Packers-Giants matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Dec. 01, 2011 @ 2:17 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Packers RBs James Starks, Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine vs. Giants LB corps

Green Bay's ground game could make more of an impact than usual this Sunday going up against a Giants LB corps that could once again be missing its best defender, ex-Falcon Michael Boley, who has missed most of the last three games with a hamstring injury. Boley normally calls signals from the weak side and never leaves the field. Without him in the lineup this past Monday night, Saints RBs Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles combined for a whopping 197 rushing yards, with Ingram and Thomas each scoring TDs. The same trio combined for 7-89 receiving (12.7 yards per catch), and the Packers' running backs could be particularly effective Sunday on short crossing routes out of the backfield, which lately have been giving the Giants' linebackers fits.

The Giants' LB corps is especially vulnerable in the middle. The team lost Jonathan Goff, its normal starting middle ’backer, to an injury before the season. Sixth-round rookie Greg Jones became the starter and struggled mightily before being replaced in the last two games by another rookie, Mark Herzlich, who is very smart and determined. But like Boley, Herzlich could be very questionable for this game after coming up lame Monday night (he has been wearing a boot in practice early in the week).

If Boley can't go, his replacement on the weak side will be yet another rookie, sixth-round draft pick Jacquian Williams, who has 4.56 speed and has impressed in coverage. The most likely adjustment, however, will be the insertion of veteran S Deon Grant into the starting lineup as a linebacker, which was the case last Monday evening. On the strong side, Mathias Kiwanuka can be very disruptive, but the converted defensive end has problems in coverage.

Starks, who left the Thanksgiving Day game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury, is expected to be able to play. But the Packers really might consider throwing multiple RB looks at the Giants with Ryan Grant and Saine also making contributions. Saine raised some eyebrows with his explosive burst both rushing and receiving against the Lions. As was the case with Starks last year, Saine just might burst out of the woodwork down the stretch to offer quality touches.