Rookie Michael Cox gets start against Vikings with Brandon Jacobs sidelined
Brandon Jacobs turned back the clock when he ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears in Week 6. But just like daylight saving time, those hours (or years) have to be returned at some point. Jacobs was able to help the running game spring ahead. Now he has to fall back.
The bruising runner was inactive for Monday night's game against the Vikings with a hamstring injury suffered late in that performance 11 days ago against the Bears. He did not practice with the team on Saturday and was listed as questionable on the last injury report.
Rookie Michael Cox, who had never taken a handoff in the NFL, started for the Giants. He was joined in the backfield by newly acquired Peyton Hillis. In other words, the Giants entered the game without a running back who had ever taken a handoff for the team.
Among the active players, Hakeem Nicks had taken the most handoffs. He had two for 8 yards in 2011.
"He obviously has a lot going on, but there are some things that I think right now we feel good about," coach Tom Coughlin said of Cox, whom he had deemed unready to play in recent weeks. "There are other things not so, and we're working on the not so's."
Jacobs' inability to play puts him in strong company with the Giants' running backs. Andre Brown and David Wilson, once described as "co-starters," are injured and won't be available until next month at the earliest. Ryan Torain and Da'Rel Scott, the backups in the preseason, have been cut by the Giants (although Scott did return for one game and injured a hamstring). Henry Hynoski, projected as the starting fullback, is on injured reserve.
The Giants had hoped Jacobs would be able to repeat his performance in Chicago against the Vikings, but they were realistic about his chances of playing.
"The thing that he did last week was inspirational, to be honest with you, to see the toughness he displayed and the commitment he made to our football team to help us get that component of the game going," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "I know he's going to give us everything he's got. We'll just play it by ear and see how he's holding up."
Cox was the next-to-last player taken in the 2013 NFL draft. When the team practiced on Oct. 14, with Jacobs on the sideline, he was the only running back available and split handoffs with fullback John Conner. Cox said at the time that it was "strange" being the only true running back in practice.
"They said I was going to be playing, so I'm just getting ready like I do every week," Cox said.
Having no one available in the backfield who had ever taken a handoff for the Giants was bad enough, but Coughlin noted that there is more to the position than just carrying the ball. The players at the Giants' disposal were unfamiliar with those jobs, too.
"That's something that, at any position, is not an easy thing to deal with," Coughlin said. "At that spot, because of the nature and the many-pronged responsibilities that occur there . . . People who don't know the profession would think that you bring a guy in as a runner and he runs. That's not what he does. It's a part of what he does, but there are other parts that are very, very important. The system, the ability to learn and handle the multiplicity of the assignments is critical."
Hillis said he had a good grasp of the offense after spending training camp with Tampa Bay, where former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan is the offensive coordinator and runs a similar system. Hillis ran for 1,177 yards for the Browns in 2010 but hasn't gone over 600 in a season since then.
"The injury factor has been incredible, so he's going to play," Gilbride said of Hillis. "We're just kind of waiting and seeing and trying to judge exactly how much he can pick up in a short period of time."
Notes & quotes: CB Corey Webster (groin) was active for the first time since Week 2 but did not start. Trumaine McBride started at cornerback . . . Besides Jacobs and Wilson, the other Giants inactives were QB Ryan Nassib, CB Jayron Hosley, S Cooper Taylor, TE Adrien Robinson and DT Johnathan Hankins.