Playing the Patriots is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
One week, they'll run the ball nine times for 16 yards. The next, they'll pound away on the ground with 37 carries for 161 yards. The former, latter and everything in between clearly work for the reigning Super Bowl champions, who are undefeated through eight games in their title defense. The Giants need to be ready for it all.
The loss of Dion Lewis, New England's second-leading rusher and third-leading receiver who tore his ACL last week, could mean more passes and fewer runs on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. But it might not. Bill Belichick didn't get four rings as the Patriots' head coach with conventional wisdom. What he does have, though, is LeGarrette Blount.
A 6-foot, 250-pound running back, Blount will now carry the bulk of the load with Lewis out for the year. He leads the team with 98 attempts for 447 yards and five touchdowns. Two weeks after rushing three times for a loss of three yards, Blount, in true Patriot form, had 29 carries for 129 yards in the Washington game where Lewis was injured.
"A lot of power runs with him," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "It's going to be a big difference without them having Dion Lewis in there. But LeGarrette Blount is a pretty good back, and his style is a lot different than what Lewis' was. So I expect them to come out and try to run a lot of power, straight, downhill runs with him, and this is his style and that's what he does well."
It would have been an ideal matchup for Johnathan Hankins, but the run-stuffing defensive tackle was placed on injured reserve this week. The former second-round draft pick suffered a torn pectoral muscle while forcing a fumble in the Tampa Bay game.
That will mean more opportunities for Jay Bromley down the stretch. Like Hankins, the 2014 third-round draft pick sat most of his rookie year before having his role expanded in his second season. Now it gets even bigger for him as the Giants try to maintain their NFC East lead with seven games to play.
"I expect to help in filling that gap," said Bromley, who has 21 tackles (one for loss) on the season and made his first career start in the Giants' win over San Francisco in Week 5. "But you can't just take away a player like Hank and just think you're magically going to perform. But I know I've got to pick it up a lot and help out, along with Cullen Jenkins, Markus Kuhn, Monori [Hughes] -- so hopefully we can get the job done." Meanwhile, the loss of Hankins could also mean more time for Jenkins on the inside.
In three seasons with the Giants, the 12-year NFL veteran has started five games at left defensive end, 11 at left defensive tackle, 15 at right defensive tackle, and one at right defensive end.
"I'm everywhere," Jenkins said. "The thought would be that I'm going to be a little more inside, especially with Hankins going down. So I just have to be ready and be able to step up wherever I can help."
With changes on the inside, Jason Pierre-Paul has returned to fortify the edge. That's where the one constant with Tom Brady and the high-scoring Patriots offense comes into play.
"We've got to get in his face right now," Bromley said. "I think it's no secret that you have to get to Tom Brady early and often if you want any kind of success. He does a great job of getting the ball out, just above two seconds I believe. So just getting our hands up and get to the quarterback and try to beat the o-line." The changes on the defensive line were just one of the many topics buzzing around the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday. Here are three takeaways from the day:
1. BEATTY LOST FOR SEASON
The window for offensive tackle Will Beatty to be activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list closed on Thursday. Coach Tom Coughlin announced that Beatty will remain there, thus ending his season with a shoulder injury. Beatty was initially placed on PUP after tearing his left pectoral muscle while lifting weights in May.
"He has an issue with a rotator cuff on the right side that's going to require some surgery, so he remains on PUP," Coughlin said. "He's had an issue with that for quite a while."
2. INJURY REPORT
For the Giants, WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas III (ankle) and LB Uani 'Unga (neck) did not participate in practice. CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), CB Leon McFadden (groin) and LG Justin Pugh (illness) were limited. RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle) was full-go.
For the Patriots, OL Marcus Cannon (toe), LB Jamie Collins (illness), G Tre' Jackson (knee) and OT Sebastian Vollmer (concussion) did not practice. CB Justin Coleman (hand), WR Julian Edelman (knee), DB Duron Harmon (knee), WR Keshawn Martin (hamstring), G Shaq Mason (knee) and DE Jabaal Sheard (ankle) were limited.
3. SECONDARY LOOKS TO BUY TIME FOR D-LINE
Sacks can be as much about the defensive backs as they are about the pass-rushers. If the quarterback has no open targets, then the defensive line has more time to apply pressure. But it's easier said than done, especially against a Brady-led offense.
"I think they're kind of 'get up, get in, get out,'" cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He gets the ball out real quick, so if you get up there and throw his timing off a little bit, I think he'll hold it a little longer for your d-line to get after him."