Secondary play in football is the least understood aspect to the fan, at least it always was to me. One major reason for that is the terrible coverage from the networks. They rarely show what they do, it’s all about the quarterback and the other stars of the team. It’s pretty basic though and should not be over complicated by all the different schemes. Either a defensive back plays man to man or a zone, we all know what a zone is, I hope. Most defenses use combinations of these two techniques. Some teams use more of one or the other usually based on the talent of the players they have. Or because that’s what the ego driven defensive coordinator runs. A good pure cover cornerback is worth a lot and they do get paid a lot. Very few shutdown corners are in the league, in my opinion Darrell Revis is the best. The Giants targeted him but lost out to the Jets and ended up drafting the disappointing Aaron Ross. Ross had the goods but could never bring it all together like Revis has done, in fact as I remember he was the next ranked CB in that draft, they were rated very closely.
The Giants are in a state of flux right now, a lot of players have left. The starters for the secondary are pretty much set. Let me emphasis it’s the very important backups that are in question and they are important these days. The need for quality backups is paramount in the NFL now. Teams are becoming more and more pass happy. The NFL rules favor the passing attack, so many teams are trying to take advantage of that. They are looking for mismatches by using multiple tightend and receiver sets with running backs becoming more and more primary receivers in pass plays.
Bigger wide receivers will have an advantage over the average size cornerback, some have trouble covering them, that’s also a trend in NFL, teams are drafting bigger/taller receivers. The Giants second round pick Randle is at least 6’2” tall. The Giants traditionally like taller, long armed defensive backs for that reason. Although those types rarely have the top end speed necessary to cover the smaller speedsters. It is so much about technique covering a taller player, something Webster and Thomas excel at. The drafting of Prince Amukamara brings that speed to the secondary, although Prince was known to be a physical player in college as well as fast. With Thomas having some back issues Amukamara needs to step it up and show why he was a #1 pick, Reese mentioned this need to show why he was a first round draft pick.
So this is what we have, the Giants starters:
FS – Kenny Phillips – 6’2” 217 5yrs– Last pick in the first round of 2008, that’s the year the Pats lost their first round pick for cheating, I’m sure he was their man, they needed help in the secondary and still do. I saw the football ability from the first time he stepped on the field for the Giants. Now here’s the caveat, since having knee surgery he is not the same player, he did have some knee issues in college so the Giants took a chance. He is still a very good FS but not the hard hitting super quick player I saw before, he reminded me of a Tiger staking his prey. He does not make the plays he did as a rookie and in college. I like him and he does a great job but physically he is not the same player, his good football instincts make up for it though. He looked like he was poised to be a perennial probowl player and top free safety, like a mix of a CB and linebacker. His play never reached that level, but still mans the position more than adequately.
Phillips contract is over after the season, will he want more money than Jerry Reese is willing to pay him? Reese offers contracts that are a bit on the low side but that are representive of reality, Phillips might think he’s worth more. He’s still a top free safety but not the dominate player he was destined to be. I thought he would be like the LT of the secondary to some extent when he was drafted. Had he not had a history of that knee problem he might have gone much sooner in the draft. Despite his lack of allocates in terms of probowl snubs he would very hard to replace if impossible short term.
SS – Antre Rolle – 6’ 206 7yrs – Plays bigger than he is, Rolle is a lean tough hard hitter. A very good safety in the box, OK at coverage and a leader in the club house, a good signing by Reese. He does have a big mouth and talks too much, that doesn’t seem to have hurt the team though. I think he’s one reason the Giants won the super bowl, he makes plays and knows the defense. Rolle understands the schemes and what everybody is doing as does Phillips, you can see that on the field.
CB – Terrell Thomas – 6’ 191 5yrs – Thomas looks bigger and plays physical, he is a very good cornerback and very confident in his skills. As a DB you need that cockiness and swagger. A DB must think that nobody can or will beat him. Of course we all know that isn’t possible but you need to feel that way to be successful. Coming off a severe knee injury the question is can he be back at or close to 100%? If he can that would go a long way to helping the Giants repeat.
CB – Cory Webster – 6’ 200 8yrs – Another CB that looks and plays bigger than he is. Webster has excellent M2M skills. Early in his career he was asked to play a zone which he was ill suited for and looked like a bust. He looked confused many times on the field, he was much maligned and his confidence was down. He reawakened under better defensive schemes and proved to be the player the Giants thought they drafted and more. He needs to keep playing at this level for the Giants to be successful.
CB – Prince Amukamara – 6’ 207 2 yrs – A very highly rated prospect who went later in the first round than originally thought by all the internet draft sites and mock drafts. Prince was considered a steal for the Giants. He has not shown much because of injury and lack of OTAs last season, there was a lockout. It is hoped by the Giants that he shows what he can do this season and sees a lot of playing time as the nickel back or Thomas moving to the nickel and he taking Thomas’s place. I have said it too many times already about the NFL being pass happy, it’s just a fact. You need as many cover cornerbacks as you can these days to counter the more wide open offenses. He is the fastest DB the Giants have now that Ross is gone, running a 4.38 40 at the 2011 combine. That speed will help immensely to cover the smaller faster players in the NFL. Yet at 6 feet he is considered to have good height and size for the position.
CB- Michael Coe – 6’ 187 6yrs – Originally a 5th round pick by the colts in 2007 he was with the Jaguars and signed by the Giants in 2010. He ran a little slow 4.53 at combine so speed isn’t his thing. Was placed on IR in 2011 due to a shoulder injury, Coe has been working this offseason to get well and improve himself as a player. What type of impact he will have will be seen this preseason if he is ready to play. He is on the roster so I guess he’s ready to go. He was with the first team at practice, Thomas was nursing a sore back.
CB – Jayron Hosley – 5’ 10” 178 R – Unless he does something like totally stink he has a spot on the roster as a third round pick. Many say he should have been considered for the late first or second round, some say a third round selection was a reach. He had some off the field issues but has a lot of talent and very well could be the 5th and last CB on the roster. He plays the way a CB should with confidence and a swagger. He also returns kicks and has good speed running a 4.47 at the combine. He is known as a ball hawk and for making plays, a deceptively hard hitter for his size. He’s going to have to get stronger to survive the NFL if he wants to play that way.
S – Chris Horton – 6’ 1” 221 5yrs – A 7th round pick of the 2008 draft for the Redskins (Do the Giants have too many Redskins on the team.) He was released by them and signed by the Giants to compete for a backup spot. His size and physical play means he will probably be backing up Rolle at the SS position. He was always known as more of a hitter and not a cover guy even in college. He had a good start to his career and slid off the NFL planet not being signed by anyone in 2011 after Washington released him before the start of the season. He should play well on special teams and be a good backup at SS.
S – Tyler Sash – 6’ 215 2yrs – Sash is a fan favorite because of his style of play giving it everything he has and making the best of the chances he gets. He was a 6th round pick in 2011 yet was ranked much higher by draft sites, even as high as the second round, his very unimpressive combine may have dropped him. He is a bit slow with a 4.6 40 and is not a great tackler, more comfortable in a zone he lacks the M2M ability to cover. Sash is a hard worker but has a lot of competition in camp, he is the type of player to show steady improvement and will probably make the roster for his special teams play.
CB – Brandon Bing – 5’9” 175 1yr – Bing ran a 4.41 at his Rutgers proday so he has the speed, just not the size. Size doesn’t always matter and some of the best DBs are less than 6 feet tall. He has been clocked at 4.28. Originally signed by Denver and cut, then the Bills and cut, the Giants signed him to their practice squad. He has talent, the question, is it enough to make it in the NFL? Will probably be on the practice squad.
CB – Dante Hughes – 5’ 10” 186 6yrs – A third round pick by the Colts in 2007, after seeing his combine numbers I think that was too high even though he was a standout college player. No wonder the Colts fired everybody in their front office. He ran a very slow 4.65 40 and that’s just too slow, even his proday 4.56 is not near what is needed to be an elite defensive back in the NFL and a 3rd round pick. He’s a journeyman player and I can’t see him beating out some of the talented players the Giants have at this position, even with the questionable health of Thomas.
S – Janzen Jackson – 6’1” 190 R – Another player with off the field issues, Jerry Reese believes in his coaches and his ability to help young men turn their lives around and for this reason he should be commended. Jackson is a talented player who can play every position in the secondary. A little slow running a 4.64 40 at the combine but a much better 4.51 at his proday. He does not have elite speed, he makes up for with savvy and natural ability, he’s a football player. His versatility and aggressiveness should earn him a spot on the roster but he will have to be a standout on special teams to make it. I think he will and become a solid NFL player as long as he stays on the straight and narrow.
S – Justin Tyron – 5’ 9” 180 5yrs – A 4th round pick by the Redskins in 2008, traded to the Colts in 2010. Just when he was getting comfortable and found a role with the team he went on IR with a broken right arm. Good speed with a 4.4 at the combine in 2008. He never really got a chance with the Colts and the Redskins. He might be an important player and ready to step up not only on special teams but in the secondary too.
S – Will Hill – 6’1” 207 1yr – Hill was not drafted in 2011 due to some questionable tweets and played in the Arena football league. The Giants signed him this year. He had a great promise but only had a mediocre college career after a good freshman season. Another one of Jerry Reese’s second chance players. He has a lot of talent and may prove to be a solid professional, he says he sees the light and has changed his ways, we all hope so Will.
S – Steve Brown – 5’ 11” 221 3yrs – A 7th round pick by the Raiders, played with the Panthers and Colts on their practice squad where he is with the Giants and will probably stay there. He ran a 4.5 40 at his 2010 proday so he has some speed. It lists him at 221 on the Giants roster but I think he is 212 pounds. 221 would be approaching linebacker size for a guy 5’11”.
The Giants starting secondary is a very good one. The pass rush will make them look better, it’s a matter of just giving that little extra time to the defensive line and they will get to the QB, no doubt. There is a lot of young talent behind the starters, although some of the players had some issues off the field. That is something that will have to be taken into consideration, they are all on a short leash as Jerry Reese would say. A good mix of veterans and young players, they are all hungry to get playing time and that super bowl ring. It’s good to have competition, that’s the way the Giants work, nobody is safe, you must earn your position on the roster to a large extent. Some players have a bit of an advantage being draft picks but that just goes so far with Coughlin.
Like that broken car alarm I will say it’s all about health. The Giants must remain healthy to win, most important is the health of the team at the end of the season. Having great depth will improve the chances of that happening. Developing of these young players and having them play well when called upon is imperative. I will be watching some of these guys like Amukamara, Hosley, Jackson, Hill, Bing as well as some of the veterans signed by Reese.
It seems all of these young players are known for their aggressiveness and hard hitting play. I would like to see the secondary develop a reputation like the Giants defensive line. This will certainly get into the heads of many receivers and that could mean a lot. It could mean pulling out a win here and there with a key drop, fumble or interception because of the receiver knowing he’s going to be clobbered by these guys flying to the ball. Mental toughness is not a strong point of many receivers and they can be intimidated. So my hope is that along with a dominating defensive line we have an intimidating secondary along with an improved linebacker corps. We all know the saying, “Offensive wins games, defense wins championships.”