The secondary struggled throughout most of the regular season, ranking 29th in pass yards per game allowed with 225.1. Luckily, Eli Manning made a habit of putting up those same numbers—often better—against opposing pass defenses.
More importantly, though, this unit improved dramatically in the playoffs. Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady all failed to break the 280-yd threshold against Big Blue’s pass D, whose ability to limit those three elite quarterbacks was instrumental in its Super Bowl run.
The secondary was decimated before the 2011 season even began, with injuries to Brian Witherspoon, Bruce Johnson, Prince Amukamara, and Pro Bowl-caliber corner Terrell Thomas. This season, the secondary will need to stay healthy in order for Big Blue to have a legitimate shot at defending its Super Bowl crown.
Thomas and Johnson were signed this offseason, as were Michael Coe—who was plagued with injury problems late last season—and Justin Tryon, who played in just three games after signing on Oct. 4.
The Giants added two newcomers to their oft-maligned group of DB’s, signing safeties Chris Horton and Stevie Brown, both of whom figure to contribute mainly on special teams but could compete for time on defense if Deon Grant doesn’t return.
Gone is Aaron Ross, whose improved play in the postseason wasn’t convincing enough to warrant re-signing him after a poor regular season, and—in all likelihood—Will Blackmon, who was unimpressive in limited time at corner last season.
The secondary doesn’t appear to be a glaring need for Big Blue in the upcoming draft. But considering Jerry Reese’s best-player-available philosophy, adding a DB as early as the second or third round certainly isn’t out of the question. Either way, barring a 2011-like injury disaster, this year’s group figures to be stronger than last year’s.
The Giants thought they were getting great value out of the 19th pick in last year’s draft when they took the former Nebraska cornerback. But Amukamara was unable to contribute right away, as a broken foot forced him to miss the first ten weeks of the season.
Amukamara was impressive in his Big Blue debut, intercepting a Michael Vick pass on his first play in man coverage. He showed flashes of athleticism, but failed to live up to his pre-draft hype. Amukamara will benefit from a full offseason program and should be a major contributor this season.
Denver signed Bing as an UDFA in 2011, but he was unable to get off the practice squad for the Giants last season. While he may not have any NFL experience, Bing ran a 4.41 at his Rutgers’ pro-day. That speed could help him get some time on specials this season.
When healthy, Kenny Phillips is one of the best safeties in the NFC. His off-the-charts athleticism has always been impressive, but he made vast improvements last season as he was able to better grasp Perry Fewell’s mixed coverages.
Health remains a major concern with Phillips; but if he can stay on the field, a trip to the Pro-Bowl is not out of the question.
Rolle’s time in New York has been a roller coaster ride. After signing a five-year, $37 million deal in 2010, the 29-year-old’s play was up-and-down for the majority of his first two seasons. He reportedly wanted out of New York as late as week 15 of last season, but five wins and one SuperBowl later, and Rolle is singing a completely different tune.
Rolle was forced to play corner for most of 2011, but he should see some more time at safety this season because of his inability to handle smaller, quicker receivers.
Sash was superb on special teams throughout the season, but the lasting memory of his young career was this Demarcus Dobbs demolition in the NFC championship game.
The 27-year-old was out of football last season after Washington waived him at final cuts. Horton started 10 games as a rookie in 2008 with the Redskins and five more in 2009.
At 6-1, 221 lbs, Horton has good size for a safety, but his lack of speed often costs him on deep routes. He may see some time on defense, but Horton’s will likely be limited to specials.
Tryon played just three games for Big Blue last season, mostly contributing on special teams. He was put on IR after breaking his arm in the Giants’ week 8 win over Miami.
He’ll probably see most of his time on specials, but could prove valuable as a spot-duty corner.
Webster started every game last season, recording 45 tackles and a career-high six interceptions. Webster has cemented himself as the most consistent perimeter defenders in the Giants’ secondary.
While he sometimes struggles against bigger, more-physical receivers, Webster improved last season as he began to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage more often
The Giants’ added the veteran last week, making him their second addition at safety this offseason along with Horton.
Brown played eight games with the Colts last season before being put on injured reserve. He was a seventh-round pick by the Raiders in 2010, and will probably be limited mostly to specials this season.
Coe was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 draft by the Colts, for whom he played just five games. The 28-year-old appeared in just 10 games in 2011, his season cut short by a shoulder injury suffered in the Giants’ week 11 game against the Eagles.
Probably just a depth guy at this point, but Coe filled in admirably for an injured Ross in Big Blue’s week 10 loss at San Francisco.
Thomas missed all of 2011 after tearing his ACL in the preseason, but big things are expected from the 2008 second-round pick, as he led Big Blue in both tackles (101) and interceptions (5) in 2010.
Thomas will challenge Amukamara for a starting spot at right corner, and will likely see some time as a nickel corner as well.
The UDFA out of Miami re-signed with the Giants this offseason after a torn Achilles tendon forced him to miss all of last season. Johnson will have to fight to make the roster.
Chris Johnson is the newest addition to the GFB staff. His work can also be found at Writer for The Daily Northwestern, PurpleWildcats.com (Northwestern Scout/FoxSports), and Thesportsbank.net