as a punt returner or as a receiver. He can run the football, he can throw the football, so we've tried to create a lot of situations for him. He has the talent to exploit the defense in a lot of different ways."

For Coughlin, that's straight-up gushing. See, everybody in the world saw THE CATCH against the Cowboys three weeks ago. But what those of us who are watching him every week see is consistent brilliance, snap-to-snap. Beckham does spectacular things in games and practices. He's a sizzling ball of energy who'll catch your eye with touchdown dances and bark right back at defenders who are trying to get in his head. But he's also a precise route runner with reliable hands and a good head for the game. And if you're a Giants coach, teammate or even a fan, you have to like that he's not too caught up in the brilliant stuff.

"They broke up one pass in the end zone that's going to give me trouble sleeping at night," Beckham said. "Earlier in the game, I was frustrated. There were plays, I think it was a third down where I didn't get both feet in bounds. The throw in the corner of the end zone that I feel I should have caught. There was another one I feel I should have caught. Whenever I get a chance to make a play, I feel it should be made."

And yes, he was down on himself for muffing the punt at the end of the game that put Washington's offense back on the field with seconds left on the clock instead of letting the Giants on the field to kneel on the ball and end the game.

"I was being lackadaisical. Too relaxed," Beckham said. "I went and apologized to our special-teams coach, because that is just not acceptable. There's nothing better than having the offense run on the field in victory formation."

He is surely forgiven, but it says a lot that Beckham is the one reminding us all how young he still is. Sunday was only his 10th game in the NFL, which means that he has room to grow and -- gulp -- get better. If the Giants' near future has another Super Bowl title in it, it's going to be with this young man as its brilliant centerpiece.

"He's the fire of this offense," Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We lost Victor Cruz early in the season, but I can only imagine. I can't wait to see those two guys on the field together."

Beckham gives the Giants license to dream of a big, bright future. And it's not because of one great catch or one great game. It's because of what he's doing every single week, at the highest possible level. The most eye-popping thing about Odell Beckham Jr. right now is that he's making the eye-popping stuff routine.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 24-13 victory Sunday over Washington:
    Grimes
    Beckham
  • The talk was, of course, of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his three touchdown catches. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "He's the fire of the offense." Safety Antrel Rolle said, "Nothing this guy does amazes me." And fellow rookie Andre Williams said, "Odell is playing at the highest level. I catch the 'wow' moment at the end. I don't see him run his routes or anything. I just see him in the end zone, mostly."
  • For Beckham's part, he believes he can do more. He chided himself for a first-half play on which he believed he should have gotten both feet in bounds, and of course for his error on the final punt return of the game. "I apologize to my special teams coach," Beckham said of the muff. "There's no better feeling than seeing your offense run on the field to take a knee at the end of the game."
  • Tom Coughlin declined to explain Rueben Randle's latest benching but indicated it was more than just a first-quarter benching like the one in Jacksonville two weeks ago. This time, Randle declined to discuss it as well. My impression was that his entry into the game would have been delayed even longer had Kevin Ogletree not had to leave briefly to be checked for a head injury.
  • Coughlin said running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle on the first play of the game. Jennings did not return. He had been hoping to get through this game and be at full strength for next week, but it's unclear whether this latest development changes those plans.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
4:08
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Giants will finish in third place in the NFC East and, at 5-9 with two games to go, still have a chance to match last season's 7-9 record. They have won two games in a row after losing seven straight.

Stock watch: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, UP. He had 2.5 sacks to increase his walk-year total to 9.5 -- the most he has had in any season but his 16.5-sack 2011 season. Pierre-Paul appeared to hurt his left shoulder on one of the sacks but stayed in the game and wreaked havoc, especially once Washington left tackle Trent Williams left the game with a shoulder injury of his own. Pierre-Paul has six sacks in his past three games and is making a push to persuade the Giants to give him the lucrative long-term contract he seeks as a pending free agent.

JPP has company: The Giants' defensive front as a whole is on an impressive run. After recording just 19 sacks in their first 11 games of the season, the Giants have 22 in their past three games, including the seven they got Sunday. Impressive second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had 2.5 of his own Sunday. Reigning NFC defensive player of the week Devon Kennard had another half-sack and batted down a pass. The Giants knocked Washington quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game early and stayed after Robert Griffin III even after his impressive start.

Game ball: Redundant though this may be, rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was quite simply the best player on the field. The target of intense defensive attention and physicality by the Washington defense, Beckham still finished with 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. His 35-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter gave him 904 receiving yards for the season and broke Jeremy Shockey's Giants rookie record. Beckham is now up to 972 yards for the season and will need only 28 in his final two games to become the first Giants rookie with 1,000 receiving yards. This was only Beckham's 10th game, as he missed the first four after a preseason hamstring injury.

What's next: The Giants travel to St. Louis for a 4:05 p.m. ET game against the 6-8 Rams on Sunday afternoon.

W2W4: New York Giants

December, 13, 2014
Dec 13
3:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants (4-9) will try to win their second game in a row Sunday when they host Washington (3-10) at 1 p.m. ET at MetLife Stadium. Three things we'll be watching extra closely:

Manning
1. One again, the pass protection. We all spent the week joking about Giants quarterback Eli Manning showing up on the injury report with a back injury. Manning will surely play. He doesn't miss games. But the fact is that he was dinged up after Sunday's game in Tennessee, and the amount of pressure he's faced this year should be having a cumulative effect. Just because Manning is the most durable quarterback in the league doesn't mean the Giants can let him sit back there and take a pounding. It was Washington that knocked him out of the game in Week 17 last year with an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery, and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan ranks eighth in the league with 11.5 sacks. The Giants' line hasn't shown it could stand up to tough pass rushers, and it gets another chance to try Sunday.

Pierre-Paul
2. The Jason Pierre-Paul/Trent Williams matchup. Williams is Washington's Pro Bowl left tackle. He's been banged-up a bit this year, but he remains a tough test for even the best pass-rushers in the league. Pierre-Paul has turned it on of late, as has the entire Giants pass rush, which has recorded 15 of its season-total 34 sacks in the last two weeks. They've been using blitzes and getting pressure on quarterbacks with defensive backs and linebackers, but it starts up front, and if Williams can handle Pierre-Paul one-on-one, it'll be tougher for the rest of the Giants' pass-rushers to get home and hit Colt McCoy, Robert Griffin III or whoever's playing quarterback for Washington.

Jennings
3. The run game. With starting running back Rashad Jennings back healthy, will rookie Andre Williams return to the bench after last Sunday's 130-yard breakout? The Giants still want to feed Jennings the ball as much as possible, but the answer to the question likely lies in how much they believe Jennings can absorb physically. Jennings is still far and away the better option in the passing game, and if he were 100 percent healthy, he'd be the clear No. 1 option on first and second downs as well. But if Jennings is still hobbled by the early-season knee injury, the late-season ankle injury or both, Williams could rotate in at the goal line or if the game gets out of hand.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The last game against Washington was a low point for New York Giants safety Stevie Brown. Brown was benched after getting burned for a long touchdown the week before against Houston, and was replaced as a starting safety by Quintin Demps in the Week 4 game at Washington. He would play just four of the team's 57 defensive snaps that night, and only about 20 percent of them for the next eight weeks.

Brown
"He was upset," Giants coach Tom Coughlin recalled Friday. "He was internalizing all of that, and he didn't mind discussing it with anybody that would bring it up. But he did it the right way, obviously."

Brown opened everyone's eyes with his eight-interception season in 2012 but missed all of 2013 after tearing his ACL in preseason. His road back from the injury was a tough one, and he was eager to resume his role as a starting safety for the Giants this season. But he played poorly in the first three games and says now that it was because he got too caught up in trying to make big plays happen instead of letting them happen in their time.

"When you're someone who's looked at as a playmaker and the plays aren't happening, it's frustrating," Brown said Friday. "That's when you start to force the issue."

Brown was looking for interceptions rather than handling the assignments the defense was giving him. Perry Fewell's defense is assignment-driven, and efforts to freelance have a tendency to hurt rather than help. Brown's mistakes could have been avoided if he'd simply done what he was supposed to do instead of trying to replicate his magical 2012 run.

"When I had mistakes, it was at times when I was trying to do more than I was asked to do," Brown said. "I can't be doing that."

Brown is back in the starting lineup now. He's played every snap on defense the last two weeks and is once again a starter. He'd love to start racking up interceptions again, because what defensive back wouldn't? But he's wiser for his September errors, his knee feels great, and he believes he can finish strong and carry a good feeling into the offseason.

"I told him our team needed him to play the way he is capable of playing," Coughlin said. "He got back on the field, and he has made a nice contribution. I'm hoping he can do more. He does have outstanding hands, and he does have the ability to maneuver in center field, so you'd like to think he can maybe get in position to have an interception."

Meantime, just staying in position will do for now.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings hasn't been on this week's injury report, and he has been a full participant in practices all week. But if you're counting on him to help you win a fantasy playoff game this weekend, you might be disappointed.

Based on the conversations I had at the Giants' team facility today, Jennings' sprained right ankle still isn't fully recovered and is likely to limit his workload at least somewhat in Sunday's game against Washington.

Williams
Jennings
Last week, you might remember, Jennings was a game-time decision and rookie Andre Williams was announced as the starting running back. The plan was to use Jennings on passing downs and see how his ankle responded, but Williams got 27 touches and Jennings only three as the Giants blew out the Titans.

This week, Jennings will surely be active, but it remains to be seen how the work will be split between him and Williams. The Giants don't believe they'll have as easy a time running the ball against Washington's No. 10-ranked run defense as they did against Tennessee's No. 32-ranked run defense, and it's entirely possible Jennings will get more work than he did last week just because the Giants find themselves in more passing situations than they did last week.

One person close to the situation told me the hope was to coax Jennings and his banged-up ankle through one more week in the hope that he'd be back to 100 percent in time for the Week 16 game in St. Louis. If that's the case, and if this game does get out of hand early in the Giants' favor, you're likely to see Williams handle the carries as he did last week. As of now, the Giants feel better about Jennings' status than they did a week ago and believe he'll be of some use to them Sunday. They're just still not sure how much.

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