Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
With Peyton Hillis (concussion) ruled out of this weekend’s game, rookie Michael Cox will get his first extensive action with the offense since Week 8, when he played on 12 of the offense’s 76 saps in that game.
“He’s a serious minded kid, so he’ll be ready to go,” said head coach Tom Coughlin of the 6'0", 220-pound Cox. “He’s got good energy and good endurance.”
When he’s had the ball in his hands, Cox has rushed for 42 yards on 20 carries, (2.1 yards per carry avg.). Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he’s also averaged 1.4 yards after contact.
"It's a big opportunity," Cox told A.J. Perez of NJ.com. "I am definitely really excited. Any time you get a chance to play, I'm happy with that."
Where the coaches might hold their collective breath regarding Cox is in pass-protection situations. In two games played, PFF reports that the rookie missed three pass-protection blocks, including two in his last game played on offense (Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles).
That’s not good news for quarterback Eli Manning, who wants to play this week even though he’ll be behind a patchwork offensive line.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride seemed to have mixed feelings about the team's situation at running back this week.
“We’ve been bringing him along. He’s had a chance to play some, in a prominent role, and he did a very good job when he had that chance,” he said.
Still, Gilbride sounded a bit hesitant in pledging his full support for the rookie.
“You obviously would like to have your starters. You deal with the hand you’ve been dealt, and I think he’ll give you as much as he has. He’ll give you the toughness he showed in the games that he started. He’ll give you the speed if there’s an opening there.
“Everything’s new and he’s trying to learn as best as he can. He has certainly developed a little bit, but would you rather have your starters come in? Sure,” Gilbride added.
What could end up happening for the Giants is that the coaches will have Andre Brown take on the pass-blocking role this week, though fullback John Conner has also been working to contribute in that area.
It will also be interesting to see if Cox is utilized as a receiver out of the backfield, something that Hillis showed flashes of being able to do, or if the team instead turns to Conner, who has shown that he could handle such a role.
This season, Conner has caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 31 yards, 29 of which came after contact, and a long of 12 yards, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
He has 10 career receptions for 49 yards over his four-year career.
Conner, who also said he’d be “happy” to carry the ball if asked, per the team's website, also has some experience as a NFL rusher if the Giants get desperate.
The fullback has 21 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns, all coming in his first two seasons when he was a member of the New York Jets.