Standing Tall

Quick, let's have an honest show of hands of who had Carlos Emmons in their office pool as the most likely Giants veteran to get cut? Of course you did. And you know you're not alone. Here was Emmons missing most of training camp with a pinched nerve while head coach Tom Coughlin continued to grow frustrated by his veteran LB's absence.

Of course, injuries have been nothing new to Emmons, who missed seven contests last season with pectoral and ankle injuries. Yet Emmons' roster spot was never in doubt. Nor his ability. Through the first two weeks, there was Emmons tied atop the Giants tackle charts with 19, with an 11-stop game in Philadelphia to his credit.

Was the 11th-year veteran worried as he was forced to the sideline for much of Big Blue's month up in Albany? What do you think? That's like asking if we were all correct in our roster office pools. Of course not.

"You never can worry about things you can't change," the 33-year-old said. "Ultimately they know what I can do as a player. So if I was going to be gone it was going to be because they were unhappy with what I was doing as a player and not just because I missed that time."

Considering Emmons averaged 108 tackles per season between 2000 and 2004, he was pretty sure the Giants knew what he brought to the table.

He believes that even considering releasing a player solely due to injury would be foolish.

"In that case, we would have cut Sinorice (Moss)," he stated, referring to New York's oft-injured, yet potential-laden rookie receiver.

Antonio Pierce lines up next to Emmons in the defensive second tier. He has seen the progress number 51 has made in the last month.

"It was rough for him because of the preseason, when he didn't really get a chance to get his legs under him. (Against Philly), you could see his legs coming back to him and he was running around and making plays," stated Pierce, who also had 19 stops through the opening two games.

Pierce is perhaps New York's most cerebral defender. Yet he believes that Emmons is right up there next to him as far as football smarts are concerned.

"He's a smart player," Pierce explained. "He understands team defense. He's one of the guys that understands it best on the team. So he gives us leadership from that standpoint. He's calm and relaxed all the time. He's never too high or too low. He's a steady paced guy and that's what kept him around in this league so long."

Ten-plus years and 773 tackles have shown that Emmons knows a little something about playing NFL linebacker. That wisdom has helped Giants rookie backer Gerris Wilkinson out tremendously so far.

"He's been a real, real big help to me," Wilkinson said. "I've probably learned more from him in the last few months I've been with the team than I have in a long time. He's been a real big help to me. He's helped me with everything from taking on blocks to my alignment and adjusting to the offense. He shows me how to put myself in better position to make plays."

Playing the weak side, which he has the past two seasons, as opposed to his more customary strong side post has enabled Emmons to make more plays.

"He's an all-around linebacker," Wilkinson said. "He can play all three positions if he needed to. He has an overall real good knowledge of the defense."

And he's never satisfied, another good trait for a defender to have.

"You never play the perfect game," Emmons said. "When I play the perfect game, I'll probably be in heaven somewhere. That's the only way that's going to happen."

Emmons added that he felt no ill affects of missing so much time this summer.

"I'm fine. I feel great," he said. "The big thing when you miss a lot of time in camp is chemistry and the conditioning. But I made sure to keep my conditioning up so that was never a problem.

"You're only going to see me get better. Anything other than that, I'll be disappointed in. I'm looking forward to trying to improve on everything."

As is the entire defense, which left plenty of plays out on the field.

"We just haven't played the way we need to play," Emmons explained. "It's that simple. It's early in the year and we have a lot of new guys. We have to get that chemistry together. But everyone knows what they need to improve on.

"We're totally unhappy with the way we've played and we look forward to playing better."

Head coach Tom Coughlin was hardly complimentary when asked about Emmons' play.

"Just like everyone else," Coughlin said after a lengthy pause. "He's a veteran player and he has a good sense of the field. We can play better."

For Emmons, he said individual defensive success is only a matter of discipline.

"As a linebacker you want to make every play," he said. "But you can't. Within the scheme of the defense you have to do your job. That's when you shut teams down. I think when you try too hard to make a play and not let the game come to you, you end up making mistakes. The key is for everybody to just do their job."

Emmons strongly believes New York's defensive turnaround is right around the corner.

"We feel like we're going to hit a point in the season where we just start to shut teams out," he said. "Anything short of that will be a disappointment to us."

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