10 New York Giants Primed to Blow up in Showdown against Green Bay
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
At the start of every NFL season, it's hard to tell if the bye week is scheduled at the right time—for the Giants, it couldn't have come at a better time.
The bye week allowed slumping and battered players a chance to recharge their batteries, and coaches an opportunity to scrutinize film.
The Giants are basically looking at a six-game season now, and it's a demanding schedule that includes teams who are either fighting for a playoff spot, or relishing the opportunity to play spoiler.
Beginning with Green Bay, New York still controls its own destiny and with emotions bound to be running high, there's a lot of reasons to be very optimistic.
In no particular order, here's a closer look at some of the G-Men who should make a big splash.
Kenny Phillips looks to make his impact felt on the field.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Originally slated to miss four to six weeks because of his injured knee, safety Kenny Phillips returned to practice on Monday.
His presence in the outfield of the Giants secondary will be a more than welcome sight, especially since New York has been victimized by the big play lately.
Phillips explained the decision for the timeline of his return, and he's confident he can help the team against the Packers.
“It definitely feels like it was the right decision,” said Phillips, who noted he probably would have hurt the team more than help against Pittsburgh because of the injury. “The trainers and myself felt like some of the things we were doing just weren’t really working out. So we kind of switched the game plan and tried some new things, and thus far it feels pretty good."
Phillips and the Giants' trainers know his body better than anyone else, and if he feels as good as he claims, he could make an emphatic return.
Threat Down the Stretch
Rueben Randle shaking and baking.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Rookie wide receiver Rueben Randle has been increasingly impressive as far as Giants WR coach Kevin M. Gilbride is concerned.
“I’d say he has a grasp of understanding the offense, understanding techniques and then actually getting on the field and executing it,” Gilbride said. “He’s just made steps in the right direction. He’s not where he needs to be, but he’s getting there. Then hopefully down the stretch run, he can really be a factor helping our team.”
Randle has shown flashes of big-play ability this season, and the final six weeks pose an incredible platform for the youngster to validate his second-round value.
Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden have also done their best to fill the shoes of the departed Mario Manningham, but expect Randle to be a surprise threat in the final six weeks—starting with Green Bay.
Big Start, Big Finish
Martellus Bennett celebrating a touchdown.
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Tight ends coach Mike Pope talked to Giants Insider about Martellus Bennett, and his value to the team this season.
The big man came to New York this offseason, and had a very fast start in September where he was targeted often and was a terrific blocker.
Some knee soreness slowed him down the past few weeks, most notably because other teams started to recognize him as a threat.
He has been taking big strides in practice and in the bye week, by blocking against the Giants ferocious pass-rushers in order to be ready for the Packers and the rest of the season.
It's just a matter of Bennett making adjustments to defenses, and he should play a very strong role down the stretch.
Middle Linebacker Position
Mark Herzlich leaping over Cory Webster to tackle Steelers' tight end Heath Miller.
Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
Mark Herzlich had a chance to start his first game at middle linebacker in Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Chase Blackburn wasn't able to go.
Some have said that Herzlich is a younger Blackburn because of his high football IQ, and he proved he could hang with the first unit.
Jacquan Williams' injury has been a setback to the Giants' linebacker core, but fortunately Michael Boley has played like he has visited the fountain of youth this season—especially pertaining to interceptions.
Look for Herzlich to continue to make his presence felt the rest of this year, and come up big in big moments.
Special Lift from Special Teams
The youth and speed of David Wilson on display.
Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn responded during the bye week to why David Wilson's explosiveness on kickoffs hasn't been there the last couple of weeks.
No, it hasn’t and we’ve got to do a better job, I’ve got to do a better job of scheming it up and getting them in the exact position that we want him in so that he can hit it and not take as many hits as he did. It was a joke that he took as many hits as he did on Sunday.
Quinn was clearly disappointed with the special teams' effort of late, but first-round draft pick Wilson is too slippery and explosive to not regain his dynamic kick-return ability.
It might be nice to see Wilson being used in some running back packages too.
There should be big things to come from the rookie against Green Bay and the rest of the teams this season.
Platoon at Offensive Line
Sean Locklear has come up big this year.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ten-year veteran David Diehl may not be having his most impactful season, but he has been here before, and he knows that running the ball will be paramount to the Giants' success against the Packers.
Sean Locklear has been more effective blocking on the offensive line than Diehl has, but shares the right mentality for what the team has ahead of the them.
The O-line has done a terrific job pass-blocking this season, but expect them to come off this bye week with the emphasis on opening the running lanes.
Diehl and Locklear should respond in a big way when their numbers are called on Sunday night, and the bye week will have definitely refocused them.
The Guy Who Makes the Team Go
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A list of Giants primed to blow up wouldn't be complete without Eli Manning on it.
Everything that has been said about Eli's recent struggles is in the past. The bottom line is that he feels good, he has looked sharp in practice and the bye week, and he has the support from everybody on the team.
Hakeem Nicks may have said it best as he told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“Every outsider is going to have something to say,” said receiver Hakeem Nicks. “When you’re a man in his shoes, if they’re not talking about you then you’re doing something wrong. Eli has proven himself year in and year out, not just last season. This season as well. We have full confidence in Eli and his arm, just like he has confidence in us.”
Eli is a big-game quarterback and the R&R seems to have come at the right time.
Don't think for a minute that Manning has forgotten how Packer linebacker Clay Matthews said that Green Bay lost last year's playoff game more than the Giants won it.
Manning will be sharp, accurate and efficient the rest of the season—starting with the Packers Sunday.
Andre the Giant
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Ahmad Bradshaw is tough as nails, playing through games with broken feet the past two seasons.
Andre Brown is going to have to take that kind of toughness and come up huge from here on out.
The offensive line should be hell-bent on clearing running room over the final six weeks, and get back to Giants football.
Brown has come a long way in learning the Giants offense this season, and his time is now.
He had some big break-out runs at the end of the Cincinnati Bengals game, and despite a frugal run defense that the Packers have, expect Brown to contribute big—running and run-blocking.
Hakeem the Dream
Hakeem Nicks breaking away from a Bengals defender.
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
Hakeem Nicks is going through his most turbulent season in his young Giants career, but his future looks bright.
He has not scored a touchdown since Sept. 16 vs. Tampa Bay, but he knows what he and the team are capable of, and is comfortable with where his body is heading into the final six games.
Nicks had these confident words for Giants fans.
“I’m feeling good and ready to get after it,” Nicks said. “My bursting wasn’t there the way I felt like it should have been due to some injuries, but I’m feeling pretty good now and that time off helped me get my body right and most of all my mind right for this stretch and I’m just ready to get it going.”
Expect him to victimize Green Bay defenders like he did in last year's NFC playoff game.
Victor Cruz is a hard man to catch in the open field.
Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
Victor Cruz is feeling good coming out of the bye week, and is very focused on what he needs to do over the next six games.
Cruz was only targeted four times in that loss to the Bengals, so expect him and Manning to get back on the same page against the Packers—in a big way.
He also hasn't caught a touchdown since that big score he had to give the Giants a victory over the rival Washington Redskins in Week 7.
You can't contain a guy as explosive as Cruz for this long, his routes on Sunday night should resemble a man being shot out of a canon.
There should be some salsa dancing in the Giants' future.