EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)After mixing and matching his players all season because of injuries on and off the field, New York Giants secondary coach Jerome Henderson will have everyone back for the playoffs.
The Giants (9-7-1) had a rare blank injury list Friday for Sunday’s wild-card game against the Vikings (13-4) in Minnesota.
That means the Vikings will see veteran Adoree Jackson at left cornerback and Xavier McKinney at free safety. Neither played in Minnesota’s 27-24 win on Dec. 24.
Jackson, the team’s best cover cornerback, has missed the last seven games with a knee injury. McKinney has played one game since the bye week in early November because of a broken hand sustained while vacationing in Mexico.
Their return should help New York in covering receiver Justin Jefferson and tight end T.J. Hockenson. The two combined for 25 receptions for 242 yards and two TDs against New York on Christmas Eve. Quarterback Kirk Cousins finished 34 of 48 for 299 yards and three TDs.
When asked if their return would help the defense, Henderson quipped to ask him on Monday.
McKinney, who led the Giants with five interceptions last season, will be assigned to Hockenson more often than not, although the Giants do play a lot of zone defense.
Jackson has the size to contend with Jefferson, who led the league with 128 catches and 1,809 yards.
”The one thing about Adoree is he won’t be fazed by anything,” Henderson said before the final injury report was issued. ”He’ll come back, if he plays, and play at a high level and he’ll give give us everything he’s got.”
Jackson refused to talk to the media after Friday’s practice.
Henderson has gotten a lot from all the defensive backs all season, his third with New York. He was hired by Joe Judge in 2020 and retained by Brian Daboll this season.
This has not been an ordinary year. New general manager Joe Schoen released outstanding cornerback James Bradberry in the offseason in a salary cap move. That left second-year pro Aaron Robinson to start at right cornerback. He was hurt twice in first two games and went on injured reserve, never to return.
It caused the Giants to scramble to find cornerbacks. Rookie Cor’Dale Flott was forced to make five starts either at cornerback or nickel back.
Fabian Moreau, who was signed to the practice squad in the week leading up to the season opener, started 12 games, playing both the right and left side. Nick McCloud, who was acquired on waivers on Aug. 31, started seven.
Henderson said the beauty of coordinator Wink Martindale’s system is that many of players can be used as interchangeable pieces.
”Having a system that I could get guys in, get them plugged in, teach them the system and the system, be very user friendly. It’s been been massive for me,” Henderson said.
Players call Henderson a player’s coach. He played defensive back for four teams and participated in three Super Bowls, as a player with New England and Buffalo and one as a coach the Atlanta said.
Safety Tony Jefferson, who also was acquired on waivers before the season, said Henderson is an outstanding coach.
”I think it always comes down to having a good teacher,” Jefferson said. ”So it’s easy for him to connect with us and give us the right type of advice, not just on the field, but what to do off the field, how to study. And like I said, we’ve got a lot of young guys going through, so that helps big time.”
It remains to be seen whether a good coach and a healty secondary will help the Giants beat the NFC North champions this time.
NOTES: Daboll said he usually doesn’t have much to say to his team the night before a game. He talks during the week and addresses his captains on Friday. There is a walk-through and meetings Saturday.
”It’s a players game. I say a lot during the week getting them ready but the night before the game to me, that’s players’ time,” Daboll said. ”Same right before the game, that’s players’ time. It’s a players game and we’ve got good leaders in our room and we’re just going to go out and play.”
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