Expected to participate: Safeties: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Cooper Taylor, Will Hill, Ryan Mundy, Alonzo Tweedy, Tyler Sash CBs: Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, Terrence Frederick, Jayron Hosley, Laron Scott, Trumaine McBride, Junior Mertile, David Caldwell, Charles James
Overview: Old and new faces converge to help reshape the club’s most troubled unit. Terrell Thomas returns after back-to-back lost to ACL tears. Aaron Ross lasted just one year in Jacksonville. They released him over the winter and the Giants scooped up their former first-round pick for the league minimum.
Last year’s starters, Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara, are going in different directions. Webster was godawful last season, surrendering a slew of big plays. Prince, after two seasons marred by injury, is rounding into a solid pro.
The team did not draft a CB, relying on the comeback of Thomas, the return of Ross and the development of Hosley to fill nickel and dime roles. For the record, Trumaine McBride and Charles James have shown promise and Junior Mertile was signed after a tryout at rookie camp.
Antrel Rolle is still the top dog at safety. He will be joined by takeaway artist Stevie Brown, Will Hill and free agent Ryan Mundy, who has impressed the coaches in OTAs. The team spent a fifth round draft pick on Richmond’s Cooper Taylor, a 6’5″ hybrid that the coaches will be trying to find a role for.
Sash has predominantly been a special teamer, but he may be displaced by Alonzo Tweedy from Virginia Tech, the top special teams player in the country last season.
Here are the coaches’ comments on the state of the secondary and what their expectations this summer…
Secondary/Cornerbacks Coach Peter Giunta
How has it been having Aaron Ross back?
“It’s great. He picked up where he left off. He looked really focused. His quickness is better than it was when he left. Being away for a while… It showed him how much he missed this place and missed the guys he was with and the way we run the operation here at the Giants. It’s been a breath of fresh air having him back because he really appreciates what we have here and some of the guys take it for granted, but he hasn’t and it comes across to the other guys. Hey, this is important. You guys don’t know how lucky you have it here.”
Q: Corey Webster admits that he did not play up to his standard last year. Do you sense a determination in him to get back where he thinks he should be?
A: Definitely. Finishing the way we did, everybody has a real sense of urgency this year to get back to playing the kind of football we did at the end of the 2011 season in that six-game stretch and playing that kind of defense. In his defense, he breaks his hand and it set him back a little bit not being able to use his hands up in press coverage. He struggled in the end when we didn’t have a lot of continuity back there. He did have a tough year for himself.
Q: Are you counting on Terrell Thomas?
A: He’s making progress. Terrell is making good progress, so we’re counting on those five guys plusTrumaine McBride has done a tremendous job in the OTAs so far and we’re looking forward to seeing him compete in training camp. He’s a veteran. He’s played in the league and played at Chicago and has a lot of experience and a lot of quickness.
Q: Can you expect anything out of Terrell at this point?
A: Yes. I think we will. We’re going to do what the offense did with Domenik Hixon, try to bring him along slowly. Give him a certain number of reps each practice to get him from the practices to the first preseason game. We’re going to try and manage him well and just give him a very limited role to start.
Secondary/Safeties Coach David Merritt
Q: What transition is Terrell Thomas looking at when he moves over to safety?
A: I think Terrell is correct when it comes to playing the low position because he’s played the nickel so he’s been in and out of those linebacker positions. But when it comes to playing in the center field, when it comes to playing in the half field or quarter technique, that’s a totally different story as we’ve seen Antrel Rolle over the years trying to play back and hasn’t played back too often because we always had to move him back up to the nickel. Well hopefully we don’t have to do that this year. Going back and having to back pedal and trying to play top down, that’s the biggest difference. Trying to keep everything in front and inside and until you’re in that position, it may be easier to say it right now as you’re standing on the sideline, but until you’re put in that position and you have speed running at you, you don’t know how that feels. It’s a lonely feeling. All of a sudden speed is running at you and you’re in the back pedal. It’s a big difference, but he should do well if he has to go back there.
Q: You seem to have a lot of depth in the safety position. Do you think it’s a good group?
A: It is. The fact that we have all the guys that are coming as far as when you talk about Terrell Thomas. You have Ryan Mundy, who is a new addition, and then we have Cooper Taylor, who’s a new addition, along with Antrel Rolle and along with Stevie Brown; it is a lot of depth. So with the fact that we have the veterans that are here to be able to have the guys to come back who have played before it is a great feeling. It really is.
Q: What do you like about Cooper Taylor?
A: I like his size. I like his mental… Cooper is a very intelligent young man. Right now we have him playing the will position as well as a safety and so I really like his size and his mental capacity, but he is a rookie. He’s messing up just like normal rookies would do and so he’s running around, but he has a lot on his plate. But I really like his size. 6-4, running a 4.4 40… I mean that’s pretty good. God didn’t bless me with that type of size, even as a linebacker.