The Giants' pass defense has not played to its potential in this young season and their punt returner is headed for knee surgery. And the player who is perhaps the key to upgrading the former and maintaining the high standard of the latter was removed from the game by the coaches Monday night and had a private conversation with head coach Tom Coughlin yesterday.
Yes, Aaron Ross has had a whirlwind week. But he is confident that brighter days are in his future and the team's.
"I am ready to move on," Ross said today. "It is a big week this week against Philly. They have a really explosive team to go against and it is time to get on to next week."
Ross will retain his job as the starting right cornerback when the Giants meet the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field. He will replace the injured Domenik Hixon as the team's punt returner.
"He is going to have dual roles and where need be, we will spell him," Coughlin said.
Ross has become an important figure just days after he was not at the top of his game in the Giants' 28-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams in MetLife Stadium on Monday. Early in the third quarter, he was replaced by Michael Coe. Ross retreated to the bench, though he eventually returned to the game. And when Hixon was unable to continue because of the torn ACL he suffered while catching a touchdown pass late in the first half, Ross returned two punts.
Today, Ross was not interested in revisiting the events of Monday.
"I am just happy we got the 'W' and now it is time to move on to next week," Ross said.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said taking Ross off the field was not as significant as portrayed.
"We felt like he needed to see how he was being attacked in the football game," Fewell said. "You see it in basketball all the time. A guy's having a tough day, you bring him to the side and say, 'Hey, look what they're doing to you and see if you can learn something, what's happening.' And then we got him back in the football game.
"Aaron's our starter this week. We expect him to be better. And I think he'll grow and learn from the experience."
In the wake of Ross' removal from the game, Coughlin did talk with the five-year veteran. Coughlin wouldn't reveal anything about the exchange except to say, "I liked what we discussed yesterday."
The Giants need Ross, a former first-round draft choice, to help a pass defense that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards in a franchise-record four consecutive games, including both this year (Rex Grossman, 305 and Sam Bradford, 331).
"We had some problems," Fewell said. "Some of the problems were the same in Week 1, some were different. I felt like we got better last week. I saw some improvement in our secondary play. But then I saw some lapses in our secondary play. We're a work on progress. We're going to continue to work and get it right.
"You never want to give up 300 yards," Ross said. "Balls are being caught everywhere, so we have to tighten up on the coverage and get a better rush. Everything goes together, so we have to play better as a defense. We have a good team that can bounce back this week and that's what we plan to do."
The Giants are also counting on Ross to invigorate the return game. He was an outstanding punt returner at the University of Texas, but until the final two games of the 2010 season, had never returned a punt in an NFL regular season game. With Hixon out, the job is his.
"I am very, very excited to do that," said Ross, who has lobbied for the job since his arrival in 2007. "I definitely feel like I can make plays back there. I can follow the scheme and we will see what happens."
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn is confident Ross will be a worthy replacement for Hixon, who is an outstanding punt returner.
"Aaron is ready to step in there," Quinn said. "He likes doing it and he does it well. So we're excited to see him do it. He's very secure catching (the ball). He's square. And he has a quick first step."
*Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (knee) joined the group of players who sat out of practice. The list includes wide receiver Mario Manningham (concussion), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) and Umenyiora.
Regarding Manningham, Coughlin said, "We will continue to follow protocol and as soon as he is clear, he will go."
Center David Baas was limited with a sore lower leg. Tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring) practiced fully.
*Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick (concussion) practiced fully.
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