Hot Topic and Player Notes

Willie Ponder, the Giants' kickoff return specialist and part-time wide receiver, led the NFL last season with a 26.9 yards per return average. This season, through four games, he is well above that, averaging 30.1 yards.

There is a thought that the Giants, when they play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, will need more than their usual input from special teams, and that leads directly to Ponder.

Ponder is one of those "overnight sensations," rising from the obscurity of being the first of the team's three sixth-round picks in 2003 (the other two, cornerback Frank Walker and wide receiver/special teams star David Tyree, also made the team).

But when asked about his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season, he would rather talk about the guy who sprung him, rookie running back Brandon Jacobs.

"Brandon is amazing to watch," says the 6-0, 205-pounder from Southeast Missouri State. "He is so big he just shouldn't be so fast, but I had to go as fast as I could to keep up with him on that return."

It was Jacobs, at 6-4 and 265, who provided the key block for Ponder in the opener against Arizona, and Ponder is just waiting, he says, to see Jacobs become "a great star in this league."

Meanwhile, Jacobs hasn't led the league in anything yet, though there are muffled reports and rumors that this may be the week he gets his chance to pound a defense into submission.

PLAYER NOTES

--LT Luke Petitgout draws a tough opponent Sunday, Dallas RDE Greg Ellis, who has 2.5 sacks in five games. He is 6-6 and 280, the quick kind of DE that often gives Petitgout trouble, and with eight years of experience, as Petitgout says, "he knows all the tricks."

--William Joseph, the Giants' starting RDT, will get a stiff test when he takes on former Pro Bowl LG Larry Allen, 6-3 and 325 in his 12th NFL season (all with the Cowboys). "He's really good," says the 6-5, 315-pound Joseph, "but I'm finally playing better and I think he's going to find out that I'm good, too."

--QB Eli Manning is second in passer rating among quarterbacks in the NFC, behind Dallas' Drew Bledsoe. He has one less TD pass (nine) but one fewer interception (two). Manning has 123 attempts in four games, Bledsoe 159 in five.

--TE Jeremy Shockey signed a five-year, $31.5 million extension through the 2011 season. "It was a quiet negotiation," said Drew Rosenhaus, his agent. "Not all of our negotiations are loud and involve screaming."

--SS Gibril Wilson went to Tennessee with Dallas Pro Bowl TE Jason Witten. "He took me to school a few times," Wilson said, "but before he left I was holding my own with him." Witten is the Cowboys' co-leader with 23 receptions.

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