The Giants are so banged up, they are “revisiting” plans to play starters like Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley in Sunday night’s preseason home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“We’re revisiting it based on some of the stuff that happened yesterday [in practice],” head coach Brian Daboll said of the starters’ plan, with at least 18 active roster players sidelined by injury. “We would like to play as many guys as we can, but I think we have to sit down as a staff and revisit it. I mean, we’re on like our sixth center.”
That’s right: their sixth center.
Eighth-year veteran Max Garcia, a third-team guard at the start of training camp, will be the Giants’ first-string center for this game. And Devery Henderson, the team’s backup left tackle, will start at left guard.
That’s because starting center Jon Feliciano, backup Jamil Douglas, starting left guard/ emergency center Shane Lemieux, guard/center Ben Bredeson, rookie guard Josh Ezeudu, and break-glass backup guard/center Garrett McGhinn are all hurt.
In fact, the Giants held a 7 a.m. Friday workout and signed two linemen to reinforce their depth for the game. They re-signed guard Josh Rivas, an undrafted rookie they’d recently cut, and added Chris Owens, an undrafted rookie from Alabama released recently by the Steelers.
To make room for these signings on their roster, they released undrafted rookie defensive tackle Chris Hinton and placed wideout Robert Foster (hamstring) on season-ending injured reserve.
“We still have to continue to work on working together as a unit,” offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said Friday. “The good thing for us is the right side has been together the whole time: Mark Glowinski and Evan Neal. The center and left side’s been in a little bit of flux. Guys are getting opportunities because other guys are out … You can look at it as a negative. You can look at it as ‘Woe is me.’ I just look at it as, ‘Hey a guy’s out, another guy has an opportunity.’”
Jones’ and Barkley’s playing time plans can best be described as fluid at this point.
But Daboll definitely will be without wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who will miss a second straight preseason game and has failed to fully practice in nine of the Giants’ 16 practices this summer. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams will miss a second straight game.
And receiver Darius Slayton, running backs Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell, edge rushers Elerson Smith and Jihad Ward, corners Rodarius Williams and Cor’Dale Flott, safety Dane Belton (broken collarbone), and tight ends Ricky Seals-Jones and Andre Miller (broken right forearm) all will sit, too.
That’s in addition to the three players on the physically unable to perform list: wideout Sterling Shepard (Achilles), tackle Matt Peart (ACL) and center Nick Gates (leg).
That’s on top of rookie tackle Marcus McKethan (ACL) going on season-ending injured reserve early in camp, tackle Korey Cunningham sustaining a non-football injury and getting cut before camp, and tackle Matt Gono retiring due to a health issue early in camp.
Bredeson had been working as this week’s starting center until leaving Thursday’s practice with a right arm injury. Daboll said Garcia, 30, can handle the work in the middle.
“He’s snapped with [Jones] and done a good job,” Daboll said. “He’s played in the league. He knows our stuff at center. But that’s some of the conversation that we’re gonna have.”
Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor will be playing the Bengals’ backups and resting his starters on Sunday, so that could provide some relief.
Still, Daboll found himself on Friday in an awkward spot: wanting to approach the game one way, but possibly needing to pivot due to the number of injuries his team has incurred in camp coming off a noticeably light spring.
A WHIRLWIND DAY
The Giants prematurely announced on Friday morning that they’d waived wide receiver Keelan Doss along with Hinton, but after Foster practiced, the team clarified Doss remains on the roster and Foster would be placed on IR.
LESSONS TO LEARN?
The Bengals are the last team to have played and beaten the Tennessee Titans, the Giants’ Week 1 opponent. The Giants have won only one of their last 11 NFL regular season openers (2016, 20-19 at Dallas), so every little bit helps. Maybe they can use Cincy’s 19-16 AFC Divisional Round win to make a helpful list of dos and don’ts.
Do: stop Derrick Henry. Cincy’s defense held the Titans’ imposing running back to 62 yards and a TD on 20 carries (3.1 average). Three Ryan Tannehill interceptions later, the Bengals had advanced.
Don’t: fail to protect the quarterback. The Titans’ defense racked up nine sacks on Joe Burrow that day, led by three from force-of-nature defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. Cincinnati was fortunate to escape in one piece, let alone with a victory.
Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said he’s already watched the tape of that game in his early stages of preparation. He knows what’s coming.
“I’ve gone against [Henry] several times,” Martindale said recently. “So I guess [you’re] preparing, remembering all the scar tissue, when he’s hit some runs against us. So I think that yeah, we have ideas. We’ve worked on different things. But not anything ‘specific’ specific, yet.”
Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, a former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback coach with recent Titans scar tissue of his own, also said that “some of our coaches [on offense] have done some back-end work early on [Tennessee].”
“But as we continue to work and develop, that time will come,” Kafka said. “And we will be prepared.”
Martindale’s Baltimore Ravens defense held Henry to 40 yards on 18 carries (2.2 average) in a 20-13 Wild Card win in January 2021.
“Also I watched when we played them the year prior,” Martindale said. “That’s a good football team.”
Daboll’s Buffalo Bills offense racked up 417 total yards and three Josh Allen TD passes in a 34-31 Week 6 loss at Tennessee last season, too.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, a former Giants assistant, worked with Giants GM Joe Schoen in the Miami Dolphins organization from 2012-16.
Schoen interviewed Anarumo for the Giants’ head coaching vacancy before hiring Daboll in January. And Anarumo’s son, Louis, now works for the Giants as a scouting assistant, coming off a year in the University of Miami’s recruiting office.