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Redemption vs. Cowboys will have to wait for Giants’ RT Evan Neal

Rookie seems close to returning from sprained MCL, but short week makes it difficult to test his injured knee

NFL: New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Neal
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants rookie right tackle Evan Neal had the worst game of his life in Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys. He surrendered three sacks to DeMarcus Lawrence and allowed five total pressures as the Cowboys beat the Giants, 23-16.

Neal would love the opportunity to test himself on Thursday as the Giants face the Cowboys for a second time. He has, though, not played since suffering a sprained MCL Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Giants announced Wednesday that four offensive linemen — Neal, Jon Feliciano, Shane Lemieux and Josh Ezeudu — will not make the trip to Texas for Thursday’s game.

“I’d love to be in this game, but thankfully we see them twice a year every year,” Neal said on Tuesday. “Regardless of whether I play this week or I don’t, I’m going to have another opportunity to play against NFL competition. I just want to make sure when I do go out there, I’m ready.”

As much as Neal would like to play, and the Giants would like to have him, this is a difficult week for Neal to test his readiness. It is, of course, a short week with the Giants playing on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s hard to get a gauge,” Neal said. “It’s hard to get a live rep in t-shirts.

“You never really know until you take those live reps out there. I can do drills on the side, and I can take pass sets and go on the boards, but that’s not blocking an NFL defensive end in a game situation. I really won’t know until I get back out there.”

Thus, it seems more likely that Neal won’t return until Week 14 against the Washington Commanders at the earliest, giving him an opportunity to test his knee during some live practice reps.

The Giants saw what happened Sunday against the Detroit Lions when they perhaps rushed guard Shane Lemieux into the lineup with little practice time, and he played poorly.

“Of course, he wants to get back on the field,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “I’d say what’s tough is just how we’re getting ready to play this game.”

With Neal likely still out Thursday, and Tyre Phillips one of the team’s “last-second” decisions due to a neck issue, 2020 third-round pick Matt Peart could get the start. Peart played 62 snaps on Sunday in relief of Phillips in his first extended action since suffering a torn ACL in Week 16 of last season against the Washington Commanders. He allowed only two hurries in 46 pass-blocking snaps.