Marvin Austin played 33 snaps at defensive tackle in the New York Giants' preseason opener vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. His name, however, does not appear on the official stat sheet. No tackles, no sacks, no hurries, no assists.
Austin, the thus-far disappointing third year player from North Carolina, will have to make more of an impact than that to make the 53-man roster. If any player is firmly planted on the Giants' roster bubble it's Austin.
Asked about Austin during the week, both head coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell were complementary of his work thus far in training camp, but hinted that Sunday is a big game for the 6-foot-2, 310-pound 24-year-old.
"We need to see him in the fashion that we anticipated when we drafted him," Coughlin said. "He’s done well this camp rushing the passer and we really would like to see him do a good job against the run."
"I thought Marvin performed well this past Saturday. He’s progressed each week in practice. He’s had a full offseason with the OTAs, which he didn’t have in the past. I look for good things from him this Sunday in the football game," Fewell said. "This will be a really good opportunity for him to showcase his quickness and his abilities. I think Pittsburgh is really a big massive offensive line. Indy, they’ll play more to the strengths of Marvin and so it will be exciting to see him in this game Sunday."
Austin was drafted in the second round in 2011, 52nd overall. He missed his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle. He had only eight tackles in seven games in 2012 as he dealt with a back injury. He then suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 16 against the Baltimore Ravens.
He watched this offseason as the Giants added free agents Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Frank Okam to their defensive tackle rotation, and drafted Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins in the second round.
He's not oblivious to the fact that the new faces mean Austin is anything but guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster.
"Of course. Anybody in their right human mind would understand. I’ve been hurt for the past few seasons, so they have to protect themselves as an organization, which I understand," Austin told me early in training camp. "Everybody that's in the group can play. Everybody has a lot of experience, so it's good to be around them and good to learn from each guy. At the end of the day all the game is is a competition."
Speaking about Austin before the preseason games began, defensive line coach Robert Nunn said "when the pads come on he’s got to produce, when he gets out there under the lights he’s got to produce."
The stat sheet says Austin did not do that Saturday against the Steelers. The calendar, and the roster numbers, say he is running out of chances.
"I just understand that there's an opportunity there. I've gotta come out here and perform and get better every day and do rather than say," Austin said.