Osi Umenyiora questionable

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a full week of practice, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is questionable for Sunday's game against the Cowboys. The defensive end could make his return after missing the previous four games with a high ankle sprain, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful he will have the former Pro Bowler against Dallas.

"We'll have to see, won't we?" Coughlin said.

Umenyiora has not played since the Giants lost to New Orleans on Nov. 28. He said Thursday he was hopeful, although it will be Coughlin's call. The coach said Umenyiora seemed to do OK during a limited practice Friday.

Umenyiora missed the first three games of the season after having his knee scoped, and returned Oct. 2 against the Cardinals. He has played eight games this season, recording seven sacks (second-most on the team), two forced fumbles and eight quarterback hits.

Even if he can play this weekend, Umenyiora said on Thursday that Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul should continue to start as the right defensive end. Pierre-Paul is fourth in the league with 15½ sacks and also has 83 total tackles, two forced fumbles and six pass deflections.

"He deserves to be the starter, there is no question about it," Umenyiora said on Thursday. "The guy is playing as high a level as I've seen a defensive end play in a long time. And I have been here a while. Whatever this team needs for me to do, whether it is come in and spot him or rush, whatever they need me to do, I will go out there and do."

Receiver Hakeem Nicks, who is listed as probable, likely will suit up for Sunday's game. The receiver strained his hamstring against the Jets Saturday but played through the injury, finishing with one catch.

He missed the first two days of practice this week before returning to the field Friday. The receiver vowed on Thursday that he would play in Sunday's battle for the NFC East title against the Cowboys. Nicks believes he's getting better each day.

"I pushed it to the fact where I at least have an idea where I'll be at on certain routes and certain plays," said Nicks, who used Friday to test his speed burst. "It was no setbacks, which is a good thing."

He added: "I'm confident that I'll be able to get the job done. If I'm out there, I'm going to be a full-go."

Fellow receiver Mario Manningham, who missed the game against the Jets, completed a full week of practice and is listed as probable.

The Giants will be without their top tight end, Jake Ballard, who missed his second full week of practice after spraining his PCL against Washington on Dec. 18.

His workload likely will be picked up by Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe, who combined for zero catches against the Jets.

"I'm definitely making progress," Ballard said. "They said it's a two-week injury and I'm right at almost two weeks. The team just has to take care of the Cowboys and hopefully I'll play next week."

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) is probable while linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) will miss his fifth straight game. Herzlich suffered a high ankle sprain against the Saints on Nov. 28 and he said the injury was worse than he expected.

"Hopefully we get the win and I'll be able to help contribute going forward," Herzlich said.

Matthew Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.