Giants to face hefty injury ‘challenge’ head on with Cowboys next

At some point, the Next Man Up is simply not good enough.

Especially if the next man was already replacing the previous next man, with the original starting player manning the position long gone from the depth chart.

The Giants got beaten and bludgeoned — yes, this was a physical pummeling — in their 31-18 loss to the Lions and their talent level at several spots — mostly in the defensive backfield but also at wide receiver — is reaching critical levels of depletion. This is ominous at best and debilitating at worst merely days ahead of a Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, a matchup that once looked like a showdown and now could more closely resemble a blatant mismatch.

“It’s definitely a challenge,’’ defensive lineman Leonard Williams said Monday. “When you’re losing starters to injuries that’s gonna be tough on any team. We have confidence in the guys who are going to step up in those positions and we’re gonna do our best to let them know we’re confident in them so that they’re confident on game day.’’

This might have to be an intervention. Just like that, Julian Love is the last man standing in the secondary.

Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (22) after being tackled by Detroit Lions defenders during the first half.
Noah K. Murray

Love played all 67 snaps on defense against the Lions. In the recent past, he was joined by the other starting safety, Xavier McKinney, and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson as 100 percent snap guys. Not anymore. McKinney is out for the foreseeable future after that terrible all-terrain vehicle accident left him with broken fingers, and Jackson went down with a knee injury while returning a punt, which was so preventable, and the medial collateral ligament damage will keep him out four to six weeks.

When Fabian Moreau, the other starting corner, went out with an injury to his oblique, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was forced to use rookie Cor’Dale Flott, recently activated Rodarius Williams and Nick McCloud at the cornerback spots.

This is going to be a big issue, not only against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving — Dak Prescott was slinging it around like a maestro in an impressive rout of the Vikings — but against any capable quarterback moving forward. With four consecutive NFC East games and Prescott, Jalen Hurts and, yes, Taylor Heinicke on deck, it appears the Giants will not have enough capable cornerbacks and safeties to get the job done on any sort of consistent basis.

“For us, that’s what this whole season has been about,’’ Jackson said. “Understand that even when you get all of these reps in OTAs or in camp, make sure everybody is on the same page. And when we bring new people in, make sure they are all of one accord. Regardless of the situation, what may play out. Just keep fighting, keep battling and don’t let the level of play drop.’’

That can work when the need to mix and match is isolated on one player here or there. This is an epidemic.

Giants coach Brian Daboll

The task is great this week with CeeDee Lamb, a true No. 1 receiver, with 58 receptions for 751 yards and five touchdowns. Next, the Giants face the Commanders twice in three weeks and that means a double dose of troublesome Terry McLaurin. In between, the Giants get the Eagles and A.J. Brown. On Christmas Eve, there’s a trip to Minneapolis and a dance with Justin Jefferson, the most lethal target in the league. Michael Pittman Jr. of the Colts — the Week 17 opponent — already has 67 receptions.

Coach Brian Daboll is going to have to do a heck of a selling job this week, sensing whether his team is experiencing any woe-is-me vibes after the Giants had their worst performance of the season and got battered along the way.

“We’re not about excuses — never will be,’’ said Daboll, who also lost rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson to a season-ending knee injury. “We have people on our roster that are going to be ready to play. And that’s our job as a coaching staff is to get these guys ready to play. Again, you’re always going to hit adversity — whether it’s in a game, whether it’s in a season. We’ve talked about that since April. I don’t think that’s something you all of a sudden talk about. You have to teach it, and you have to try to learn from it.’’

Playing without Jackson figures to be a struggle.

“Yeah, it’s tough,’’ Love said. “That’s our guy, he’s been playing at a high level. To see him go down, that’s very tough. For the game, we need young guys to step up and throw them in the fire, which is a tough thing for any team to do.’’