From afar, they see a soft spot in coverage
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - No one sticks out more in the Patriots secondary than Julian Edelman, a wide receiver moonlighting as a defensive back.
Edelman would seem like fresh meat to a Giants receiving corps that piled up 4,933 yards (the fifth-highest total in the league), but wideout Hakeem Nicks said as odd as it may be to see Edelman back there, they can’t underestimate him.
“You don’t want to overlook him because obviously he’s an athlete,’’ Nicks said. “He’s playing both ways over there and making plays. It’s a secondary you don’t want to overlook. They’re here in this big game for a reason and whatever they’ve been doing it’s been working to get them to this point.’’
When Giants coach Tom Coughlin and the Patriots’ Bill Belichick were assistants together on Bill Parcells’s Giants staff in the ’80s, Coughlin coached the receivers and Belichick the defensive backs, so Coughlin wasn’t surprised to see Belichick tinker with the Patriots’ secondary.
“He’s done it pretty much throughout his career with different players at different times,’’ said Coughlin. “Last week, [Edelman] was the third receiver, he played the nickel back position, and he ran their punts back. I don’t think he sold tickets, but he may have.’’
Still, trouble could come if Edelman draws the Giants’ leading receiver, Victor Cruz, as an assignment. Edelman typically covers the slot, where Cruz has made a killing this season.
“They’ve played different people in that spot, they don’t have to play Edelman in that spot,’’ said Coughlin. “If they do play Edelman in that spot, Victor will be in that spot as well.’’
When he considered if he could make a position switch like Edelman has, Cruz said, “Coming from a guy that likes to make guys look bad, I don’t think I could do it.’’
Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham doesn’t think much of Edelman’s switch.
“I hope he’s out there when we play them,’’ Manningham told the Boston Herald. “I don’t want to sound like that, but you know what I mean. To our advantage, I hope he’s out there.
“It’s a different stage,’’ Manningham added. “This ain’t regular season. That ain’t your real position, so we’re going to try to expose you. It’s all or nothing now. That ain’t your position, this is the Super Bowl and we want you to play that position.’’
The first time Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Patriots left tackle Matt Light locked up was in the 2007 regular-season finale. They didn’t think they’d see each other again a month later in Super Bowl XLII, but when they did, Umenyiora couldn’t bite his tongue. He called Light a dirty player, and said when they saw each other again they were “really going to go at it.’’
Fast forward four years.
Umenyiora and Light got into another scrap when the Giants beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Nov. 6, and with the two set to meet each other again in the Super Bowl, Umenyiora said there’s no reason not to expect sparks to fly again.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s something he does that really gets under my skin,’’ Umenyiora said.
The strange thing is, the 6-foot-3-inch, 255-pound Umenyiora doesn’t consider himself much of a brawler. In fact, no one does.
“It’s kind of funny because Osi isn’t a fighter, whatsoever,’’ said teammate Justin Tuck. “I have a very vivid memory of both [fights]. We give him flak about it. I say Light beat him up.’’
If another confrontation occurred, Umenyiora joked that the Giants would reap the benefits.
“He’s more important to his team than I am to mine,’’ said Umenyiora, who was second on the Giants with nine sacks during the regular season. “So us fighting and getting kicked out, Tuck and [Jason Pierre-Paul] can have a field day.’’
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has been playing with a stress fracture in his right foot, practiced yesterday for the first time this week.
“My injury is fine. It’s no problem at all,’’ he said. “I wanted to get out there today and get into the third-down packages and see the different things that they do, different blitzes, and just get more comfortable with it.’’
Bradshaw missed four games, including the win over the Patriots, after suffering the injury Oct. 30 against the Dolphins. He returned for the Week 13 loss to the Packers, and hasn’t missed a game since.
“Every time I go on the field I give it my all,’’ Bradshaw said. “I love this game more than anything, this team also. So they get my full effort every time I touch the field.’’
Nicks missed practice, nursing a shoulder injury suffered in the NFC Championship game, but expects to be ready for the Super Bowl. “It was painful,’’ he said. “I landed right on the AC joint that I’ve injured a few times this season. Just kind of landed right on the top of it. But I went in, got it taken care of, and by halftime I was cool.’’ Linebacker Jacquian Williams (foot), cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring), and punt returner Will Blackmon (knee) also missed the workout. Center David Baas (abdomen, neck), linebacker Chase Blackburn (calf), Umenyiora (ankle, knee), and Bradshaw were limited.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.