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Five things we learned at Giants practice (12/15)


**'s Dan Salomone highlights five takeaways from the latest team practice and media hour:


> Eye on the Lions: Scouting Report
> Giants Keys to Victory vs. Lions
> Justin Pugh expects to play
> Giants-Lions History in Photos
> Watch Locker Room Interviews

In true coaching form, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's thoughts go right to the wide open 31-yard touchdown from Dak Prescott to Terrance Williams when asked about last week's 10-7 victory over the Cowboys being the best defensive performance of the year. While he did tell his players that they executed well – Dallas went 1-for-15 on third down and totaled just 260 yards – he also preached not to let it be their best.

"That is just my nature," Spagnuolo said. "So when you ask me that question, I think more of the mistakes we made. I will say this, when I got in front of the guys on Tuesday, I did say this because I meant it: There was a lot of well executed defense on certain downs. I felt like there were things that were happening in the game that we had done in practice and it went from practice to the game and that is encouraging. It wasn't every play. We weren't perfect. There were things that we can clean up and we will, but there was some really good execution."

Added Spagnuolo: "Our goal now is to make sure that that game defensively is not our best game this year."


In East Rutherford, there were no changes from yesterday's report. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (shoulder) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) did not participate in practice. Safety Nat Berhe (concussion), long snapper Zak DeOssie (hamstring), defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (shoulder), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion), defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (knee), left guard Justin Pugh (knee) and running back Shane Vereen (concussion) were limited. In Detroit, running back Theo Riddick (wrist) and center Travis Swanson (concussion) did not practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), tight end Eric Ebron (knee), linebacker DeAndre Levy (knee), cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring) and running back Zach Zenner (concussion) were limited. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (right finger) was full-go.


While the Giants have their own ironman in Eli Manning, the Lions have one of the grittiest quarterbacks in the league in Stafford. The eighth-year pro and former Pro Bowler gutted out a middle finger injury on his throwing hand last week, guiding Detroit to a comeback victory and running in the go-ahead touchdown. The Lions fully expect him to start this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. "I will have some of the guys upstairs looking," Spagnuolo said. "If he is functioning differently, then maybe we will change things. But I am going to assume right now going in there that he can throw it every bit as good as we have seen him."


While all indications are that it will happen this week, left guard Justin Pugh's return from a knee injury should provide a major boost to the offensive line, especially to the player directly to his left. Four different players have started next to left tackle Ereck Flowers in his second season after being drafted ninth overall in 2015.

"I think when there's continuity, when you have someone who's played quite a bit -- I mean Justin's played a lot of football -- that communication is a big part of the success that can take place for the offensive line," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "And that's certainly something that could help improve, we hope, and again, I think it's just a matter of continuing on a day-to-day basis, working the technique, working the fundamentals.

"There's things that [Flowers is] aware of that he can improve upon and it's a process. It never gets as fast or happens as fast as anyone would like, but he's certainly putting the time in, his coaches are putting the time in and, again, we're hoping for the best."


Like Chicago's Jay Cutler playing without Alshon Jeffery earlier this season, Stafford no longer throwing to record-setting wide receiver Calvin Johnson has actually helped the quarterback's game. Instead of keying on the one player who caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns before retiring after nine seasons, Stafford has spread the ball around and has five targets with 40 or more receptions this season.

"You know, I remember when we played Chicago back a few weeks ago and Cutler didn't have Jeffery, he wasn't going to play," Spagnuolo said. "I remember somebody saying to me that had some insight into Chicago was that they thought it would make Jay Cutler a better quarterback because now he wouldn't look for one guy, he would spread it around.

"I think that is what is happening in Detroit. They have a lot of guys catching the football. They have backs, they have receivers, they have big tight ends. It is a good unit now. It is a really good unit. It is going to be another test for us. If we let down at all, then it is going to be a problem."

Photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Lions

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