The New York Giants’ offensive line is once again doing the injury shuffle.
For the sixth time in 12 games, an injury will force the Giants (4-7) to field a new starting combination on the line in front of quarterback Eli Manning.
The latest lineman to go down was third-year center Jim Cordle. He injured his left knee in Sunday’s loss to Dallas and was placed on injured reserve, the second center lost for the season.
Kevin Boothe, who started the season opener at center, will move there from left guard for Sunday’s road game against the Washington Redskins. Third-year pro James Brewer, who has a start at each of the guard positions this season, will take over for Boothe at left guard.
"It’s not like I haven’t done it before," said Boothe, who started five games at center in the 2011 Super Bowl season. "I take reps there anyway, so it’s not completely foreign. I am used to playing it. I usually get a couple of reps in throughout the course of the week. It’s unfortunate Jim went down, but we work so many different combinations, guys are OK."
Cordle, who started five games after starter David Baas was hurt, was injured early in the second quarter of the Giants’ 24-21 loss to Dallas. Boothe moved to center and Brewer took over at guard. What was impressive was the line didn’t miss a beat, particularly the running game. Andre Brown gained 127 yards on 21 carries and the offense had 202 yards on 30 rushes, a 6.7 yard average.
"Brewer got in there and did a pretty good job," said running back Brandon Jacobs, who added 75 yards on nine carries, including a 37-yard run, the Giants’ longest of the season. "They created holes and the holes were really defined. The backs were getting to the second and third level. That’s an awesome job by the line."
The next step for the line will to be to play a complete game. They need to continue to open holes for the running backs and give Manning the time to throw. Opponents have registered 28 sacks this season, eight more than New York allowed in 2012.
Right guard David Diehl would also like to see the Giants finish drives when they reach the opponent’s 20-yard line. They have been there six times in the past two games and scored two touchdowns.
"Each game is going to be different," Diehl said. "It’s great running the football. It’s something we want to do and running for 200 yards last week is not only a great credit to us, but the tight ends, the receivers getting down into it. Now we have to put everything together, because once you start doing that and get in third and manageable downs, you can keep your playbook open."
Only left tackle Will Beatty and rookie right tackle Justin Pugh have started the previous 11 games at the same position. Boothe has started every game, the last 10 at left guard after the opener at center.
"We’re making sure we get our best five out there each week," Beatty said. "We still have to do a better job of protecting ‘E’ and giving him time, not just the run game, but the pass game, too. The season is coming closer and closer to that last game with each week, and we have to make sure we do our best to extend it through December."
The Giants’ playoff hopes are slim after losing to Dallas (6-5) for the second time this season. Even if they win their final five games, 9-7 may not be good enough to get into the postseason.
"We’ve overcome some tough losses here this year before and bounced back, so I’m positive we can bounce back and go out there and handle our business," Manning said.
NOTES: WR Hakeem Nicks returned to practice Wednesday after missing last weekend’s game with an abdominal injury. The cornerback spot is a concern with Trumaine McBride battling a groin injury. He was hurt in last week’s game and it forced S Antrel Rolle to play cornerback in the nickel defense. Rolle was beaten by Dez Bryant on a third-and-7 play for 19 yards early in the Cowboys’ winning drive.
Manning shaved his beard on Tuesday. He grew it during the Giants’ four-game winning streak. "Just looked at it and thought it was time," Manning said, later adding he was not superstitious. "Never. A little ‘stitious."