Matthews' Big Chance

One man's misfortune is another man's gain. While a season-ending knee injury knocked Darcy Johnson out of the box, rookie free agent Michael Matthews looked to continue his impressive summer.

Johnson, who was having a very solid training camp, tore his ACL and was placed on Injured Reserve.

"He had a good camp and he had a nice spring and he started to make his move and really has done a good job with his route running," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

Johnson's injury bumped all the reserve TEs, including Johnson, up a spot on the depth chart. "I just have to take advantage of the opportunity before me," the 6-4, 270-pound Matthews said. "It is an opportunity."

Matthews said that Johnson was one of the first to urge him to seize the moment. Johnson told the younger tight ends that it was now their time to step up.

"Darcy's an awesome guy," Matthews said. "I like him a lot. I'll always thank him for showing me the ropes."

With Robert Douglas the only true fullback on the roster, Matthews seemed to have an inside track on making the final 53 anyway. After lining up at fullback plenty during the summer he knows that blocking is his meal ticket.

"I've always been a physical guy as far as blocking," he said.

However, the man who caught only nine career passes while at Georgia Tech warned that he can catch the ball a little as well.

"Blocking's not the only thing I do," he said. "I can catch. I've always been versatile. I entered college as a defensive end."

So is Matthews a tight end or a fullback? He couldn't care less.

"I see myself on the roster as they see me on the roster," he laughed.

No doubts: Most of the so-called experts are calling for the Giants to finish no higher than third in the NFC East this season. Antonio Pierce begs to differ.

"People are throwing us underneath the radar," Pierce said. "We still have a great team. Yes, we're missing two of the greatest Giants of all time right now. But at the same time, we have a lot of our core guys back, a lot of our young guys back. Guys take it to heart when people doubt us because of other guys not being here."

Pierce said he and his mates are motivated to show how good they can be.

"We can prove a lot of people wrong," he said.

"Right now, we have everybody saying we're not going to be anything; that we're going to be at the bottom of the division and the bottom of the NFL. They think we're going to have the number one (draft) pick next year. We have higher goals than that."

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