The struggling New York Giants continued to tinker with their defensive line on Friday, demoting longtime starting end Osi Umenyiora and starting tackle Fred Robbins to the second unit during practice.
Mathias Kiwanuka replaced Umenyiora and Chris Canty took Robbins’ place on the first unit.
New York has lost five of its last six games and is hoping to salvage its season going into a key NFC East matchup at home against Dallas.
If the changes remain in place Sunday, it would mark the first time since 2004 that former Pro Bowler Umenyiora did not start when healthy and the first time since 2007 that Robbins was a reserve.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin did not want to address any personnel changes.
“We will play everybody,” Coughlin said. “We will get everybody involved. We are trying to do the best we can in maneuvering our personnel according to our team. We preach team defense, so we are going to try to get other guys involved as much as we can and see if we can’t solve some issues.”
Neither Umenyiora nor Robbins was available to the media after practice Friday, but other members of the defensive line spoke of the changes.
“The coaches are the ones who are paid to make decisions,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “We just have to go out and play. They’re the ones who put us into position and if they think someone else is a better fit, then that’s their opinion. … They’re looking to save our season and they’re going to do whatever they think is going to make this right.”
The Giants‘ defensive line has been criticized throughout the season for not playing like the dominant unit that helped the team win the Super Bowl two years ago. While Tuck, Robbins and Canty have played through injuries, the unit has not come close to the expectations placed on it before the season.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us every week,” Tuck said. “We know what people have said about our defensive line. But that shouldn’t matter now. I like pressure. I like playing under pressure.”
Tuck was asked if he would be upset if he wasn’t starting.
“I tell you this, you can ask all 53 guys in this room and no one would answer it the same way,” Tuck said. “I could care less if I was starting. If someone else starts for me, that would be the coach’s decision. I would just wait for my chance to play.”
Canty, who signed a six-year, $42 million contract with the Giants after playing four years with the Cowboys, was looking forward to facing his former team for the first time. He was injured when the teams first played this season in September, a 33-31 Giants win in Dallas.
“It was pretty frustrating, because I wanted be out there to help my new team,” Canty said. “I haven’t played against my former team yet. We’ll find out on Sunday.”
Canty has played in only four games since returning from the calf injury, collecting five tackles.
“I’m looking forward to having the chance to compete,” Canty said. “There’s going to be something special about the game. It’s a divisional game. We just have to match their intensity. … I feel if the coaching staff puts me out there, I’ll be ready.”
Tuck was asked if the game would have a playoff feel to it, considering it’s basically do-or-die for the Giants.
“I think any time you play Dallas, it has that playoff feel,” Tuck said. “There’s a true rivalry there. It doesn’t matter what our records are. We play a little tougher and faster. Dallas has that kind of effect on us.”
RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot, ankle) practiced on a limited basis, but said that he felt ready to play. The team is listing Bradshaw as questionable. … Fellow running back Danny “D.J.” Ware is out with a concussion. … Defensive back Michael Johnson (groin) did not practice and was also listed as questionable.