EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Will Hernandez is a go, Devonta Freeman is a no and Golden Tate and Isaac Yiadom are maybes for the Giants' home game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hernandez, the starting left guard since his arrival as a second-round draft choice in 2018, missed the previous two games while he was on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. But he returned to the field this week and is set to play Sunday.
"In reference to Will, he had a good practice yesterday," coach Joe Judge said today. "We're looking forward to him playing this week."
Hernandez did not miss a snap in any of his first 39 career games, but that is likely to change against the Eagles. The Giants have recently rotated tackles Cam Fleming and rookies Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart. Another first-year player, fifth-round draft choice Shane Lemieux, started against Tampa Bay and Washington. He has earned a place in the guard rotation with Kevin Zeitler and Hernandez.
"Like we have been doing, playing all three tackles, and we plan on playing all three guards the same way," Judge said. "Will had a good day yesterday. I was more concerned physically with how he's dealing with coming back. He's still coming off of missing two games. We're going to see him again today in practice and planning to see him on the field."
*The Giants added a hamstring injury to the ankle issue that sidelined Freeman the previous two games. In his absence, Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris received the bulk of the carries (totaling 43 in two games). But to play Sunday, Morris must be signed to the roster off the practice squad, because the team has used both of his allotted "standard elevations."
The team does have an open roster spot. But with Dion Lewis and Eli Penny also available at running back, the team might want to add linebacker Tae Crowder or a cornerback.
Corner might be the most glaring need if Yiadom can't play. He was limited in practice and the Giants today added him to the injury report as questionable with a calf injury. Yiadom started the last two games and four this season at right cornerback. The other players to start at that position are not available; Ryan Lewis is on injured reserve and Corey Ballentine was released this week.
The other cornerbacks on the roster include rookie Darnay Holmes (who has been the No. 1 slot corner all season), five-year veteran Brandon Williams, who was on injured reserve and hasn't played since Week 2 in Chicago, and rookie Madre Harper.
The defensive backs on the practice squad include rookie seventh-round draft choice Chris Williamson, second-year pro Montre Hartage and rookie free agent Jarren Williams.
"We haven't fully decided yet," Judge said about filling the roster spot. "It's something we're going to talk about after practice today, the several roster moves that we've made recently, as well as some moves we want to make for the game. We'll have some conversations after practice. We need to see where some guys are physically today after letting them practice for a couple of days."
*Tate, who did not play last week in Washington, hurt his knee yesterday in practice. He was also limited and is listed as questionable. Tate declined to comment on his potential availability for the game on a Zoom call with reporters today.
"It was just the end of practice," Judge said of the timing of the injury. "He just kind of bumped bodies with someone. We're going to take a look at him today, see how he's doing. We're optimistic. But at the same time, I need to be fair to the player to give him an opportunity to go out there and see where he's at physically. Look, the guy has had a tremendous week of practice. We're looking forward to getting him on the grass Sunday. We'll take a look at him today and see how he's feeling."
*The Giants today signed rookie offense lineman Kyle Murphy off their practice squad and waived tight end Eric Tomlinson and guard Kenny Wiggins.
Murphy, 6-4 and 302 pounds, was signed as an undrafted free agent on April 30. He was waived at the end of training camp on Sept. 5 and signed the following day to the practice squad, where he spent the season's first nine weeks.
At the University of Rhode Island, Murphy played in 43 games with 36 starts and demonstrated his versatility by starting at four different positions - 21 games at left tackle, nine at left guard, five at right tackle and one at center. As a senior in 2019, he was a team captain and started all 11 games at left tackle.
"I think like a lot of the young guys right now in our program," Judge said, "this guy, obviously missing spring and not having the opportunity through some preseason games to really demonstrate some things and really gain a lot of experience, he's been able to really use the first half of the season of kind of getting on track, get used to the speed of the game, and really show some improvement for us on a daily basis in practice. I think Kyle is a good, young player that's worth developing. We enjoy having him in the program. He's a guy that's worked very hard with Fitz (director of strength and performance Craig Fitzgerald) and his crew and has changed his body a good bit. I see him moving, I see some athleticism, has some power, he has some nasty to him in how he plays. He's a guy right there that we just think in terms of a young guy, worth developing, and giving us some depth on the roster moving forward. He was a good candidate."
Given all the positions Murphy has played, where does Judge see him lining up?
"Kyle is definitely more of an inside guy," Judge said. "He's played guard and center for us. He's played some tackle in his history, too. It isn't something we'd ever rule out putting him outside. But I'd say, primarily, he's more of an inside guy."
Tomlinson played briefly in the season opener against Pittsburgh. He was inactive for six games, including each of the last four, and on the practice squad for two. Tomlinson achieved his biggest acclaim this season when he played right tackle in practice on Oct. 29. Several linemen missed that workout after Hernandez was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
Wiggins was signed 10 days ago and was inactive in Washington last Sunday.
*Tate spoke publicly for the first time since he did not make the trip last week to Washington.
"I was definitely disappointed, but there are consequences for your actions," he said. "My actions were unacceptable and I apologized to the team, the G.M., the coaches, the offense. I'm excited to move forward. But I did have fun on scout team. That was fun. I enjoyed it. I got a chance to make some plays and get the defense ready, so I enjoyed that.
"If you know me and you know my game, I play with a lot of emotion, a lot of passion and I just got caught up in the moment. I was wrong to draw attention to myself. I take full responsibility for that. I handled it the wrong way, and again, brought negative attention to our organization. It was something that won't happen again."
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