Two rookies are about to rejoin practice just in time for the focus of another lost Giants season to shift to the youngsters.
Cornerback Aaron Robinson and outside linebacker Elerson Smith will return to the field Wednesday as the Giants start the process of activating the two injured players.
Robinson, a third-round pick out of Central Florida, underwent core muscle surgery during the offseason and landed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Smith, a fourth-round pick out of Northern Iowa, injured his hamstring in the first days of training camp and landed on injured reserve.
Neither rookie is expected to debut Sunday against the Panthers, but the Giants will have three weeks to either activate both players or shut them down for the rest of the season. The Giants (1-5) are out of playoff contention and need to consider handing more playing time to youngsters to speed up evaluations for the future, especially if another offseason roster cleanse is on tap.
“They have a few weeks to work out,” coach Joe Judge said, “see where they go physically until they’re ready to go ahead and get out there on the field.”
First-round pick Kadarius Toney leads the Giants with 317 receiving yards and second-round pick Azeez Ojulari leads the way with three sacks. Cornerback Rodarius Williams was playing in the nickel package until a season-ending torn ACL — Robinson’s availability to step into the slot would ease Williams’ loss — and fellow sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell is playing 56 percent of special teams snaps as the No. 3 running back.
Of all the injured Giants — it’s a never-ending list — maybe none has been harder to replace than ILB Blake Martinez.
The Giants signed Benardrick McKinney to the practice squad Monday, with hopes that he can quickly learn the system and step in as a contributor in Martinez’s absence. McKinney is a six-year veteran who had three 100-plus tackle seasons and 11.5 career sacks with the Texans.
McKinney, 28, was a free agent after he was cut by the Dolphins out of training camp. The Giants have turned to a combination of linebacker Reggie Ragland in run situations and second-year pro Tae Crowder in pass situations, but the defense has crumbled since Martinez suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of a Week 3 loss to the Falcons. He “tied the front and back ends together,” as one evaluator put it.
McKinney was traded in March by the Texans to the Dolphins for edge-rusher Shaq Lawson in a deal that also included an exchange of draft picks. Seven months later, McKinney and Lawson are both in New York, as Lawson is on the Jets.
WR Toney and LT Andrew Thomas both left Sunday’s game with ankle injuries and required further testing Monday.
Toney aggravated an ankle injury that almost kept him out of the game: “He got stuck on the turf a little bit,” Judge said.
Thomas rolled his right ankle underneath a pile of bodies. It is unrelated to the left foot injury that kept him out the previous game.
DT Danny Shelton avoided a pectoral muscle tear and is day-to-day with a strain, according to an NFL Network report.