Santonio Holmes has been out since injuring his hamstring during our Week 4 game at Tennessee, Kellen Winslow has been inactive since Week 6 as he served a four-game suspension, and Jeff Cumberland missed our Week 9 matchup vs. the Saints as he recovered from a concussion sustained the week before.
This week, however, with the luxury of coming off a bye week, our No. 1 wideout and top two tight ends could be ready to return.
"It makes our offense not only more diverse, but it gives us a chance to exploit some matchups," QB Geno Smith said of the potential of getting to work again with some of his top receivers. "They're getting guys back on their defense with [Jairus] Byrd and [Stephon] Gilmore so it's definitely going to be another challenge for us, but we can create matchups with having Kellen and Jeff and even Zach [Sudfeld] and then Tone, Stephen [Hill], all the guys that we are accustomed to having. They can make plays for us and it just gives us a better chance, I think."
Although neither Holmes nor Winslow has been on the field for any of our four most recent games, Santonio's still fourth on the team in receiving yards with 243 and Kellen's still fourth in receptions with 17. Winslow's also tied for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.
Winslow (knee) and Holmes (foot, hamstring) were both listed as limited participants during today's practice, while Cumberland (concussion) did away with the red non-contact jersey from Monday and joined the full participants. While there's no guarantee that Santonio will be good to go come Sunday at 1 p.m. head coach Rex Ryan seems to be believe that it won't be an issue.
"He's ready to go," Rex said. "In my opinion, I think he'll play. We'll see as the week goes on, but I feel pretty good about him playing."
"When I saw him out on the practice field, he looked fine," Geno said. "He was moving well, and it's just good to have him back."
Having gone quite some time without any in-game reps, though, building back a level of comfort and chemistry might not be instantaneous.
"You really need as much time as you can and understanding amongst each other so that the things can go right on the field," Holmes said of the QB-WR chemistry. "At this point right now, it's about moving forward and looking forward to what we can do right now and not worrying about what we didn't have in the beginning."
"It's just got to continue to grow," Smith said. "I think we were at a point when he was active and playing where we were building something and he obviously went down so that hurt it a little bit, but we've got to continue to practice and continue to grow."
And the best way for that relationship to grow is to get Santonio back on the field ASAP.
"I think he's got the proven track record," Rex Ryan said. "Obviously, Holmes is a tough guy, tough matchup problem because even regards to your coverage, you want to roll your coverage to him, he can beat the first guy, get separation. He's excellent against man, smart, excellent route runner, strong hands, can beat you vertically and underneath as well. So I think he's a complete receiver."
Tone brings energy, veteran leadership, and playmaking ability, Smith said, adding, "He's a guy who definitely was a major part of this offense and we missed having him over the span of time that he wasn't there."
The excitement's brewing for the possibility that Holmes, Winslow and Cumberland could all be on the field for the first time in nearly two months, but bring a player back too soon and you could end up hurting your team's chances in the long-run. Hopefully, the fans of the Green & White won't have to wait too much longer for the trainers and coaches to give Santonio the green light.
"He had a major hamstring injury," Rex said. "It was the worst one we've had this year by far. He was trying to come back. He did a great job in rehab. I think at the end it got closer and closer. Could he have played against New Orleans? If it was the Super Bowl, maybe, but I'm not sure of that. But he just kept working. I think now he's at a good spot."
"At this point, being 5-4, we need all of our hands on deck," Holmes said, "and to get an opportunity to play for this team and to help push for a playoff run is something that all of us want around here. I definitely have to continue to take it one day at a time and be smart about the decision that I want to make for the team, not just for myself."