Strongside linebacker LaVar Arrington tore his Achilles' tendon in New York's 36-22 victory in Dallas and is out for the season. Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora has a strained hip flexor. Coach Tom Coughlin said Umenyiora is "week-to-week" and "probably" will be unavailable for Sunday's home game against the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reserve end Justin Tuck also sat out practice with a foot injury.
Umenyiora and Tuck are both listed as questionable for the game.
"Obviously, you don't want to lose anybody," Coughlin said. "If you had your wish as a coach, it would be that you play with the team that comes out of camp. But unfortunately that is not our game. So you have to make adjustments. And throughout the course of a long season injuries do occur."
Fortunately for the Giants, they have talented reserves ready to step up. Although Coughlin did not say definitively who would replace the injured players, the logical choices are 11-year veteran Carlos Emmons at linebacker and rookie Mathias Kiwanuka at end.
Emmons was the starting weakside linebacker for the season's first three games. But he suffered a pectoral strain at Seattle on Sept. 24 and has been inactive the last three weeks (he is also listed as questionable on today's injury report). Brandon Short stepped in for Emmons and has played well on the weak side. Emmons has plenty of experience at each outside linebacker position.
"I played SAM for seven years," Emmons said. "It's like riding a bike – you don't forget. Wherever they play me, that's where I'll play."
Reggie Torbor, who took over for Arrington on Monday, is also working on the strong side.
Emmons has seen just about everything in a career that included four years with Pittsburgh, four with Philadelphia and now three with the Giants. He has played in 138 games with 112 starts, so he's not about to get flustered if he switches sides after returning from an injury.
"I feel the same as I did before LaVar got hurt," Emmons said. "I know what I need to do when I get on the field. That's what I look forward to doing. It's an unfortunate situation with LaVar. Our hearts go out to him. We're going to rally around him and try to make him proud."
In his three games at weakside backer this season, Emmons had 22 tackles (17 solo) and two passes defensed. He could be just as effective on the strong side without averaging seven tackles a game.
"They're two totally different positions – they're not interchangeable," Emmons said. "At SAM linebacker you do a lot more dirty work. You don't make as many plays at the SAM linebacker position."
The Giants will have significantly less experience at right end if Kiwanuka starts for Umenyiora. The Giants' first-round draft choice this year, Kiwanuka has been a reserve for his entire six-game career. He has been credited with four tackles (three solo). He stepped in for Umenyiora in Dallas and had two quarterback hits, including one on Tony Romo that led to an interception by Fred Robbins.
The 6-5, 265-pound Kiwanuka believes he is prepared to handle a larger role.
"It's a situation where this is my job, this is where I've been called on," said Kiwanuka, the 32nd player taken in this year's draft. "I have to go out there and perform. (Injuries) are something that happen every week. You have to pride yourself on being able to replace guys and being able to step up when you're called on.
"It's definitely exciting. It's not the way you want to come in. You don't want to have somebody go down. You want to be able to take a job in a different way. But once your number is called, it's called. So you just have to go out and play."
Coughlin was asked if he has confidence in Kiwanuka.
"I do," Coughlin said. "As unfortunate as the circumstances are, I feel good about him being able to step in there."
If Kiwanuka gets the call, the Giants will have two rookie starters on the defensive line. Fourth-round draft choice Barry Cofield has started every game at nose tackle, where he has 17 tackles, including 1.5 sacks.
"You can definitely take a lot from that," Kiwanuka said. "You can take a lot from all the rookies around the league who are starting – people you've played with. You know what they did in college. And when you see how they perform at this level, you know it's a transition that can be made."
Kiwanuka was one of the nation's best defensive ends at Boston College, where he had 37.5 career sacks. But like any NFL newcomer, he has had to adjust to the pro game.
"The adjustment period was definitely tough," Kiwanuka said. "It's a lot faster game. There's a lot more studying and a lot more work to do. But you have a lot more time to do it. If you can get all the off-the-field stuff done and get all this stuff out of the way early, then going into the game you should feel pretty comfortable. I feel like I've adjusted to the speed of the game. So all I have to do is the films and get all of the study stuff done."
Although Emmons and Kiwanuka have vastly different experience levels, they will both be expected to help the defense continue to play well if they are called upon against Tampa Bay.
"That is one of the responsibilities that players have to each other, is to be ready, not let the other guys down," Coughlin said. "So that is exactly what we will expect to take place, that our level of play will continue to be physical and outstanding and aggressive and the new guys that are asked to come in and play are going to have to pick up right where the team left the field on Monday night."
Osi Out, Emmons to SLB
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