Amukamara faces the challenge of Calvin Johnson

New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara is finally playing

like a first-round draft pick.

After missing time in his first two seasons, Amukamara has

stayed healthy. He is second on the team in tackles with 76, and

tied for the team lead in passes defended (11) and forced fumbles

(2) heading into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

”I think I have been progressing and improving from my first

year,” Amukamara said. ”I am definitely not where I want to be.

My goal this year was to make more plays on the ball and I feel

like I missed out on opportunities so there is definitely something

to work on.”

The Lions might present the former Nebraska star and the Giants’

secondary their biggest challenge. They have to find a way to slow

down Calvin Johnson. ”Megatron” leads the NFL in yards receiving

with 1,449 on 81 catches, a 17.9 yard average.

The Giants might be catching the 6-foot-5 receiver at the right

time. He has been held under 100 yards in the last two games,

including one in a snowstorm in Philadelphia.

However, he also missed the Lions’ practices Wednesday and

Thursday because of a knee injury, so his status is uncertain.

Amukamara doesn’t plan to do anything different facing Johnson,

who is one of the most physical receivers in the league.

”I think there are different ways to play them,” Amukamara

said. ”Some guys might play a little less physical because they

don’t want to get into that hand match with the guy. I haven’t

changed my game for anyone. I am just as aggressive as anyone. I

use my hands. You only get five yards and I think that’s the

fastest way to slow a receiver down.”

There was some speculation that the Giants might have the 6-0

Amukamara shadow Johnson because fellow cornerbacks Jayron Hosley

and Trumaine McBride are a couple of inches shorter than Amukamara

and would be giving away too much height.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday that shadowing

Johnson can be a problem because he never seems to line up at the

same spot. The confusion of trying to get the match up might leave

another receiver wide open.

The more likely scenario is that the Giants would provide help

against Johnson, having a safety play over the top of the receiver

in double coverage.

Veteran cornerback Terrell Thomas believes Amukamara has made

strides this season. His rookie year was slowed by a broken foot in

training camp and his second season included ankle and hamstring


”Some games he is the first rounder and the corner that we all

see and envision. How he practices in some games, he goes through

his cycles. That’s one of the main things that me and Corey Webster

and Trel (Antrel Rolle), the veterans, try to stay on him, to let

him know he has the potential and the talent. All he has to do is

go out there and play with confidence and show the wide receiver.

He has shown that in every game, but hasn’t been as consistent,

which every young player goes through. Hopefully, he has a good

showing Sunday against a quality wide receiver.”

NOTES: G David Diehl (knee) missed his second straight practice.

WR Jerrel Jernigan (knee), G James Brewer (ankle) and DT Cullen

Jenkins (shin-quad) returned to practice. Jernigan is expected to

replace Victor Cruz (knee surgery) as the slot receiver.