*The Giants are prepping for what may be an absence of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on Sunday: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said today the Giants must prepare for the possibility that starting defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon will not play in Sunday's home game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Neither player has practiced this week, JPP because of shoulder and knee issues, and Vernon with an ankle injury.
"We have to be concerned," Spagnuolo said. "I mean, our two top guys are ailing a little, but this is the NFL. Guys are going to get hurt, so we have to have other people step up.
"We have to prepare if we don't have them. I'm hopeful that we get both or if not both, at least one."
The Giants' reserve defensive ends are fourth-year pro Kerry Wynn, NFL sophomore Romeo Okwara, and rookie fifth-round draft choice Avery Moss, who has been inactive the last three weeks after making his NFL debut on special teams in the season opener.
"We got them in there in these games because we were trying to take the plays off of OV and JPP," Spagnuolo said. "Some solid play. Some guys do need to play better. I think we all need to do that. Everybody needs to play better and coach better. But whoever is in there has to get it done. They need to do a little bit better job. So we'll see who ends up playing on Sunday."
Vernon injured his ankle against Philadelphia on Sept. 24. He left that game early, but started last Sunday at Tampa Bay. The injury again forced him from the field after he played just 22 of the defense's 64 snaps.
"It was a little slippery out there, but it's football," said Vernon, who leads the team with 2.0 sacks. "I'm just doing the best I can right now to get back right."
Vernon has never missed a game in his career, playing in 84 consecutive games (plus a postseason game) in four seasons with the Miami Dolphins and two with the Giants. He has the third-longest games-played streak on the current roster, trailing only quarterback Eli Manning (203) and guard John Jerry (89).
"I don't want to miss a game and not be out there for my teammates and everything like that," Vernon said. "But main thing is getting healthy so I can be out there longevity-wise and help contribute. My main concern is just trying to get healthy. Be healthy and win a game, basically."
Pierre-Paul played every defensive down in Tampa, but hasn't been on the practice field this week. But the Giants are not ruling him out for Sunday.
"We have practice on Saturday," coach Ben McAdoo said. "We'll take a look at him and see how he progresses through the week. It's too early to tell (if he will play)." JPP is confident he will face the Chargers.
"(I) definitely expect to practice on Saturday and be playing Sunday," he said. "It's not a secret. Everybody that knows me knows I'm going to play."
Regarding his absence from practice, he said, "A guy needs a break, you know what I'm saying? It's just a simple break. That's it. It's something that I'm taking lightly. A sprained shoulder, but it's okay."
Pierre-Paul is less concerned with his own health than that of the Giants' defense. He wants the unit to play as it did in 2016, when the Giants finished the season second in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed. They currently rank 25th in each of those categories and 28th in run defense (142.8 yards a game), after finishing tied for third a year ago.
"I don't think other teams when they play the New York Giants, I don't think they fear us," JPP said. "What we put on film is what we put on film, and the only way to change that is going out and winning the game. Obviously, we're both 0-4, but it is what it is. You just got to go out there and put what we need to put on film and starting this week."
"Why should they (fear us)?" defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "They've been able to run the ball with some consistency and until we stop the run, I don't think anybody will fear us."
Pierre-Paul, who has 1.5 sacks, said he is as responsible as anyone for the defense's performance.
"Me personally, I don't think I played my best game in Tampa," he said. "What I put on film wasn't me. That will never happen again though. … To be honest, I am not playing my best ball. We haven't won a game yet. So I got to step up big time and I'm pretty sure other guys are going to step up as well."
Vernon is equally confident the defense will return to its 2016 level.
"How we played last year put a target on our back," he said. "You know other teams want to prove something against us, and we like that and we want that to happen. We want to prove how good they are and that last year wasn't a fluke. We just have to get our stuff together. Once we get our stuff together and focus on the team we have ahead of us, then we'll be alright."