Hot Topic and Player Notes

Way, way back in another world, Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula approached a flock of reporters early on a Monday morning after winning one of his Super Bowls.

He said something that surprised his audience.

"We were not the best team in the NFL this year," he said, "but we were the healthiest."

Good point. In just the first five weeks of the season, several stars have been sent to the sidelines for medical reasons, and their absence is going to adversely affect their teams.

Which brings us to the Giants. So far, they have not been seriously affected by injuries. It is likely they will lose right cornerback Will Peterson for the remainder of the season, and that is going to hurt. But he is not a superstar, and lately his play had been less than a shining light anyway. Nevertheless, his experience will be missed.

In his place, the Giants, with serious depth and performance problems on defense, will probably insert second-year player Curtis Deloatch, and that will probably keep coach Tom Coughlin from replacing left corner Will Allen with second-round draft pick Corey Webster.

Allen has played even worse than Peterson and was coming close to being replaced. But would Coughlin feel comfortable with a rookie on the left and a second-year guy on the right? Probably not.

As the Giants head for Dallas to resume their season after the bye week, they will need their defense to be all it can be. The Cowboys are coming off a stunning 33-10 whipping of the heavily favored Philadelphia Eagles. The problem in facing the Dallas offense is compounded by strong-armed veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who has thrown to wide receivers Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson and tight end Jason Witten with alarming frequency - and success.

It is likely that the Giants will use more of the Cover-2 zone combination and allow the shorter completions. But without the experience of Peterson, it might become a long, long afternoon.


--QB Eli Manning is the one performer the Giants could least afford to lose to injury, especially with the severe drop-off in depth at that position. Behind Manning is veteran free agent Tim Hasselbeck and first-year man Jared Lorenzen. This obvious shortfall was part of the reason the Giants overspent on free agent Kareem McKenzie, the six-year, $36 million right tackle signed away from the New York Jets.

--RB Tiki Barber enjoys playing against Dallas. In 15 games against the Cowboys in his career, he has carried the ball 194 times for 921 yards (that's 4.7 yards per carry) and caught 63 passes for 585 yards.

--RB Brandon Jacobs, the 6-4, 265-pound rookie, will likely get more action from scrimmage against Dallas because coach Tom Coughlin likes the idea of softening up the big men in the middle of the Cowboys defense. So far Jacobs has 12 carries for 60 yards.

--WR Plaxico Burress was talking about the differences between Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback who threw him the ball last year in Pittsburgh. "Eli has more snap in his delivery," he said. "He can throw at various speeds. When we have some spare time after practice, we'll work on the (pass) routes at full speed. That's important and very helpful."

--WR Amani Toomer has only nine receptions this season for 135 yards and a TD, but it was that TD that separated him from all of last season. Toomer and the other starting WR then, Ike Hilliard (now with Tampa Bay) became the only set of WRs in the NFL without a single TD catch between them. Bad news of a different kind followed him this year - he didn't catch a pass in the opening game, marking the first time in 98 straight games that he didn't have at least one reception.

--TE Jeremy Shockey, who has become an effective blocker, says he has not had any problems this season with his foot, the one that necessitated surgery for the implantation of a small screw in the sole to prevent further stress fractures. Shockey has 17 catches for 251 yards, which gives him exactly 200 receptions in his 43 career games. Among tight ends, only Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow reached that mark in fewer games, getting 200 catches in 39 games. Shockey is ahead of Bears Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (47) and former Eagles TE Keith Jackson.

--K Jay Feely hasn't missed so far this year through eight field-goal attempts and 16 extra-point tries. He has scored 40 points through four games. The team scoring record is 127, set in 1983 by K Ali Haji-Sheikh.

--DE Justin Tuck, the third-round rookie from Notre Dame, has eight tackles and two special teams tackles, and drew raves for his speed two weeks ago against San Diego. He caught up to and tackled RB LaDainian Tomlinson, cutting short what seemed like a jaunt into the end zone and "limiting" the explosive run to 62 yards. Tomlinson said, "Did a defensive lineman really catch me? I'm going to have to look up that dude's 40 speed."

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