5 takeaways from Thursday's practice and media hour:
1. APPLE BACK IN THE FOLD
Second-year cornerback Eli Apple has been inactive the last two weeks due to a coach's decision, but the former 10th overall draft pick will be back in play this week against the Raiders. His status is just one of the moving pieces on the roster, especially for the defense, which most recently lost cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Donte Deayon to season-ending injuries.
"Eli is back in the fold and depending on what package we're in, you'll see him out there," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "So that's a good thing. That'll help us."
The Giants currently have 19 players on injured reserve, including five linebackers.
"I was going through the meeting – I think it was yesterday – I kept doing one of these, I thought I was in rookie mini-camp, you know, with learning the names," Spagnuolo said. "That's normally when we have a sheet of paper with everybody's face on it, but we got to work through that. There's been some moving pieces."
2. INJURY REPORT
Did not practice: LB Jonathan Casillas (neck/wrist), DT Damon Harrison (elbow)
Limited: LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), OL Justin Pugh (back)
Full: LB Calvin Munson (quad), WR Sterling Shepard (illness)
3. SPAGS OGLES LYNCH YOUTUBE HIGHLIGHTS
As if the Raiders needed any more of a reason to feed running back Marshawn Lynch, the team will likely be playing this Sunday without Amari Cooper (concussion/ankle) in addition to Michael Crabtree (suspended), their top two wide receivers. Lynch, a five-time Pro Bowler, is coming off a season-high 26 carries as he closes in on 10,000 career rushing yards.
"Mean runner," Spagnuolo said. "I went on YouTube. I don't know why I did this. I went on YouTube and I just – I don't even know how to do that real well, but there was a lot of Marshawn Lynch's videos. He scares me, you know, but I got a lot of respect for him as a football player. Loves playing ball. The way he runs. We've been talking about it all week. That's going to be target No. 1 because he's a good football player. We can't let them get the run game going. I mean, it always begins there and this is the same with this football team."
4. HEALTHY COLLINS RETURNING TO FORM
No player in the NFL has more total tackles (28) in the last two weeks than Landon Collins, who now leads all safeties for the season with 83. The reason for his recent surge is health, Spagnuolo said. Collins, a 2016 first-team All-Pro selection, had been playing through an ankle injury since mid-October, but never missed a start.
"I just think he feels healthier," Spagnuolo said. "I asked him the other day. I think you all know that he's been battling that high ankle sprain from way back and didn't miss anything. He takes a lot of pride in that. That's how those Alabama guys are. They just fight through it and now I think he's finally running the way he wants. I know he feels that way, so keep our fingers crossed he can stay like that."
5. DOES GAME PLAN CHANGE WITH GENO?
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, who began his Giants tenure the same year Eli Manning was drafted in 2004, will be relaying plays into a different quarterback's helmet this week when Geno Smith gets the start. Sullivan said the offense fundamentally stays the same, but there will be tweaks to accommodate Smith's strengths and preferences.
"There's a framework, a system of what we do, what we try to do and it would be foolish to not take into account some of the preferences or some of the particular skills that maybe a certain player has," Sullivan said. "We always have the quarterbacks involved. We have a framework, and within that framework, there may be things that they like a little bit better than other things and the things that he brings to the table, we want to make sure we try to feature that. As with whoever the quarterback is, they're going to have suggestions and input and then we put it all together and try to put our best foot forward. So, in terms of any drastic changes, no. We don't foresee any of those."
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