EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Michael Boley believes that one of the main reasons the New York Giants won the Super Bowl last season -- and remain a solid contender this year in their eyes -- is their depth straight across the board.
Look no further than on the defensive line.
"You have guys who are willing to step up and fill in," said Boley, a linebacker who remains on the Giants’ injury report with a hip problem. "We have a lot of athletes on this team that can step up and play at any time. It shows the team’s character. It shows that guys are always prepared.
"We have guys who know that this week could be their turn."
Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn are two players who realize that Sunday might be their chance to shine along the defensive line. And playing a young and winless team -- Cleveland (0-4) -- might be a good starting off point.
Austin, the second-year tackle out of North Carolina, and Kuhn, the German import and rookie tackle out of North Carolina State, both received considerably more repetitions Friday in the anticipation of playing and perhaps starting, now that starter Rocky Bernard has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a quadriceps injury.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin wouldn’t commit to either player getting the starting nod, even hinting that one of the three defensive ends -- Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora or Jason Pierre-Paul -- could move to the inside.
But if Coughlin has to use Austin or Kuhn at defensive tackle, he has all the faith in the world in both.
"We’re going to play with what we have," Coughlin said. "Markus has done OK. He’s a good, young prospect and he’s a physical player. With Austin, each week, he keeps getting a little better. For us to accomplish what we want to, he’s going to have to play well. "
Austin, a second-round draft pick in 2011, missed all of last season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Slowed by a back injury during preseason, Austin was inactive the first week against Dallas, then dressed, but did not play against Tampa Bay. Austin has seen limited action in both of the last two games, but has not registered a tackle.
"I think I’m still getting used to playing in a game setting," said Austin, who last played regularly in 2009, because he was forced to sit out his last year at North Carolina due to a suspension. "I just have to go out there and play full speed. I’ve been working on technique. I just have to worry about getting too flustered out there."