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December 11, 2018

Giants will face explosive Saints offense without Olivier Vernon, Eli Apple

September 28, 2018

Five injured Giants starters, three on offense and two on defense, will miss Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints. And both of their return specialists are hurt, which could open the door to Saquon Barkley returning kicks and Odell Beckham Jr. bringing back more punts.

Pass rusher Olivier Vernon (high left ankle sprain) will miss a fourth straight game to open the season, and corner Eli Apple (groin) will miss a second straight game, leaving the defense shorthanded against a Saints offense averaging 34.7 points per game.




And tight end Evan Engram (right MCL sprain), wide receiver/kick returner Cody Latimer (knee) and running back Jonathan Stewart (foot) will sit, as well, robbing Eli Manning of two of his top five skill position players. And corner Antonio Hamilton (groin) and return man Stacy Coley (hamstring) are questionable.

B.W. Webb (23) continues to fill in for the injured Eli Apple. (Roger Steinman / AP)

Head coach Pat Shurmur said “there’s no setback” with Vernon, but the reality is the Giants’ pass rusher did more in Wednesday’s practice than he did in Thursday’s, likely meaning the ankle didn’t respond well to the Wednesday work.

Apple said “I’m really close” to returning but still has to prove he can “run faster” and “get back to my normal speed.” He did “a lot” in Thursday’s practice, but he and the training staff were cautious on Friday with a wet field and “didn’t want to do too much.”

Corner B.W. Webb will get the start again in place of Apple, while the Giants continue to replace Vernon with a group that includes veteran Connor Barwin and rookie Lorenzo Carter at outside linebacker.

Wideout Russell Shepard is expected to fill in for Latimer. Undrafted rookie tight end Garrett Dickerson will make his NFL debut as the third tight end in Engram’s place. And Shurmur could activate either undrafted rookie RB Robert Martin or RB Jhurell Pressley off the practice squad to get a third tailback up in Stewart’s place, but he’d have to take someone off the roster to make room.

If Coley plays, he could return both punts and kicks. But Latimer’s absence and Coley’s ailment could open the door for OBJ and Barkley to take some back.

Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (knee), who sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, participated in some fashion on Friday and will be active for Sunday’s game. The severity of Harrison’s injury is unknown, though, and he did not talk to the media this week.

Shurmur had characterized Latimer, Stewart and Harrison as “normal wear and tear” injuries not to be concerned about, but two of the three players are now inactive for Sunday.




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