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JPP ready for Primetime

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Umenyiora underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his right knee yesterday. Tom Coughlin was asked if the surgery went well.

"Have you ever heard of one that didn't?" Coughlin said. "I saw him and he is in good spirits. The doctor said it went well and he said he was able to do some debridement. He thinks it's going to be some improvement." 

The anticipated recovery time is three to four weeks. The Giants open their regular season three weeks from tomorrow in Washington. They have three preseason games to play, beginning Monday night at home against the Chicago Bears.

Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks in last week's game against Carolina, will again start for Umenyiora at right end. Justin Tuck, who also has also played in two Pro Bowls, including last year's, remains on the left side. Fifth-year pro Dave Tollefson and four-year veteran Alex Hall will be next in line.

"We've got plenty of guys who are going to be able to come in and contribute," said defensive tackle Chris Canty, "and be able to pick up the mantle and continue to get after opposing offensive lines and opposing quarterbacks."

"JPP will definitely feel comfortable with his role and stepping in as a starter at that position," Tuck said. "Dave Tollefson is having a great camp and we just roll them in and roll them out."

The Giants have replacements, but they will still miss Umenyiora. He is, after all, in his ninth Giants season, tying him with guard David Diehl for the longest active tenure on the team. He has 60.0 career sacks and has been the Giants' sole or shared leader in sacks in six of the last seven years, missing only 2008, when he sat out the entire season after undergoing knee surgery. Umenyiora and Tuck tied for the team lead last year with 11.5 sacks. Umenyiora also tied an NFL record by forcing 10 fumbles.

Umenyiora missed the first two weeks of training camp and the Panthers game. He returned to the field on Monday and participated in three practices. But his knee swelled as a result of the work, prompting him to have the surgery.

"We want Osi to get healthy, first and foremost," Canty said. "Just get healthy. We know he'll be ready to play when he comes back. The few days that he was out there and we were able to move around with him it was like he hadn't missed any time at all. He just picked up where he left off last year in the Redskins game, when he was just a monster. Our concern is just for his health. He's a great teammate and we just want him to get healthy and get back."

"He came out in practice with every intention of letting that knee be dealt with in the offseason," Tuck said. "After a couple practices it swelled up on him and him and the Giants made a conscious decision to take care of it now. It wasn't like he planned on it, he planned on playing the season with it but seeing how it was the first week of practice, he felt like it was the right idea to take care of it now.

"Obviously it is a blow, but just like before when he was not practicing, it gives other guys the opportunity. … Osi needed to take care of this issue and luckily he takes care of it now and it doesn't affect us midseason. I think it is a good thing and deal with it now and we will be excited when he comes back."

The silver lining to Umenyiora's absence is the opportunity it presents to other players, particularly Pierre-Paul, the 2010 first-round draft choice who was arguably the best player on the field during his brief stint last week in Charlotte. Pierre-Paul played with the starters in Umenyiora's absence early in camp and seems poised to take a big leap forward.

"I just have to do what I have to do," Pierre-Paul said. "Coach came up to me with that yesterday and let me know Osi was going to be out, so I need to step it up. I am going to go out there and do what I have to do to help the team win.

"I just have to play both sides now. I'm used to it and coach just told me to play more of the right end, especially this game, so that's what I have been doing in practice."

Pierre-Paul is physically imposing. He is 6-5 and 278 pounds, fast, quick and strong. He joined the Giants with limited football experience, having played only one season of major college football at South Florida (he also played at two junior colleges). When he learns the nuances of the game, Pierre-Paul should be an outstanding defensive end.

"I think he welcomes the challenge and he feels confident in his ability," Tuck said. "The more he plays, the better he is going to get, so honestly this could be a win-win for us. We know when Osi comes back, depending on how his knee acts, we know what he can do. We believe in what JPP can do, so the more he gets out there with the ones and goes against teams we are about to face in this preseason, he will get more confident in his ability. It will benefit us more."

"To be a guy that big and be that athletic, that's amazing," Canty said. "You won't find many guys walking around that are his size and can move like he can move. It's unbelievable. I knew that as soon as he got here. It seems like he's transitioning from being a rookie and being thrown out there, not really knowing what's going on to understanding some more about the game. His knowledge of the game of football has picked up. We just look for that to increase and with his understanding getting better, his production's going to get better."

Before anyone expects JPP to break sack records or play in multiple Pro Bowls, Canty provided a word of caution when it was suggested that Pierre-Paul has exciting potential.

"Potential just means you haven't done anything," Canty said. "So be careful with that word."

Ideally, Umenyiora will return soon and the Giants will be able to rotate their top three defensive ends for the majority of the season. Until then, Pierre-Paul must plug the hole left behind by Umenyiora.

"I don't think you can get into comparing the two individuals," Canty said. "They both have unique talents and gifts and they both bring something different to the table. We just try to put all the ingredients in a pot and stir it up and hopefully it comes out into something good."

Tollefson is eager to be included in that mix. A Giant since 2007, he re-signed with the team on Aug. 5 in part because he knows the defense, likes his teammates and understands what is expected of him.

He takes no delight in seeing a teammate have surgery, but Tollefson has been in the league long enough to know Umenyiora's absence gives him a chance to produce.

"You have to think it directly affects me maybe getting more snaps on defense," Tollefson said. "However it does affect me, I'm ready to step up in that role. If it does, I'm ready. If it doesn't, I'll keep doing my thing on special teams and spot duty on defense.

"With JPP coming on, there are so many guys here that can play. How can you speculate who's going to play where? Whenever anybody's in, they have to play good. … That's why I came back. I'm comfortable in the system. I've had success in it. And we have a good group of guys that have played together. I'm ready."

He's not alone.


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