Giants LB Olivier Vernon to make season debut vs. Eagles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants will be getting back outside linebacker Olivier Vernon -- perhaps their most indispensable defensive player -- for Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Vernon is expected to make his season debut after missing the first five games of the season with a high ankle sprain. He was not given an injury designation on the week's final injury report Wednesday, even though he was listed as a limited participant in practice.

His return is a big boost for a Giants defense that enters this week tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL with six.

While Vernon is returning, tight end Evan Engram (knee) and wide receiver Russell Shepard (neck) were ruled out of Thursday night's game. Engram practiced for the first time Tuesday since suffering his injury, but the short week made it too tight a time frame.

The more realistic scenario for Engram's return, especially with him still dealing with some soreness in the knee, is against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 22, a Monday night game.

The Giants (1-4) could be extremely shorthanded at tight end against the Eagles. Rhett Ellison (foot) is also listed as questionable for the contest. He was limited in Wednesday's practice.

The Eagles also are dealing with injuries, as running back Darren Sproles, who has missed four games with a hamstring injury, was one of five players to be ruled out of Thursday's game. The others who will not play are D.J. Alexander (quadricep), linebacker Nathan Gerry (ankle, knee), safety Corey Graham (hamstring) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf).

Vernon's presence should help a Giants defense that hasn't been able to consistently reach the quarterback this season. Veteran Connor Barwin and rookie Lorenzo Carter combined for two sacks in his absence.

Vernon had 15 sacks in his first two seasons with the Giants.

"Certainly, when you have a pass rusher with OV's skill and ability, it'll help," coach Pat Shurmur told the team's website.

Vernon has been sidelined since late August with the ankle injury. He tried to return for last week's game, but he wasn't moving well, running gingerly and constantly flexing the ankle during practice late last week.

It doesn't mean the Giants are expected to throw him back into a full-time role. Vernon, who has rarely come off the field in recent years, is expected to play a more limited role Thursday night.

The Giants also expect to have kicker Aldrick Rosas (quad) available after he spent most of the week on the sideline.