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Coe, Johnson could be the 'next man up' at cornerback

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander (84)

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander (84) catches a touchdown pass as New York Giants defensive back Michael Coe (37) gets a hand in front of his face during the third quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Credit: Associated Press/Julio Cortez

In the big tissue box that is an NFL roster, you pull one player out and another pops up. That’s the case with the Giants’ cornerbacks, a position which suddenly has three of the team’s top four projected players sidelined with injuries ranging from the very concerning (Terrell Thomas’ aggravated ACL) to the nuisance (Jayron Hosley’s toe, from which he said he expects to return this week).

Add to that Prince Amukamara and his high ankle sprain, which the Giants went to great lengths last night to downplay as “mild.”

So who’s the next tissue to pop up from the box? That would probably be Michael Coe who, incidentally, when Thomas and Amukamara were both limited in their reps a month ago, was the starting cornerback for the Giants’ first practices of training camp.

“We always got a lot of reps with the ones, always got a lot of reps, so if the next man has to step up we’ll be ready,” Coe said last night after the loss to the Bears. “Whoever that is, the coaches will have full confidence in that person to go out and do what they have to do.”

In the game, it was Bruce Johnson who ran onto the field to replace Amukamara after the first-round pick was carted off. Johnson is returning from his own serious injuries. He was put on IR with a knee injury in November of his rookie year (2010) and came back last summer only to blow out his Achilles in training camp.

“I’ve been out for like a year and a half, almost two years, so I’m still getting back into the swing of things,” Johnson said after being beaten for two touchdowns by the Bears. “The coaches, they want me to move a little quicker, which is no problem, I understand that fully. I’ll just keep working and doing what I have to do and working my craft to get better and help this team.”

Now the Giants will REALLY need Johnson to advance quicker with Amukamara sidelined for the foreseeable future. A high ankle sprain typically takes 4-6 weeks. A mild one? Maybe a little bit less.

“I think they want me to show a little bit more, make a few more plays on the ball as well,” Johnson said. “But I think they know I’m getting back into it and I’m coming along pretty well … I’m progressing but I think I could be moving a little quicker.”

Tom Coughlin said he thought Michael Coe played well when he came in against the Bears last night. The rest of the cornerbacks he reserved judgment on. Now, though, he must judge them on a scale based on playing the Cowboys in a week and a half. The Giants may have to bring in another player to add depth at the spot and perhaps be a starter in a pinch.

This isn’t the first time the Giants have had to struggle and scramble to improve their secondary. Last year they lost cornerbacks at an alarming rate too, including Thomas (ACL) for the season and Amukamara (foot) for most of it. Even when they brought in Justin Tryon for depth, he wound up breaking his arm in a game against the Dolphins. And Coe finished the season on IR with a shoulder injury.

“After what happened last year we’re just trying to keep everybody healthy so we can have everybody and go through the season healthy without problems so we don’t have to be looking for help elsewhere,” Johnson said.

Maybe they will look elsewhere, maybe they won’t. Maybe Coe, a sixth-year veteran who has played in 27 career games but has yet to start one, will be lined up with the first group when the regular season starts on Sept. 5.

“I feel like I’ll be ready,” Coe said of that possibility. “I would embrace the opportunity to go out there and play with the other guys and this great defense and I think any of the guys who are in our secondary would be ready. It’s been a tough competition in our camp, guys have been out there making plays, everybody’s been playing well, so I feel like the coaches will be comfortable with whoever they put out there.”

Next tissue up.
 

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