The Giants' running game, one that everybody associated with the team's offense agrees has been subpar, got some assistance today and it had nothing to do with a ballcarrier.
Center David Baas returned to practice after missing the last game-and-a-half with a burner. He did not play in last week's loss to Seattle, when the Giants rushed for only 69 yards.
Baas was officially listed as limited in practice, but he sounds like a player who expects a full workload on Sunday, when the Giants will host the Buffalo Bills in MetLife Stadium in their final game before the bye.
"It felt good today," Baas said. "I went out there and participated in pretty much most of the practice. There were a few things that I had to make sure I kept my head out of and just used my hands, but it felt great. We'll just continue to evaluate it. I still have to shower up and give the report to the doctors, but they watched me out there and everything looks good so far."
Baas' return would not address all the issues associated with the ground game. Three players integral to the success of the rushing attack - running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), right guard Chris Snee (concussion) and fullback Henry Hynoski (burner) - were among the seven Giants who missed practice today. But Baas' return to practice provided some welcome good news.
"We miss (Snee), but you have to adjust on the fly," Baas said. "We just went out there and worked well together today and we have to make it happen."
If they do, it will help keep the ball away from a Buffalo offense that is third in the league in scoring with an average of 32.8 points a game.
"What you see in an obvious fashion when the Bills played the Eagles (last week) was that they tried to control the ball and maintain the clock, so they ran the ball more than they threw it," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "They had it for 33:38, so that would be a nice thing if we can control the ball. Of course, you are not going to control the ball unless you are running the ball and that would certainly help us. The style in which you're running the ball, that really doesn't matter and that is exemplified by the Bills. They run from three wides, four wides, that type of thing. It would help a lot."
With Baas back in the middle of the line, Kevin Boothe, who had played center since the second half of the victory at Arizona on Oct. 2, returned to guard in Snee's absence.
"I think everybody looks at it as an opportunity," said Boothe, who can play anywhere on the line. "Everybody gets in there. There will be a few guys in there that rotate in and take practice reps and in the event that they are needed, they will be able to go as well, so we look at is as an opportunity more than a weakness or a debilitating problem."
If they can solidify the line, perhaps the Giants can boost their run game, which is averaging only 83.8 yards a game, leaving them an uncharacteristic 28th in the NFL. This week, they will face a Buffalo defense that is ranked 29th stopping the run (138.4 yards a game).
"A lot of teams know we want to run the ball, so they are not just going to let us run the ball," tight end Jake Ballard said. "They are going to do whatever they can to mess us up. Add another guy in the box, blitz us certain ways, move certain guys. They are just not going to let us snap the ball and run down their throats, so they have to do something to hurt the offensive running game."
The linemen believe that no matter what the opposition does, they must find a way to open holes for Ahmad Bradshaw, Jacobs and D.J. Ware. The Giants are certain they are capable of running the ball much more productively than they have in the first five games.
"A lot of it is inconsistency," Baas said. "I think just making sure that people are cleaning up that stuff. It's the sixth week of the season - we have to have that stuff straightened out. We can't be having mistakes like that. That's definitely something that we need to get corrected and do a lot less of moving forward.
"It's something you definitely have to address and get straightened out. We know that Buffalo is a very good team. We have to focus on what we have to focus on this week for us. We're going to have a good game plan, but we just need to go out and execute."
"It's just a matter of execution and being consistent," Boothe said. "There are some plays that are blocked tremendously and others that they don't look like us at all so it's just a matter of being consistent. We are working on it every day all through practice so we are confident that we will get those fixed."
*The defensive line also has issues. Reserve tackle Jimmy Kennedy has been suspended without pay for four games by the NFL after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. The suspension begins immediately and will conclude on Nov. 14, the day after the Giants play the 49ers in San Francisco.
"That's a league issue between Jimmy Kennedy and the league," Coughlin said. "We knew about it, we talked about it when he first came here. We were very much aware of the (appeals) process that took place one day when he wasn't available to us just a couple or three weeks ago."
Coughlin was then asked specifically whether the Giants were aware of Kennedy's issue when they signed him on Aug. 23.
"Yes, sure we were," Coughlin said. "This was an upcoming event that had taken place and he was going to have his opportunity to go before the league."
Asked if the Giants considered not signing Kennedy because of the potential suspension, Coughlin said, "Possibly, but we signed him. … Jimmy Kennedy, in all that he's done with me, has conducted himself as a pro. (He) has done things in the best interest of the club. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this occurred as a one-time thing and let's get it over and done with."
Kennedy, a nine-year veteran, has played as a backup in all five games and has four tackles (two solo).
In his absence, Dave Tollefson, a natural end who has played numerous snaps at tackle this season, will likely see more time inside.
"I'm not scared, I'm going to bust my (butt)," Tollefson said. "We're going to need something. It's not like we're going to just tell the Bills, 'Can you just cut out like 10-12 reps, because we don't have enough (linemen)?' Someone's going to have to do it."
Tollefson will volunteer for anything, so it might as well be him. He said he weighs about 260 pounds. Buffalo's three interior offensive linemen – guards Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik and center Eric Wood – are 303, 329 and 311, respectively.
"Make it up with the heart," Tollefson said. "You have to, man. The technique is paramount, especially when you're down 50, 60, 70, 80 pounds. You have to make sure your technique is good. Because if you have your pad level two inches too high, you're going to get blown out of there."
Tollefson said the hand-to-hand combat is different at defensive tackle than it is at end.
"It's a little rougher in there," Tollefson said. "Those guys are quick to get hands on you. You have room outside. You can go a play or two with a good pass rush and you don't get touched. Inside, you're usually going to get touched. You're going to have to wrestle around a little more – that's a good term to use."
*The other players who did not practice today were defensive ends Justin Tuck (neck/groin) and Osi Umenyiora (knee), long snapper Zak DeOssie (concussion) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot). Linebacker Michael Boley (knee) was limited.
*The Elias Sports Bureau has made a scoring change from the Seattle game that adds a half-sack to Umenyiora's total and removes a half-sack from Jason Pierre-Paul.
With 5:05 remaining in the third quarter, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul were credited with a split sack of Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. After reviewing the play, Elias awarded the entire sack to Umenyiora, who had 2.0 in the game and has 4.0 for the season (in just two games). Pierre-Paul also had 2.0 sacks in the Seattle game and now has 6.5 this season.
*The Giants again signed offensive lineman Selvish Capers to their practice squad and terminated the contract of quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.