What will Mark Herzlich be thinking about when he steps on the field as a middle linebacker and looks across the line at No. 18, the Garry Kasparov of quarterbacks?
One word: "Awesome!"
Herzlich said he will relish the opportunity to match wits with Denver's Peyton Manning on Sunday. With Dan Connor sidelined by a neck injury and not practicing on Wednesday, there's a good chance Herzlich will be the one making the adjustments and countermoves to all of Manning's famous barks and stomps and gestures.
"That's why we play this sport," Herzlich said. "I grew up watching Peyton . . . Now when you line up and you see them across the way, they're making their calls and you're making your calls, you're right there with him."
Not all of the calls are real, though, and Herzlich knows that a good number of the things Manning says and does behind the line of scrimmage are "dummy" calls.
"That's why you can only look so far into the TV copy," Herzlich said of his tape study. "You watch the TV copy and he's barking out calls and you're hearing all these things and you're saying 'OK, I've got a lock on him! This is what it is!' And then all of a sudden it changes up."
Herzlich said he will watch the TV broadcast of last week's seven-touchdown performance against the Ravens "just to get a feel for the cadence and everything," but he'll rely on traditional tape study -- as silent as a Charlie Chaplin feature -- for his real studying.
With only four healthy linebackers, it's no sure bet that Herzlich will even be at middle linebacker for the Giants.
"Everyone has to know two positions basically because we'll be playing the game no matter how many we've got out there," he said. "We're thin. I'm learning two positions other than my main one. I know Spencer [Paysinger] is and Jacquian [Williams] is and Keith [Rivers] is, too. We're going to be all over the place."
"It is a concern because of the numbers," Tom Coughlin said of the depth at the position. "We've added a young man [Emmanuel Acho] to our practice squad and we'll see how that goes, but there's concern. If we have four people ready to play under the circumstances and the personnel that we're going to face in all likelihood, I think we'll have a chance to be in decent shape."
Herzlich said the rotation of linebackers in training camp helps the Giants overcome their numbers issue this week. And he said he believes the Giants still will rotate their linebackers as they did through the preseason and against the Cowboys. But more likely than not, that will mean he'll be the one staring into Manning's face mask and hoping to get the last word in their battle of adjustments.
"We like to have the chalk last," Herzlich said. "And if we can do that, then we're going to be in good shape."