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Linebacker corps rallies to step in for injured Vernon

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Linebacker Olivier Vernon did not practice again today and will miss his second game in a row when the Giants visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. His first chance to play this season now becomes the Sept. 23 game in Houston.

"We are hopeful he'll be back soon, so we'll see," coach Pat Shurmur said today. "He did more this week and he got closer. We haven't seen any setbacks in any way, so we will be hopeful for next week."

Ten-year veteran Connor Barwin and rookie third-round draft choice Lorenzo Carter will again step in for Vernon. Barwin started last week vs. Jacksonville and was credited with a quarterback hit and pass defensed. Carter had one assisted tackle and pass defensed.

"It's a next man up league," inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "Guys go down all the time, but it's harder to replace a guy like (Vernon) that, for sure. The guys that have stepped in last week got to do the same thing this week. I thought they handled themselves pretty well and prepared really well."

Ogletree, one of the team's six captains, was Barwin's teammate last season on the Los Angeles Rams. But he also has an affinity for Carter, with whom he shares an alma mater.

"He's a Georgia Dog, for one, so he already has a step on a lot of people (laughter)," Ogletree said. "For him, he's been doing well. He came in, learned the playbook. Just getting his feet wet, learning what to do. Like I said, with O.V. being out, he's one of the guys that have to step up and make plays for us, and he's done nothing less than that."

Carter, a rangy 6-5, 252-pounder, has been portrayed as a pass-rush specialist, but Shurmur said he shouldn't be placed in that box.

"That's not how we view it," Shurmur said. "We will probably be able to use both players on first, second and third down."

Linebackers coach Bill McGovern has been pleased with Carter's progress.

"He's working at it, he really is," McGovern said. "He's taken everything that we've asked him to do and he's trying to execute it. He's getting better. There's things obviously he has to improve on, he's young, he's still growing, he's still learning, but he's working at it and we're excited about his approach to the game."

*The only player besides Vernon on the final injury report is rookie linebacker Tae Davis, who has a hamstring injury.

*Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who missed practice yesterday for personal reasons, was back on the field today.

"Everything's good," Jenkins said. "In life, things happen. Just have to move forward and come back to work and pick up where I left off."

"It's just a family issue," Shurmur said. "He's fine. Janoris is fine."

*Running back Wayne Gallman (knee) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (back) practiced fully.

*Jenkins was selected to the Pro Bowl and was a second-year All-Pro in 2016 in part because he twice held Dallas' Dez Bryant to a single catch in Giants victories against Dallas. Now the Cowboys have neither Bryant, who was released in the offseason after eight years with the team, nor Jason Witten, who retired after 15 years to become an analyst on Monday Night Football.

"It's definitely a difference just because you always knew those guys were going to be there for however long," Ogletree said. "Then all of a sudden, they're not there. So, you're kind of looking for them on the film, you see certain routes that the tight ends and the receivers run. Now you're like, 'Ah man, that used to be Witten and Dez right there.' They got a good group of guys there. They still do some of the same stuff, but it's definitely a difference in watching them."

"It looks weird," Jenkins said. "We got to prepare the way we always prepare. Expect the unexpected and just play football. We understand that they got a good running game and they're trying to pick it up in the passing game, so we're just going to take it one play at a time."

*It's a big football weekend for the Shurmur family. In addition to Pat's team facing the Cowboys, his son Kyle, the starting quarterback at Vanderbilt, will lead his team against Notre Dame in South Bend. But the Giants will be flying to Dallas when that game is being played.

"I'm going to try to find a way to get some updates," Shurmur said. "I'm certainly hoping that Vandy does well."

*Tight end Evan Engram was upset with himself for dropping a couple of passes vs. the Jaguars – continuing a problem he had at times in his 2017 rookie season.

"With catching the football, some might say is it mental," tight ends coach Lunda Wells said. "I think with him, he's been built to catch the football. He has 10-inch hands. I think just like a baseball hitter, just keep getting more attempts at the plate, and keep swinging at it, and you'll be hitting .500. The biggest thing is for him to just continue to catch more footballs. We've been emphasizing that during practice. Emphasizing it pre-practice and post-practice with ball drills, even in our meeting room. Just to continue to keep catching footballs. I think that's the way you get better at catching footballs."