EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' offensive line will continue to undergo injury-induced change when the team returns to action Sunday against the Redskins in Washington.
After rolling out the same starting five in eight of the first nine games, the Giants will have a different lineup for the second game in a row when they attempt to increase their lead in the NFC East to two games.
Left guard Justin Pugh will miss his second game in a row with a concussion. He was replaced by John Jerry in the Giants' most recent outing, the 27-26 loss to New England on Nov. 15. Pugh will likely be joined on the inactive list by center Weston Richburg, who sprained his ankle vs. the Patriots. Richburg was today declared doubtful for the Washington game after practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday and not at all yesterday. He would be replaced by Dallas Reynolds, who would make his first start in three seasons with the Giants and his first since Dec. 29, 2012 for Philadelphia, against the Giants.
"Anytime your starters are out (it's a challenge)," coach Tm Coughlin said. "But we try to be in a position where guys come along and play and play well. That's what we need again. We're going to need that to happen."
The Giants benefitted from stability on the offensive line during the first half of the season. Richburg, guards Geoff Schwartz and Pugh, and tackles Marshall Newhouse and Ereck Flowers started together in all but one of the first nine games. Flowers missed the victory over Washington on Sept. 25 with an ankle injury. Pugh moved outside to tackle, and Jerry stepped in at guard.
Two weeks ago, Pugh was sidelined. Now Richburg becomes the second of the starting five to be forced out. It will be the first game missed by Richburg in his two-year career, and only the second time he will not start. As a rookie, he played left guard and started 15 games. He was replaced in a Nov. 23 game against Dallas by Adam Snyder, who hurt his knee in the contest. Richburg returned to his position, and stayed there the remainder of the season.
Jerry is accustomed to a first-team role. From 2012-14, he started 48 consecutive games at right guard, the first 32 for the Miami Dolphins, and all 16 for the Giants last year.
"John's played a lot of football," Coughlin said. "John's been a starter here, he's played in the backup capacity. We've always been fortunate to be able to call on him, and here we go again."
The Giants are going to need their reconfigured line to be at its best against an active Washington defensive front that features linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
"(I'm) very confident, yeah, very confident," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "We had a good week this week. Dallas came in, we haven't missed a beat so far up front. He does a nice job directing traffic for us. We'll need a big week from those guys this week. Washington does a nice job up front creating some havoc."
It's up to the offensive line to prevent that from happening Sunday.
• Coughlin was non-committal when asked if Hakeem Nicks will be in uniform in Washington. But both McAdoo and he said the veteran receiver has picked up the offense and practiced well since he was signed last week.
"He had a good week of practice, caught the ball well, seemed to pick up with the signals and with the offense," Coughlin said. "So to what extent is he really prepared? Not going to give you percentages, but I think he's done a good job. He's worked hard, he's studied, he's had extra time with coaches. So I feel confident that the experience will kick in as well and, if called upon, he'd be able to go."
"He came in and he's doing a nice job," McAdoo said. "He's working at it, putting in some extra time learning it, spending some time with (wide receivers coach) Sean (Ryan) and (offensive assistant) Ryan Roeder, putting the time in after practice and in the evenings. He's had a nice week."
• In addition to Pugh, tight end Larry Donnell (neck) and linebacker Mark Herzlich (quad) will not play in Washington. Donnell will miss his third consecutive game, while Herzlich will sit out for the first time this season.
Donnell expressed optimism on Monday that he would return to the field against Washington. But an exam this week revealed an undisclosed issue. "So we're in a holding pattern," Coughlin said. "There's concern or else he'd be able to play. The fact is he's not where they want him to be when they would give him the green light, so he's not ready to go."
• Linebacker J.T. Thomas, who missed the previous three games with an ankle injury, is questionable.
Five players are listed as probable: cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (pectoral), and Leon McFadden (groin), defensive end Damontre Moore (hamstring), Schwartz (ankle) and linebacker Uani 'Unga (neck).
Amukamara will return after missing five games with a partially torn pectoral muscle.
"We know he's a good football player," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "Before he got hurt, I thought he was really coming along and playing real well for us. Look, if there's a sense of security, I think Jayron (Hosley) did a really good job coming in (and starting for Amukamara). When Trumaine McBride went out there, I thought he did a good job for us, and when Trevin Wade came in. Anytime you lose a player of Prince's caliber, it makes it a challenge. I think the guys have done a good job to this point. We're glad we have him back. He was practicing without playing in games a couple weeks ago, because he was still getting in the groove. Hopefully he can knock the rust off really quick in the game and he can help us."
• The Giants always spend the bye week self-scouting, and one of the areas they studied closely was their offense inside the 20-yard line. They have scored touchdowns on 16 of 36 opportunities, a 44.4 percentage that leaves them tied for 25th in the NFL with the Denver Broncos.
What did McAdoo see as they looked at that critical area?
"Saw five turnovers," he said. "We're number one in the league in turnover ratio. Defense and special teams are doing a great job getting us the ball and we're taking care of it fairly well (10 giveaways in 10 games). But half of them, half the giveaways, are in the green zone. When you turn the ball over five times down there, you've got problems. Nine penalties, dropped balls, missed throws, and mental errors. Our focus needs to increase the longer you drive the ball and that's a major factor. You have five turnovers, you lose five possessions and five opportunities to score right there off the bat. When the field shrinks and you have longer down and distances to go, it makes it a lot harder and a lot easier to call a defense. That's what we need to do, we need to focus on the details, chase the details and not touchdowns."
• Two Washington players were declared out: cornerback Chris Culliver has been placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, and safety Trenton Robinson is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face Washington