Giants coach Pat Shurmur and players spoke to the media before Wednesday’s practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Here is what you need to know from the day:
1. Replacing Landon Collins. The Giants will move forward without Landon Collins after the two-time Pro Bowl safety injured his shoulder in the Week 13 win over the Bears. Collins, a defensive co-captain, is leading the team with 96 tackles, 18 more than the next player (Alec Ogletree, 78).
“Landon displays what he is, he’s a very tough guy, very good tackler, he’s made a lot of plays for us especially close to the line of scrimmage,” Shurmur said. “I’ve said it numerous times, in a sport where toughness is required, he’s got a lot of it, so that’s what I appreciate about him.”
Filling the void that Collins leaves is no easy task. Not only has he been tremendous with his play, he also has led by example in the locker room and in the film room. Even though defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is not a part of the secondary, he knows how important Collins is to the defense.
“Landon is a huge part of our defense and it’s tough to replace that void,” Tomlinson said. “We have to have another guy step up. That’s the biggest thing, you have to ask somebody to step up in that position and just take on the role.”
2. Sean Chandler keeps improving. After paying his dues as a reserve this season, rookie safety Sean Chandler has been getting more and more playing time the past couple of weeks. With Collins out of the lineup, Chandler could see his role increase even more. The rookie has done everything to get better in order to be in the spot he is in now.
“I had the pleasure of coaching Sean in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game and what was that, January, and I saw it from then he got it, so I’m impressed,” veteran defensive back Michael Thomas said. “I’m proud of him, but I’m not surprised. That’s who he is as a player. He works hard, he always makes sure he’s where he needs to be, he goes hard every single play, leaves it out there so I’m happy for him. I’m happy for all his success.”
Thomas added: “(Sean is) somebody who literally has it all. He has enough size to play at the position, but he’s very quick, very aggressive style. He’s willing to tackle, he can cover well so he has all the talent, he’s just got to keep improving and learning the pro game now compared to what he did in college and once he gets that, I’m excited for his career.”
3. Back on track. Even though their record isn’t what they had hoped for – 4-8 with four games to go – the Giants have shown a different attitude than they did last year.
“I feel good about this team and where we are,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Obviously, it took a little while to get going. I feel like we’ve played better football this year than last year, for sure. The record is just a little better right now, but still got some football to be played. Been right there at every game. Been close to winning some games. Had a couple heart breakers, but we’re on the right track and doing some good stuff.”
The team has faced plenty of bumps in the road this season. It would have been easy to throw in the towel after a 1-7 start to the year, but the team has shown perseverance and resiliency.
“Each season brings its own challenges, its own entity, but at the same time to be able to say hey, regardless of how we started, this is how we finish,” Thomas said. “That’s the mindset of this team going forward so whoever’s going to be here has to understand that’s our mindset. Every single person that’s finishing these last four games and has been here for the second half of the season, in our eyes, this mindset like hey your name is on this. This family going to stay with you forever so what you do when you’re 1-7, everybody’s going to see.”
4. Taking on an injured Redskins offense. A few weeks ago, the Redskins were on top of the NFC East with a 6-3 record. Now, after losing quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy to broken legs, the Redskins own a 6-6 record and are fighting for a spot in the playoffs behind quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was signed on November 19.
“They’ll make decisions how they’re going to move forward with the players that they have in there,” Shurmur said. “I was with Mark Sanchez (in Philadelphia) for more than a year, so he’s very capable of leading a team to victory. I watched it happen. They’re going to try to do what Mark can do best, and try to play the strengths of their team. I know they’ve got probably a soon-to-be Hall of Fame running back, so you can just connect the dots and see what they’ll probably do on offense to compensate for some of the injuries they have.”
The Redskins have also suffered hits to their offensive line. With new pieces sliding in and out and not a lot of tape on some of the new players, the Giants defense looks for Washington offense to play to the its original tendencies.
“It’s mainly, in this situation, how they use their offensive linemen and things we’re good at upfront so we have to make sure we attack anybody who lines up in front of us,” Tomlinson said. “They may be rotating O-linemen, they may just have a certain person at one spot the whole game, we don’t know. We just have to prepare with the tendencies they have on offense.”
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5. The offense has been on a roll. The Giants struggled to find the end zone during the first half of the season when they started 1-7. The offense had 150 total points, an average of 18.8 points per game. During the second half of the season, as the Giants have gone 3-1, the offense has picked it up, having scored 117 points (including two defensive touchdowns) in four games, which is good for an average of 29.3 points per game.
“Offensively, I think we’ve found the running game a little bit more,” Manning said. “A little bit more play action. Probably not as much of being in shotgun on first and second down, and dropping back. That’s helped us eliminate some of those negative plays. So now, just be able to stay in good down and distance, convert on some third downs, stay on the field a little bit longer. The defense has done a great job of getting some turnovers as well.”