Tom Coughlin says he cannot recall ever having a player like Nikita Whitlock.

The rookie contributes on offense, special teams and defense -- a true three-way player in an age of NFL specialization. It's the defensive contributions as a pass rusher that are the most surprising -- Whitlock is listed as a fullback on the roster -- but he was a two-time All-ACC defensive lineman at Wake Forest, so maybe they shouldn't be.

"I'm good with that," Coughlin said of Whitlock's workload. "I like playmakers."

So does defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. "Beautiful, isn't he?" he said when Whitlock's sack against the Bills last week was brought up.

Rushing the passer has been an issue for the Giants, and Whitlock has one of their five sacks. That doesn't mean he can expect to see more time harassing quarterbacks, though.

Whitlock is listed at 5-10 and 250 pounds. It's his speed and quickness that make him a matchup problem for offensive linemen, particularly late in games. But that's also the feature that limits him at the defensive position. His snaps may be like his stature, less being more.

"You pick your spots," Coughlin said. "He's a tough hombre, but he's not very big."

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Linebacker depth an issue

The Giants' linebacker corps has another player to worry about as Jonathan Casillas missed Thursday's practice with a calf injury. Devon Kennard also has missed both practices this week with a hamstring injury. "There's not that many guys there, so we'll navigate through it," Spagnuolo said. He said the Giants remain hopeful that Kennard can play on Sunday.

Giant steps

Ahmad Brooks will not play Sunday for the 49ers. ESPN is reporting that the linebacker's sister Casandra, 40, died from lupus this week . . . Cornerback Jayron Hosley (concussion) practiced but was restricted from contact. He is expected to clear the concussion protocol in time for the game . . . Victor Cruz was touched by Rueben Randle's salsa dance in his honor after his TD reception in Buffalo last week. "It put a smile on my face," Cruz said. "It really meant a lot for him to do that, more than he even knows."