The New York Giants say they won’t let injuries derail their surprising season—even though their two top linemen are out for the season.
Playing without six-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan and fellow defensive end Keith Washington, the Giants hope to bounce back from an embarrassing home loss when they visit the Arizona Cardinals.
Besides getting stunned at home by blowing a 14-point lead in a 28-21 loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday, the Giants lost both Strahan and Washington to season-ending knee injuries. With the two placed on injured reserve, the Giants activated Lorenzo Bromell from the physically unable to perform list and signed defensive end Chuck Wiley, who was released recently by the Minnesota Vikings.
Both are seven-year veterans with starting experience, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin also has the option of moving 2003 first-round pick William Joseph from tackle to end.
Coughlin also could switch to something a little more radical and play a 3-4 formation instead of the standard 4-3.
“We will use the personnel as best we can however we decide to use it,” Coughlin said. “That will be something that will prevail as the game unfolds.”
Fortunately for the Giants, their new line will get its first test against the 29th-ranked offense in the league.
“Everybody in our defensive room and on our team is going to have to raise their game to a different level so we can fill that void,” cornerback Will Allen said. “We owe a guy like Strahan. We owe him for what he has done for our team.”
Losing consecutive games against teams below .500 could be costly for the Giants, who are in second place in the NFC East, two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
“For us to go out there and lay an egg is not acceptable,” Allen said. “We need to put forth that extra effort whether it’s watching films or lifting or running to make sure we’re at peak performance on Sunday, so he (Strahan) can watch the game and be proud.”
Strahan’s 118 sacks are the most among active players. The 12-year veteran set a league record with 22.5 in 2001 and he led the league last year with 18.5. He had four sacks this season, including one Sunday against Chicago.
Strahan, who had surgery Wednesday, plans on being ready for training camp next year.
The Giants, though, also have some problems on the offensive side, specifically with quarterback Kurt Warner.
Warner went 18-for-36 for 195 yards with two interceptions against the Bears, and Coughlin momentarily considered replacing him with No. 1 overall draft pick Eli Manning out of Mississippi. Though Coughlin has named Warner as Sunday’s starter, it didn’t put an end to a continuing quarterback controversy.
“Everybody has been waiting for this from day one, and the funny thing is that you can have one game that’s not up to par and all of a sudden that talk starts,” Warner said.
What concerns Coughlin is the amount of turnovers Warner has committed, and the number of sacks he has taken in recent home losses to Detroit and Chicago.
In the two games, Warner has thrown three interceptions, lost three fumbles and been sacked 13 times.
Since starting the season 1-4, the Cardinals have won two of three, including last Sunday’s 24-23 win over the Miami Dolphins, ending Arizona’s 18-game road losing streak.
“This is a reward for fighting for so long,” Arizona first-year coach Dennis Green said. “You hope to have good fortune smile on you and catch lightning in a bottle, and today that happened for us.”
The Cardinals benefited from two pivotal second-half calls and drove 70 yards in the final two minutes for the winning score. Josh McCown hit Larry Fitzgerald with a two-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left after a holding penalty against Miami negated a sack and gave the Cardinals first and goal.
Green said he expects the Giants’ defense to come up big despite the injuries to Strahan and Washington.
“We know that they are going to have other good players,” Green said. “I mean, there is no doubt about that. When you look out there and you see those guys running around making plays, they’re loaded up on defense, but clearly they are going to miss (Strahan).”