The question looming over the Giants all week has been about how will the defense bounce back from its performance against New Orleans.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knows the answer.
"Only with a win," the cornerback said after Thursday's practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. In Week 8, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes en route to a 52-49 victory over the Giants, who fell to 4-4 on the season. Nonetheless, the Giants kept their slim lead in the NFC East and will put it to the test again on Sunday in Tampa Bay.
"I think you've got to go out and get this one," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "We know the things that come along with a win as far our division and trying to get back to where we want to be. I think that's definitely the biggest thing."
Rodgers-Cromartie, an eight-year NFL veteran, has played in the league long enough to know performances like last week can happen. But it didn't make watching film any easier.
"I went to the bathroom," he joked. "It's hard. It's real hard, especially when so much is self-inflicted. Eight games in, you want to have your communication and everything down pat and you've just got to keep going and get it right."
Added Rodgers-Cromartie: "In [the course of 16 games], I think you're going to have a game somewhat like that -- I don't know as bad -- but I know you're going to have that bad game. So hopefully that was it, and you just have to move on from it. You can't let that game continue to beat you. So you've got to get it out of your system real fast."
The Giants are in the middle of preparations for No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers, fresh off their overtime win against the Falcons. Since throwing four interceptions in Week 4 (he has six on the season in addition to a lost fumble), the Florida State product has not turned the ball over as his team won two of its last three games and improved to 3-4.
"They're on fire right now," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "[He's] a guy who definitely has a strong arm and has targets he can get the ball to. They're going to run the ball a little bit. He's still young, but I like him as far as just throwing the ball and getting it downfield."
Still, the Giants hope they can find ways to make him look like a rookie, whether it's by giving him different looks or pressures that he has not seen.
But he was the first pick for a reason.
"I hope because he's young," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "But I mean he's put up some good numbers this year and he's a first overall pick. He definitely has some stuff about himself or he definitely wouldn't have been that [otherwise]. You can't take him lightly. You can take advantage of that [because] he hasn't seen all the pressures and things of that nature and try to come after him."
How the Giants defend this year's top draft pick was just one of the many headlines coming out of the QDTC today. Here are the main takeaways from the day:
CRUZ SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is dealing with a calf issue and has not played in a game since suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 of 2014, said he started running again today, "even if it was just a light jog picking up some speed."
Cruz added that he "absolutely" and "truly" thinks he'll be back this season. But while the bye week looks like a promising date, his return is all up to the doctors.
"It's just a matter of continuing to pick it up day in and day out," Cruz said. "But if I had to pick a time, it would be any week in terms of that regard. But if I had to pick a time, and after the bye obviously looks like a promising date, but obviously the doctors haven't told me that, no one said that to me. We're just, like I said, taking it one day at a time."
OWA TO SHORT-TERM I.R.; TE CUNNINGHAM ACTIVATED
The Giants today placed rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa, the team's third-round draft choice, on injured reserve/designated for return because of a hamstring injury. By rule, he is eligible to return to practice on Dec. 17, and the first game he could play is two weeks after that in the regular-season finale against the Eagles.
"Disappointed in the fact that we didn't get to consistently work with him," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The missed time definitely affects the young player, without a doubt, especially in that position. He needs more work."
Added Coughlin: "He'll be with us, he'll be right here, he'll be in the meeting rooms, he'll be on the field with the trainers trying to get himself to the position where he eventually can go again. But being around it is the thing that's important right now."
Meanwhile, tight end Jerome Cunningham was signed off the practice squad with Larry Donnell dealing with a neck injury.
For the Giants, LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee), WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), CB Leon McFadden (groin) and LB J.T. Thomas III (ankle) did not practice. CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), S Craig Dahl (neck), RB Orleans Darkwa (back), WR Rueben Randle (hamstring), G Geoff Schwartz (ankle) and LB Uani 'Unga (neck) were limited.
For the Buccaneers, WR Vincent Jackson (knee), DE Jacquies Smith (ankle) and S Major Wright (hamstring) did not practice. DE William Gholston (knee), DT Gerald McCoy (shoulder), DT Tony McDaniel (groin), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) and S D.J. Swearinger (toe) were limited. G Logan Mankins (not injury related) was full-go.
Photos from Giants Practice as the team preps for Week 9