EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' defense will look vastly different against the Cowboys Sunday than it did a month ago in the teams' first meeting in Dallas.
With as many as six new starters because of injuries, the Giants could have its hands full with Tony Romo's favorite targets.
Injured cornerback Prince Amukamara is no longer in the secondary and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is still working through problems with his back and hamstring.
Because of his Rodgers-Cromartie's tenuous playing status, Jayron Hosley and Chykie Brown may have to alternate responsibilities guarding Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Despite the big-play wideout catching nine balls for 151 yards against Amukamara, the cornerback kept him out of the end zone while recording seven tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups.
Whether Rodgers-Cromartie can duplicate that effort depends on how much he plays. He only participated in 15 snaps the first time around and it's uncertain how he'll hold up Sunday night.
"There are times he has to come out of the game. The matchup part of it, we'd love to have him stay in," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Rodgers-Cromartie said he plans to be aggressive against the speedster who leads the Cowboys with 56 catches for 793 yards and eight touchdowns.
"You've got to get a little animated out there," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He's going to talk back. He's a tough customer. You've just got to cover him for as long as you can."
How long is the question. Once Rodgers-Cromartie steps into the secondary, he is there to stay until his back or hamstring tighten and he takes himself out of the game. Bryant will likely be left to Brown while the starter rests.
"I'm very confident in Brown," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of the played picked up on waivers earlier this month. "He's done a nice job for us since he's been here. Very good student in the classroom. Loves the challenge."
The issues don't stop with Rodgers-Cromartie, however. Zack Bowman has taken over for Amukamara, and Jameel McClain has moved into middle linebacker for Jon Beason. With Jacquian Williams sidelined with a concussion, Mark Herzlich has started at weak side linebacker. And Mike Patterson probably will replace Cullen Jenkins as he battles a calf strain.
Mathias Kiwanuka has also been taking limited snaps because of a knee sprain.
Those changes might create numerous opportunities not only for Bryant, but for running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting and tight end Jason Witten.
The spotlight, however, will be on Rodgers-Cromartie's matchup with the Cowboys' game-breaking receiver.
"DRC is going to give us everything he has," safety Antrel Rolle said. "That's all we can ask of him at this moment."
NOTES: OL Geoff Schwartz continued to make strides in his comeback from a dislocated toe, but it remained unclear where he would play Sunday against the Cowboys. Right tackle Justin Pugh (quads) remained out of practice, and it is possible Schwartz could take his spot. But Coughlin said the Giants considered him more of a guard. He could also move to left guard to allow rookie Weston Richburg to replace the faulty J.D. Walton at center. But Schwartz said right tackle duty would not pose a major problem for him. "Playing on the right side, I've done it so long that I know how to use my hands better," said Schwartz, who played nine games at right tackle for Carolina in 2009 and 2010. "I don't think about it. You just gotta go play."... DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) and LB Jacquian Williams (concussion) did not practice. Williams did do some running on the side.