Playmakers on the Vikings first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
From Lovie Smith to Todd Bowles and Ron Rivera, the second half of the Giants' schedule has been full of opposing coaches with defensive minds. And it shows in their teams.
This week is no different as Big Blue travels to face Mike Zimmer's Minnesota Vikings. A former defensive coordinator for Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells in Dallas, Zimmer took over a last-place defense in Minnesota and turned it into a top-10 unit this season.
Coinciding with the 2014 start of his tenure was the arrival of defensive tackle Linval Joseph, a former Giant and Super Bowl XLVI champion. The second-round draft pick played for the Giants from 2010-2013, starting 46 of 53 regular-season games. He also started all four of the Giants' victories in their 2011 title run when they held Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, and New England to an average of 14 points per game.
For that, Coughlin referred to him as "our friend" today, despite the fact that the 6-foot-4, 329-pounder now wears purple.
"Linval's a big, strong, physical defensive tackle," Coughlin said. "He plays on the nose. They feature a nose, a one-technique, a three-technique. He's on the center most of the time. He's a big, strong, knock-the-center-back kind of a guy. He takes care of the interior of the line of scrimmage. And he is a good player."
Joseph has been out the last three weeks with an injury while starting safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr have also missed time with their own ailments. But Zimmer said "there's a good possibility" they all return for Sunday night's game.
"Linval is, first of all, a fantastic person, great kid, he's a very team-oriented guy, so he's got just tremendous qualities that we love about him," Zimmer said on a conference call with Giants reporters. "He had a good year last year, but I think sometimes the second year as a free agent you get into a system, you get more comfortable, and better. He has had a tremendous year and unfortunately he's been hurt the last couple of weeks. I love the kid. He's got power and strength. He walks by me a lot of time on the sideline during games and says, 'Keep your foot on them, coach, keep your foot on them' and things like that. I'm just so happy that we have him and he can do a lot of really good things inside as a defensive tackle."
Just as the Vikings' defense is getting healthy, the Giants are finding success in their run game. Rashad Jennings broke the Giants' 14-game drought without a 100-yard rusher last week with 107 yards against Carolina. The Giants rushed for 161 yards as a team.
Now comes another stiff test.
"They're stout," Jennings said. "Their secondary is, too, so it's a good defense we're going against. We've just got to worry about us and making sure we understand the ins and outs of the plays that we're going to be running, finding ways to keep Eli clean, and doing it for four quarters. It will be a good challenge and we're excited to continue the success that we've had both in the pass and the run game."
The Giants gearing up for another premier defense was just one of the many topics on Wednesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Here are three takeaways from the day:
1. WHITLOCK TO IR; MERIWEATHER BACK
Two-way player Nikita Whitlock was placed on injured reserve this week following a knee injury that he suffered late in the Giants' loss to the Panthers. The fullback doubled as a defensive tackle for the Giants at times this season and recorded a sack in their Week 4 victory over the Bills. Meanwhile, veteran safety Brandon Meriweather, who was released last week when the team signed defensive tackle Barry Cofield, was re-signed on Wednesday to shore up the safety position as Cooper Taylor is going through the concussion protocol.
2. INJURY REPORT
Photos from Wednesday's Giants practice
For the Giants, WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder), LB Devon Kennard (foot), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), and S Cooper Taylor (concussion) did not participate in practice. RB Orleans Darkwa (illness), LB James Morris (quad), and DE George Selvie (concussion) were limited.
On Harris, who was named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl as a return specialist, Coughlin said, "He's a little bit sore today, I can tell you that. I was expecting that he would be in a little better shape today. It's Wednesday, we'll see what happens."
For the Vikings, RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/shoulder), CB Josh Robinson (concussion), and TE Rhett Ellison (ankle) did not practice. LB Anthony Barr (knee), DT Linval Joseph (foot), S Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring), DT Sharrif Floyd (not injury related), and DE Everson Griffen (shoulder) were limited. WR Charles Johnson (ankle) was full-go.
3. COUGHLIN: TO DEPICT BECKHAM AS ONLY ONE WRONG IS 'NOT RIGHT'
Coughlin began his Wednesday press conference by addressing the Odell Beckham Jr. situation for what he hopes is the final time but probably isn't. The sophomore wide receiver, who was recently named to his second Pro Bowl, was dealt a one-game suspension by the NFL for "for multiple violations of safety-related playing rules in [the Week 15] game against the Carolina Panthers."
"The only thing I'll say about the incident that occurred the other day in the game that everyone is preoccupied with right now is the fact that to depict this as Odell Beckham being wrong, and the only one wrong, is not right," Coughlin said. "It's not fair, it's not justice, it's not the way it was. If you're naïve enough to think that way, then you better do some soul-searching yourself. Beckham certainly was wrong, and we said he was wrong from day one.
"But there were factors involved, starting in pregame, which are well-documented, which indicate that there was an attempt to provoke him. He was provoked, he was out of control, he was wrong, there's no doubt about it. You'd like that that didn't happen. But the fact of the matter is, if you know that, the situation pregame with the baseball bat and if you know what occurred at the very beginning of the game, you can understand that there was two sides to this and not just one. And that's the only thing I'll say about that incident."