The Giants made a defensive change last week that looks like it might be repeated Sunday against the Lions.
They shifted inside linebacker Jaylon Smith to true middle linebacker (41 snaps against the Texans), promoted rookie inside linebacker Micah McFadden (season-high 36 snaps) to starter and benched Tae Crowder (season-low two).
“The initial plan was to rotate [Crowder and McFadden], and Micah got hot when he was in there and I thought he played well,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “But Tae has practiced his tail off and he’s been nothing but a true pro. He’s going to get his chance — it comes back. What I told him is, ‘How you handle this situation could be a turning point in your career if you keep attacking each day the way you have.’ ”
The Giants have started their top eight draft picks, including McFadden, a fifth-rounder.
“It’s been a steady climb for McFadden since training camp,” inside linebackers coach John Egorugwu said. “He’s been able to earn some more opportunities. [His source of improvement] is in the run game, using his hands. It’s all the things that we teach, and you need to be a good linebacker in the NFL.”
Smith, a former middle linebacker, or “Mike,” for the Cowboys, had one fumble recovery — and nearly a second, until it was overturned by replay.
“He lives to be physical from play to play,” Egorugwu said. “And he can really diagnose and see things. All those things that you need from your ‘Mike’ in the run game.”
DT Dexter Lawrence (back), S Dane Belton (clavicle), OG Josh Ezeudu (neck), and WRs Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Wan’Dale Robinson (hamstring) are listed as questionable. All five were limited in practice Friday, which was a step forward for Ezeudu and Robinson.
TE Daniel Bellinger (eye) will not play and RT Evan Neal (knee) is doubtful.
K Graham Gano (illness) did not practice, but is expected to play. OLBs Kayvon Thibodeaux (illness) and Jihad Ward (thumb) were upgraded to full participants.
After playing 20 snaps in three games over two seasons for the Bills, receiver Isaiah Hodgins played 43 for the Giants only a few days after he was claimed off waivers. That’s quick assimilation.
“He’s been in the system for quite some time,” head coach Brian Daboll said, referencing his relationship with Hodgins from Buffalo last season. “Obviously, we’ve changed a little bit of it, but he picked it right up. Has good hands, good teammate, got quickness, good size.”
If Golladay is scratched, Hodgins figures to be the biggest beneficiary, as he was last week when Golladay was benched following a dropped pass. Hodgins delivered two catches for 41 yards, while Golladay has totaled two for 22 over five games.
With only four touchdown catches by receivers this season — two by Darius Slayton and one apiece from Robinson and the injured Sterling Shepard — spots are up for grabs at a position looking for answers.
“Guys that are earning roles for themselves on a weekly basis are seeing playing time based on what we think we need to do to win that game,” receivers coach Mike Groh said.