By Michael Eisen
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Early in his news conference today, Tom Coughlin was asked if he knows whether Matt Dodge or Steve Weatherford will be the Giants’ punter when the regular season opens on Sept. 11 in Washington.
“I’m not free to share that with you right now,” Coughlin told reporters. “I have not had that talk with myself yet, to be honest with you.”
Coughlin might be talking to himself a lot tonight. He’ll certainly be talking to general manager Jerry Reese and the team’s owners. The Giants made five transactions today, but must remove another 27 players tomorrow to reach the regular season roster limit of 53. And with fierce competition at so many positions, the cutdown decisions Coughlin must make could be among the most difficult he’s had in his eight-year Giants tenure.
“We will meet this afternoon after we look at the tape,” Coughlin said. “Then Jerry and I meet and then we will meet with ownership. We usually spend the night thinking about the harder ones and come back in the morning and finalize it.”
This is Coughlin’s 16th season as an NFL head coach, but cutting players is a part of the job that’s never gotten easier.
“Tomorrow is a three Advil morning,” Coughlin said.
In today’s moves, linebacker Clint Sintim was placed on injured reserve and four players
were waived – cornerback Darnell Burks, wide receiver Todd Watkins, guard Brant Clouser and defensive tackle Ibrahim Abdulai
Sintim, a third-year pro, tore the anterior cruciate ligament and patellar tendon in his right knee in last night’s 18-17 preseason-ending victory over the Patriots in New England.
The four players who were waived were all free agents. Burks, Clouser and Abdulai are rookies and Watkins is a third-year pro.
Tuesday was the deadline for most NFL teams to reduce their rosters to 80 players. The Giants and Jets were given three-day extensions by the NFL because they played Monday night, 48 hours later than scheduled because of Hurricane Irene.
All teams are required to be at the regular season roster limit of 53 by 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Although Coughlin and Co. have decisions to make in all position groups, these could be some that have the coach reaching for the medicine cabinet:
*Linebacker. Even with Sintim suffering a serious injury for the second year in a row, the Giants appear to have impressive young depth at the position. The group includes second-year pros Phillip Dillard and Adrian Tracy, 2011 draft choices Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams and rookie free agents Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger. Williams had three sacks and Jones and Herzlich had one apiece against the Patriots. Paysinger had four tackles on defense and one on special teams.
“It will be nerve-wracking,” Herzlich said of waiting to learn of his roster fate tomorrow. “But at the same time, it’s like anything I do. I try to put it all out there and there are things that you can control and things you can’t control. Right now I can’t control what happens. (Last night) was my last opportunity to prove something. If I did, great. If I didn’t, that means I have to work harder to try to make another team.”
Coughlin said of Herzlich, “He’s an outstanding young man. He’s (a) special guy to work with and he does whatever you ask him to do. He loves to play, loves to practice and he’s been impressive in the preseason.”
*Running back. Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware seem set as the top three backs. Behind them, seventh-round draft choice Da’Rel Scott led the team in the preseason with 213 yards and a 15.2-yard average, thanks to runs of 97 and 65 yards (the latter on a fake punt). Andre Brown had 21 of his 33 carries in New England and Charles Scott, who spent last season on the practice squad, is also in the mix.
“It’s taking advantage of my opportunity,” Da’Rel Scott said of his preseason production. “It shows them I have the speed. When I got the ball in the second half I felt I could run between the tackles and when there’s nothing there I can make something happen. I feel like I did that, too.”
So he is confident he’ll survive the roster reduction?
“I’m still nervous, to be honest,” Scott said. “I’m a seventh rounder. We have some great backs. We have Ahmad, we have Brandon, we have Danny, we have Dre, we have Charles Scott and we have myself. That’s six great backs right there. I’m just trying to give it to God. That’s all I can do, just let Him take care of it and wait and see if I get that call or not.”
*Backup quarterback. Sage Rosenfels played extensively in the preseason opener in Carolina, but never stepped on the field again because of a strep throat and back issues. David Carr, the team’s other veteran backup, played extensively, including the first three quarters against the Patriots.
“We certainly know a lot about Sage and how he works,” Coughlin said. “Quite frankly, he played the first preseason game and wasn’t feeling well, so that all will be taken into consideration.”
Rosenfels is confident his inactivity will not hurt his chances to make the team.
“I practiced for 17 weeks last year,” he said. “I played in 46 preseason games over the course of 10 years and I missed a couple preseason games, but with veterans you have something to go off of. The things they have done and you figure they can do that in the future. It is not like I was injured all training camp and didn’t practice. I did practice the first few weeks and played pretty well. I showed some things I can do and I feel like I know the offense better and better every day. I know confidently that if Eli (Manning) got hurt I could come in and win games for us.”
The Giants also have first-year pro Ryan Perrilloux, whom Coughlin praised after the game last night. Perrilloux completed eight of 13 passes in limited action this preseason.
*Punter. Dodge, the second-year incumbent, and Weatherford, a seven-year pro signed early in training camp, have pretty much matched each other kick-for-kick. In four preseason games, Dodge punted 11 times for a 46.4-yard gross average and a 34.9-yard net average, placed three inside the 20 and had three touchbacks. Weatherford had 10 punts with a 46.2-yard gross average and a 43.9-net average, four inside the 20 and no touchbacks.
“I’m pretty excited,” Dodge said. “Tomorrow I could either be playing here or be back home or wherever, so it’s a pretty exciting time.
“It’s pretty exciting to me. Coming from a real small town in North Carolina to now having the opportunity to be in New York again or be anywhere in the country or be back in North Carolina, I’m pretty excited about it.”
Again, that’s excited, not nervous.
“That’s the word I would choose,” Dodge said. “I’m not nervous at all, to be honest. We’ll see. Whatever happens, happens.”
Regarding the competition with Weatherford, Dodge said, “It really reminded me of college.”
Coughlin might have to choose between Dodge’s ultra-strong leg and Weatherford’s ability to punt directionally.
“It is kind of hard for me to learn from Matt because of his power,” Weatherford said. “He’s such a powerful guy and I think it’s been beneficial for us both. He has kind of reminded me of a couple of things I’ve forgotten. So I think whoever is punting for the New York Giants this year is going to do a great job. I’ve enjoyed my training camp with Matt.”
*Tynes, who has not played since injuring his quad on Aug. 13 in Carolina, kicked about 25 field goals and eight kickoffs today and said he felt good. He expects to play against the Redskins.
“I feel like I kicked pretty well,” Tynes said. “I am just going to continue and kick once more through the weekend and maybe take off until Wednesday. I wasn’t really concerned about the field goals, it was more the kickoffs and they felt fine.
“I kicked four out of the end zone so I probably had more than what I normally had. It was good, I was down wind a little bit but it felt fine. I’m a little sore just from being inactive for the last three weeks. I don’t have any further problems from it so we will see how it feels tomorrow.”
*Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who missed the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, may or may not be ready to play in Washington.
“We will see,” Coughlin said. “Every day, he looks better and better. He is working in the rehab center.”