The Giants know they are going to need a team effort to stop Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
But some, or perhaps most, of the responsibility will fall to linebacker Keenan Robinson, who will be tasked with covering the 6-6, 250-pound behemoth on Monday night while the Giants also try to deal with wide receiver A.J. Green and a two-headed running game featuring Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
“He’s a great challenge,” the 6-3, 243-pound Robinson said of Eifert after practice Friday. “He’s one of those guys that is 6-5, 6-6 and can run and catch. He poses a great matchup threat to everyone — safeties, corners and linebackers. He’s a guy that we have to make sure we bracket and stop him, whatever the play-call calls for, and make sure we know where he’s at at all times. Don’t leave him wide open. We have to make sure we get hands on him.”
Eifert missed the Bengals’ first six games with a back injury and had only one catch in his first game back. But he showed why defenses game- plan with him in mind on Oct. 30 when he had nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins. The Bengals were off last week.
Stopping tight ends was a particular problem for the Giants last season. It has not been as big an issue this year, although Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz did have eight receptions for 97 yards, including a 30-yard catch, in the Giants’ 28-23 victory last week.
“Every week we’ve played some pretty good tight ends,” Robinson said. “We’ve been doing the same thing. Not take away what they do, but make sure we have somebody on those guys. Make sure we limit their production.”
Robinson, who signed with the Giants after three years with the Redskins, said he doesn’t feel as if covering Eifert will be solely his responsibility.
“Honestly, I don’t even look at that,” he said. “I just think every play, did I do my job or did I not do my job? One play might be to stop a tight end or cover him. Is he catching the ball? If he is, how many yards is he getting after he catches the ball? That’s the way I’m looking at it. I’ve had some guys catch the ball on me this year, but it hasn’t been for any big plays. It hasn’t been for third-down conversions. I want to limit the guy’s production that I’m covering. If I’m able to do that, then I’m being productive as my role in the defense.”
Stopping big plays such as Ertz’s 30-yard catch is a priority for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Giants allowed seven plays of at least 20 yards last Sunday.
“That is a knife in my back every day, and we talk about it all the time,” Spagnuolo said. “You have to keep that number under four plays, and it seems to be that when teams have explosive plays against us, they are really explosive.”
Cruz sits again. Victor Cruz (ankle) did not practice. He has not been ruled out for Monday.