Giants' Boley can't be replaced by one player

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) has

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin (19) has his facemask grabbed by New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley. (September 20, 2009) (Credit: AP)

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When Michael Boley was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and had to undergo surgery Tuesday, it was a surprise to nearly everyone. But at least one guy was prepared for it.

That's Chase Blackburn, the backup linebacker who, it seems, can fill in at any of three positions. When Boley missed the opener while serving a suspension, it was Blackburn who stepped in.

"I'm ready to play any time there's an opportunity," Blackburn said. "I had one Week 1 and I'm ready to go back again."

Blackburn technically will replace Boley in the starting lineup, but in reality it will take several people to replace what Boley was able to do. Losing him creates a chain reaction of change throughout the defense.

Because Boley is such an athletic linebacker, he was able to stay on the field in sub packages and help with pass coverage. Now the Giants likely will take the linebacker off the field in those situations and replace him with safety Michael Johnson as the nickel linebacker.

"That was the thing about [Boley] coming in: We knew he was going to be a linebacker who could stay in when we did go sub," Johnson said. "He could stay in and play coverages where normally we used to put a defensive back in."

That means safety Aaron Rouse, who joined the team two weeks ago after Kenny Phillips was put on injured reserve, likely will play more Sunday against the Raiders than he did in the previous two weeks.

"We've got some of our defensive back guys back," defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "Kevin Dockery is back and Aaron Rouse is ready to play. So we'll be all right depth-wise."

Besides Boley, the Giants are expected to be without Bryan Kehl, a weak-side linebacker who fractured a finger Sunday and had screws inserted this week. That leaves them with two players at that position: Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson.

In a pinch, the Giants also might consider Jonathon Goff or even think about moving Danny Clark from strong side to weak side, where he played when he arrived last summer. "Outside backers flip around and can play different spots," Tom Coughlin said. That would leave rookie Clint Sintim, who appears to be healthy and available for the first time, on the strong side.

Still, the main Boley replacement will be Blackburn, who will try to replicate the production that Boley had against the Chiefs with a pass defensed, a sack and six tackles.

"You have a guy who came into his own last game and played really well, was in position to make a lot of plays," Blackburn said. "I have to do the same thing. We can't miss a beat with me going in there."

Notes & quotes: TE Kevin Boss did not practice. If he can't play, the Giants could use a combination of T William Beatty as an extra blocker and TE Travis Beckum to replace him. But Boss said he's improving. "Monday and Tuesday, I wasn't able to walk right," he said. "I'm finally starting to feel like I'm walking normal." . . . DE Chris Canty (calf) visited a doctor Thursday. "He's got issues," Coughlin said. "It's just very difficult to get him beyond a certain point. It's very frustrating for him and us." . . . After dropping two passes and bobbling a third Sunday, WR Mario Manningham said he has had to stop letting the ball get to his pads. "Just got to come in with the ball," he said. "I just have to snatch, that's it. Stick to the basics."

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