The Giants should be more difficult to block and more difficult to knock back come Sunday.
With no official injury report available, outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari and right tackle Evan Neal both said they were full participants in Tuesday’s practice, which puts them on track to play against the Commanders.
Which starter’s return is more important? Call them equally significant.
Ojulari puts a legitimate pass rusher (nine sacks in 19 career games) opposite Kayvon Thibodeaux, on the edge of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. He has been out since Oct. 2.
“I feel back, for sure,” Ojulari said. “Been watching from the side and now is the time to get out there and do what I do.”
The next six games represent a chance for Ojulari to salvage something of his second season, which began with an offseason hamstring injury and devolved to include a right calf injury during training camp, a left calf injury the last time he played and a setback the last time he tried to return.
“At the end of the year, we’ll see what it is,” Ojulari said. “Every game I want to take it to another level. Just all I got to help the team win.”
Is there anything he can do to avoid another setback this week?
“The crazy part is that I was doing everything right,” Ojulari said. “You just can’t control it. I was doing what I had to, everything on time — stretching, treatment, extra. That was really frustrating.”
The rookie Neal steadies right tackle after the Giants used Tyre Phillips and Matt Peart during his four-game absence. His return is not a moment too soon because the Commanders’ defensive front features several former first-round picks.
“Taking the time to evaluate the previous games that I’ve played … just gave me a different perspective,” Neal said, “But I definitely like the perspective being out there rather than being on the sideline.”
The Giants practiced in pads Tuesday for the first time in three weeks.
“I definitely got my live reps that I’ve been asking for,” Neal said. “The injured guys can see how much you can do — if you need to keep going or if you need to reel it back. That’s definitely the benefit of having padded practices.”
TE Daniel Bellinger was less committal about playing Sunday, but head coach Brian Daboll said he is “trending in the right direction.” Bellinger has missed four games with a fracture near his eye socket.
“The thing today was to see how I felt about the eye, and I wasn’t apprehensive about it,” Bellinger said. “I felt comfortable hitting, and I didn’t feel like I had to slow up.”
Bellinger will wear a visor in games for the first time in his career but said the double vision he experienced is “cleared up now.” He is still undergoing convergence testing with trainers.
LG Shane Lemieux (toe), LG Josh Ezeudu (neck) and CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee) didn’t practice Tuesday. CB Cor’Dale Flott was on the field, signaling he is near the final step before clearing the concussion protocol. RB Gary Brightwell (illness) did not practice.
If center Jon Feliciano (neck) returns as expected, Nick Gates could slide to left guard after playing center in Feliciano’s absence.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Daboll said, “and when we get to Friday hopefully we’ll have some guys back.”
OLB Quincy Roche, OL Devery Hamilton and DB Trenton Thompson were re-signed to the practice squad. They were all cut in the last week as part of the active-roster gymnastics needed because of injuries. WR Robert Foster was released from the practice squad.