This is the game when the starters play the majority of the snaps. So what does that mean for Gerris Wilkinson? He's not exactly sure.

The weak-side linebacker has spent most of the preseason rotating with Bryan Kehl at the position, but in the last week, he's been working with the first unit exclusively. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the rotation will continue, but Wilkinson has been with the starters the last four full practices.

Will he be with them Saturday night against the Jets? "I haven't been told anything," Wilkinson said earlier this week, "but that's where my frame of mind is."

If Wilkinson does in fact win that starting job - he and Kehl split time there last year well before Chase Blackburn ultimately won the job late in the season - it likely will be short-lived. Michael Boley was brought in with a five-year, $25-million contract to play the position. But he's sidelined after hip surgery and suspended for the season opener, so the Giants need to plug the hole. Wilkinson might just fit that hole.

He had a strong preseason opener against the Panthers that included a deflected pass he nearly intercepted for a score. He added a sack in the loss to Chicago last weekend.


Still, there are more doubts than promise about Wilkinson. He was selected in the third round of the 2006 draft but has had a disappointing, injury-riddled career.

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This season he's put those injuries behind him. Now he's trying to do the same for the disappointing part. "When we broke camp, I was leaving thinking that I'm glad I'm still out of the training room," Wilkinson said. "It hadn't been like that for the last few years."

Wilkinson trained harder than he ever has during the offseason, primarily because he could without focusing on rehab. He said he entered training camp feeling "10 times better" than he ever has. And he is well aware that time is running out for him to live up to his potential.

"I felt like last year was a make-or-break year for me," he said. "Everybody wants their third year to be the year that they really establish themselves and make a name for themselves in terms of getting a place on the team or getting another contract. I feel like I'm really behind the eight-ball. I wanted last year to be a make-or-break year."

He'll have to settle for this year, the last on his rookie contract. And he knows, unless he plays well, his last as a Giant.

Notes & quotes: WR David Tyree's already slim chances of making the Giants' roster narrowed; he's likely to miss the Jets game with a hamstring injury. Tyree, who missed all of last season with injuries, also has missed time this preseason with a groin injury . . . CB Terrell Thomas said he is looking forward to seeing former USC teammate Mark Sanchez. Thomas said he used to intercept Sanchez a lot in practices. "Hopefully, I keep the wins on my side," he said. "I used to go at him in college all the time and tell him he was going to throw me one a day."