EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Patrick Graham isn't certain who will staff the Giants' secondary Sunday, but he does know how those players who take the field will be outfitted.
"They'll be wearing blue helmets, I know that, so we'll see," Graham, the team's defensive coordinator, said today. "We'll see, we'll see, we'll see. It's a little funky right now."
It certainly is. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson today became the second cornerback – and the sixth Giants player - to test positive this week for COVID-19. Jackson joins fellow corner Aaron Robinson, wide receivers Kadarius Toney and John Ross, and linebackers Cam Brown and Oshane Ximines on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Safety Xavier McKinney is also on the list and not with the team because he is a high-risk close contact.
As a close contact, if McKinney continues to test negative, he will be allowed to return to the Giants' facility Saturday, making him eligible to play on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium.
"As long as he continues to test negative, we plan on him playing," coach Joe Judge said. "We can get him back Saturday. We can give him a little of a walk-through and all that stuff. We'll kind of get him moving around a bit, get his body back going, and we plan on him playing Sunday."
Jackson missed the last two games with a quad injury and was replaced in the starting lineup by Robinson, the Giants' third-round draft choice this year. If neither of them plays Sunday, the likely starter would be Jarren Williams, who made his 2021 debut two weeks ago in Miami and has played 48 snaps in two games. He was elevated from the practice squad for each game and would have to be signed to the roster to play Sunday.
Williams played in two games as a rookie free agent last year.
"He's a young player," Judge said. "He's definitely still developing. Jarren plays with the right mentality. He's a physical player. He's got a good skill set in terms of speed, burst, and good short-area quickness. He's definitely still learning the craft."
"He just has that chip on his shoulder," said cornerback James Bradberry, whose skill and experience become more vital this week. "He's a small school guy (University at Albany). He's eager to get out there and make a play. I think this would be his second start (actually, his first). So, he's definitely ready to get out there and go play. I think just having that chip on his shoulder, that eagerness to go out there, that helps out a lot with just making plays, just calming those nerves."
Julian Love and Logan Ryan are safeties with experience playing cornerback The Giants also have cornerback Keion Crossen, who has played a team-high 264 special teams snaps but only eight on defense.
"We'll work everybody, it's something we have to do at different positions," Judge said. "Look, we're always into contingency plans and emergency plans, so we're going to continue to practice."
"I think it's something that I've been accustomed to the past few years, but everyone has a mindset of stay ready, so you don't have to get ready," Love said. "Everyone really is just being flexible and coachable throughout this week just so we can be on top of our game come Sunday."
Even at full strength, the secondary would face a formidable test against the prolific Dallas offense. The Cowboys are second in the NFL in scoring (29.2 points a game) and total yardage (409.1 average). With multi-skilled quarterback Dak Prescott and receivers like CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and tight end Dalton Schultz, Dallas is fourth in the league with 280.6 passing yards a game.
"It's definitely a challenge because you've got new guys that are going to be out there, so it's going to be kind of their first experience out there in front of the huge crowd," Bradberry said. "And also, they've been thrown into the fire with all the play calls and stuff going on, trying to read the formation. I just try to prepare them, try to help them out. We're giving them tendencies and tips as much as possible, but at the end of the day, you've just got to go out there and play."
"We need to be on top of our game," Love said. "No matter who's in, we need to execute. I think that sense of accountability has been presented this entire week. We know some guys are going to be in new spots or whatever, but that doesn't matter. We've got to really execute and be locked into this dangerous offensive team."
*In addition to placing Jackson on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Giants activated guard Wes Martin from the list and wide receiver/return specialist Pharoh Cooper from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
The Giants also signed center Evan Boehm to their practice squad.
Boehm, 6-2 and 310 pounds, played in 55 regular-season games with 21 starts for Arizona, Indianapolis and Miami from 2016-19. He also played in two postseason games for the Colts in 2018. Boehm was on the Dolphins' practice squad from Nov. 9-29.
*Four Giants did not practice today: defensive lineman Austin Johnson (foot), offensive lineman Ben Bredeson (ankle), linebacker Reggie Ragland (illness) and defensive back Steven Parker (illness).
Quarterback Daniel Jones (neck), running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle) and defensive lineman Leonard Williams (triceps) were limited.
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their NFC East matchup against the Cowboys.