EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants are getting closer to making their secondary whole again, but it remains uncertain when the big moment will occur.
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney, the team's two best defensive backs, continue to progress in their rehabilitation from injuries that have sidelined them for five and seven games, respectively.
The Giants host the Indianapolis Colts in a win and they're in the playoffs game. McKinney, who has been on the non-football injury list and hasn't played since Oct. 30 in Seattle, returned to practice today.
In their absence, the pass defense has not been as proficient as it was early in the season. The Giants allowed an average of 208.4 passing yards through the first eight games. Since McKinney was sidelined, they've given up an average of 234.3 yards in the last seven contests.
"We're taking it day by day still," said Jackson, who was officially limited in practice. "Just going out there, doing all the precautions, doing it right by the book and by the plan. Not trying to rush it. Every day, every week it's getting better."
Coach Brian Daboll said "there's a chance" Jackson could face the Colts.
Jackson injured his knee returning a punt against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 13.
"I think that the thing is just getting those live reps and not rushing into something," he said. "But at the same time, doing the right increments to get yourself ready and prepared. Whenever I get out there – I'm sprinkled in now – be able to sustain it. I can do it once, twice. But can you do it out there (for) 70 plays in that aspect? Just make sure it's strong, healthy, stable to be able to keep doing it play after play."
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was asked what kind of difference Jackson can make if he does return this week.
"I don't know if he necessarily changes the defense," Martindale said, "but just the player himself and the person himself, I would love if that happens. But I don't know."
Before he was hurt, Jackson, the team's left cornerback, routinely covered the opposition's best wide receiver. He started each of the first 10 games and, despite his lengthy absence, is still fifth on the team with 51 tackles (30 solo) and third with seven passes defensed. In his absence, Fabian Moreau has been the starter.
How will Jackson gauge if he's ready to return?
"Basically, it's how I feel," he said. "But at the same time, they always say they don't want to put a player in a position to further hurt themselves. So, reaggravate or injure themselves, hurt themselves even more. It's a little bit of both – just following the game plan, the procedure they've got me doing, working out, rehab. I'm out there sprinkling it into practice and doing my best with how I'm feeling as well."
McKinney practiced today for the first time in two months, so he is further behind – but no less eager to return. Asked if he anticipates playing this weekend, McKinney said, "I'm trying to."
"I want to get back big time," McKinney said. "The coaches know that, and the trainers know that. They know that I really want to get back and I'm kind of running out of patience here.
"I've missed a lot of weeks. Obviously, I love the game so I'm trying to get back out there. That's what I do and that's what I love to do so I'm trying to get back out there."
McKinney was hurt in a bye week accident in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico that left him with fractured fingers on his left hand and necessitated surgery when he returned to New Jersey.
A defensive captain and the Giants' free safety, McKinney had started 23 consecutive games when the was forced out of the lineup. Julian Love took over the signal-calling duties. After rookie Dane Belton started two games, Jason Pinnock has taken the first snap in four of the last five.
McKinney had 37 tackles (24 solo), 1.0 sack and four passes defensed.
McKinney said he tested his hand in practice by shedding blocks and grabbing players when he had the opportunity.
"When I was out there, obviously, I'm trying to get back out there so I have to test it out," he said. "Anything that I can do to provide a little bit of contact against it, obviously I'm trying to do that to see how much I can take, what I need to do, what I don't need to do. Everything felt fine when I did it."
McKinney plans to wear a protective split on his hand instead of a larger club that would encase his entire hand.
"It's going to be different, but I consider myself an athlete, just like a lot of these guys in here, so we're able to adjust," he said. "I'll be able to adjust and figure out what works, what doesn't work and what I can do to get around to be able to still, like I have all my hand still, in use of all my fingers. I'll figure it out and we'll go from there."
*Pro Bowl defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence practiced fully after getting a veteran rest day yesterday.
The rest of the Giants' injury report remained unchanged; Jackson (knee), defensive lineman Leonard Williams (neck) and linebacker Azeez Ojulari (ankle) were all limited.
View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 17 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts.