Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knows what it takes to cover Dez Bryant.
"You've got to have a different mentality,'' he said of being matched up with the Cowboys' top receiver. "When you have a dude of that caliber and he's got that dog in him, you have to have kind of a nasty attitude going against him.''
Rodgers-Cromartie faced Bryant when he was a cornerback for the Cardinals and Eagles. On Sunday, he'll get his first chance to do it as a Giant. His first real chance, anyway.
When the teams met last month, DRC was a virtual DNP. He hadn't practiced much that week and was on the field for only 15 snaps. Prince Amukamara was charged with covering Bryant.
Now Amukamara is on injured reserve along with all the rest of the projected starters at cornerback. Except for Rodgers-Cromartie. He's the only one left standing. Sometimes.
The big-ticket free-agent acquisition hasn't played a full game since late September and has been rotating in and out of the secondary with what the Giants call a back and hamstring issue. It's caused him to miss a number of practice reps since it popped up. Although he has suited up for each game, he hasn't made the kind of immediate impact the Giants were hoping to get for their five-year, $39-million investment.
Rodgers-Cromartie has practiced fully this week. Now the Giants need him to play fully Sunday night.
"I'm feeling a lot better,'' he said. "It's one of those things that you just have to play through. Rest a little bit. Take a few plays off here in practice. The main thing is just continuing to go out there and work.''
He said he doesn't have a snap count in mind when the game starts.
"I just push it as far as I can,'' he said. "When it starts bothering me, just try to rest it a little bit and get back out there.''
That might not have been much of an issue when Amukamara and Walter Thurmond and even Trumaine McBride also were on the field. Or when Zack Bowman was available to step in for him from time to time. Now the first three are on injured reserve and Bowman is starting opposite DRC rather than spelling him during games. That leaves Jayron Hosley and Chykie Brown to jump in and play when Rodgers-Cromartie can't.
The Cowboys will be looking for such opportunities. On Oct. 19, the Giants were caught with first-year player Chandler Fenner covering Bryant on one play. Tony Romo made them pay, connecting with Bryant on a 44-yard completion.
"I saw the defensive back that obviously hadn't had a lot of reps,'' Romo said this week of that matchup. "You just want to see their abilities and see what they're able to do. I think when you see that, you test them out a little bit and then you go play the game after that.''
Romo undoubtedly will be looking for such targets Sunday. Hosley and Brown have more experience than Fenner, but not much. The best chance for the Giants is to have Rodgers-Cromartie or Bowman on Bryant.
"It does make it difficult to match up without a full-strength 21,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, referring to Rodgers-Cromartie by his jersey number. "I think 21 has done a good job of practicing and he's done a good job of trying to stay in the ballgame and play as much as he can play. I'm encouraged by what we see out of 21.''
The more the Giants see from 21, the less they'll likely see of 88.