The New York Giants have been fighting through injuries since training camp, but thanks to the schedule and some injury bugs from Week 2, they will be missing key players when the face the Carolina Panthers on the road tonight.
On Sunday Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), Domenik Hixon (concussion), and David Diehl (knee) all left Sunday’s game early in the first half. Hakeem Nicks (foot) has been playing with a sore foot due to an offseason break and did not have enough days to prepare for Carolina. None will be playing tonight.
So who do the Giants have left? Obviously Nicks is a key receiver and Hixon is the third guy. Victor Cruz will be the number one receiver coming off the bench and the next two players on the depth chart are Ramses Barden and the rookie Rueben Randle. There is also Jerrell Jernigan, but he is used mostly for special teams.
For the running backs, with Bradshaw down there’s Andre Brown next. Brown filled in for Bradshaw when he left the game in the second quarter and picked up 70+ yards and a touchdown. Brown also scored the key two point conversion to tie the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The rookie first round pick David Wilson could see more snaps and be used on second or third down catches as well, and he’ll continue to return kickoffs. The fullback Henry Hynoski may also be used to carry the ball if necessary, but the Giants will want to continue to use his size and blocking skills to make room for the rest of the backs.
Diehl is one of the tackles in the offensive line, but his absence shouldn’t make a huge impact. The Giants still have Will Beatty to take over left tackle and can move Sean Locklear over to right, which they did on Sunday when Diehl went down and seemed to work. What’s really important for Beatty and Locklear is to not only protect Eli Manning, but to make sure they give the running backs a chance to gain yards. Hynoski can’t do it all by himself.
Defensively, there shouldn’t be many major changes. Hopefully the cornerbacks will have a better game this week with Prince Amukamara back. I see them starting the rookie Jayron Hosley today and putting Amukamara in more as the game goes along, hoping not to aggravate that high ankle sprain that sat him for three weeks.
The corners certainly need work, but the defensive front needs to show its strengths. The Giants have enough talent to be the best defensive front in all of the NFL, but so far the only dominate force has been Jason Pierre-Paul.
Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton is a different type of player than the Giants are used to. In fact, it’s something the entire NFL is still adjusting to. He’s a mobile quarterback. If he can’t find someone to hand the ball off to, or pass it to, he will take it himself. And he has the speed to do it.
Newton has great accuracy and will try to take advantage of the weak corners the Giants have. The defensive front needs to be on their A-game and keep Newton from being too mobile. They need to make Newton not only keep the ball in his hands, but to keep him from running as well.
With all of the injuries the Giants have going into this game, there’s no need to push the panic button, but it’s not going to be an easy task either.
My prediction: Giants 37 Panthers 30. Eli Manning will be heroic again.