The Dallas Cowboys, a thorn in the side of the New York Giants since 1960, will make their way up north and attempt to end the Giants' season, crush their playoff hopes and become the NFC East champions on Sunday. They expect to do this on Big Blue's home turf, quite a tall order. The Cowboys lead the all-time series, 56-40-2. Speculation aside, there is only one thing standing in the way of Dallas achieving their megalomaniacal design, the New York Giants defense.
Perry Fewell's defense is ranked 28th in the NFL. For those of you who are statistically challenged, that is just four rungs above last place. The Giants have been forced to use spit and glue all season long to compensate for the injuries that have plagued this, once dominant, defense. Terrell Thomas, Jonathan Goff, Justin Tuck are among some of the defensive players that have missed most-to-all of the season. Another defensive veteran who has missed a large portion of the year has been Osi Umenyiora. Luckily, Osi's backup, Jason Pierre-Paul, has been more than an adequate fill-in. In fact, he has been downright preponderant.
Umenyiora has rehabbed his way back to practice this week, just in time for the biggest game of the season. He was reported as being limited on Wednesday and Thursday. But as Osi told me, in an interview last season, "there really is no such thing as limited." The big question that Perry Fewell is now faced with is, do you start the respected veteran with a multitude of big-game experience or do you let the second-year man, who has been leaving opposing quarterbacks shellshocked all season long, run free?
Umenyiora has made a career habit out of having solid games against the Cowboys. Osi has faced Dallas 12 times in his career, excluding games missed due to injury. In that time he recorded 33 tackles, five sacks and one pass deflection. Those are pretty sound stats for a 12-game stretch.
Pierre-Paul, on the other hand, has only had one true outing against the 'Boys. That was just three weeks ago. Who can forget his game-saving blocked field goal? It was a stellar performance all the way around for JPP. Eight tackles, two sacks, a safety and a blocked field goal were added to his resume against Jerry Jones' juggernauts. JPP is also the third-leading sacker in the league. The plot thickens.
The coaching staff of the Giants, notorious for keeping their cards close to their chest, Tom Coughlin in particular, hasn't let on much about Osi's progress or who will get the start on Sunday. However, Perry Fewell seems to have put some nuggets out there that may be indicative of something much larger than the current starting job debate.
"Osi looks good to me. Anytime 72 walks on the field for us he looks good. No matter if we get him 10 reps, 20 reps or 30 reps, he looks good to me."
"It will just be good to get Osi back."
"JPP will play. I'm not worried about how many plays he'll play this week. We'll keep him on the field - one way or the other."
Those statements were made by Fewell, in his presser yesterday. They are not very conclusTive. But they are indicative that Osi is definitely going to see his fair share of action on Sunday. What stood out like a sore thumb to me from that Q&A session was the following statement:
"We'll formulate a plan. If we can get them all on the field, we'd love to have them on the field."
"Them" refers to Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck. It would seem that Fewell has his sights set a little higher than which defensive end gets the starting job on Sunday or who gets more snaps for that matter. Instead, it looks as if Fewell is designing some new schemes and blitz packages in which these "Three Horseman" converge upon Tony Romo like a perfect storm.
Widely publicized has been the helmet-to-hand injury of Tony Romo. There isn't much doubt in anyone's mind that he will make his way out onto the field this coming Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. Likewise, it should come as no shock that Osi will join in on the fray. If Fewell does his homework correctly, the New York Giants will have a pass rush this Sunday the likes of which no one has seen this season.