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Giants 'left guessing' about Josh Freeman and Vikings but have larceny on their minds

Defensive back Prince Amukamara #20 of the New

Defensive back Prince Amukamara #20 of the New York Giants runs the ball after an interception against wide receiver DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 20, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The glaring problem has been the turnovers. They are front and center, the most obvious issue facing the Giants. Twenty-three of them through six games, with no fewer than three in any of the contests.

But there also is a silent partner affecting the team, a just-as-evil fraternal twin lurking in the shadows away from the headlines and national analysts.

Sure, the Giants are giving the ball away at a horrendous rate. The defense, though, is not doing its part to balance the scales.

The Giants have only seven takeaways this season, none in the last two games. Only six teams have fewer, and of those, only three have played six games to this point.

This after the Giants had 35 takeaways last year, the third most in the NFL.

"It's disturbing," Tom Coughlin said.

That's why aggressive plays toward the ball in the secondary and drills that work on forcing fumbles have been stressed in practices this week. And with the Giants facing a quarterback in a new system with new receivers -- Josh Freeman will make his first start for the Vikings on Monday night after signing with the team last week -- there should be opportunities to grab a few of his passes.

"Miscommunications and the fact that they haven't had a lot of time to build that quarterback-to-receiver chemistry," Prince Amukamara said of what the Giants' defense can expect. "Our job is to take advantage of that."

In reality, the Giants have no way of knowing what the Vikings will look like with Freeman at quarterback. They can speculate and make assumptions based on what the team has run in the past and what Freeman did with Tampa Bay, and Venn diagram where the two overlap.

"Not having him on tape kind of hurts us on the defensive side because it leaves you guessing," middle linebacker Jon Beason said.

Logic would seem to dictate that Freeman couldn't possibly master the entire playbook in his short time in Minnesota, limiting his play-calling options, but until he takes the field, it will be a mystery.

"I don't think they'll be vanilla," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "I don't know what they'll be."

If they are what Freeman was with Tampa Bay, the Giants should have a shot at adding to their takeaways. In four full seasons with the Bucs, Freeman averaged less than an interception per game only once. He threw three in his three games with Tampa Bay this year before he was released.

"We have to find a way to get the ball, go attack the ball and make the plays when the opportunities present themselves," Antrel Rolle said.

On Monday night, those opportunities almost certainly will.

Notes & quotes: DE Jason Pierre-Paul missed practice with an illness but is expected to be ready for the game. Coughlin said Pierre-Paul has been sick since Monday . . . CB Corey Webster (groin) said "everything is still on course to be back out there on Monday," but after practicing Thursday, he did not participate in Friday's workout. Webster hasn't played since Week 2 against the Broncos . . . Fewell said the Giants are leaning toward giving Beason the radio helmet to make the defensive calls this week, but no firm decision has been made. Spencer Paysinger has been making the calls . . . C David Baas (neck) should return to the starting lineup after missing three games.

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