For the past couple of years, the cornerback position for the Giants has been scared by injuries. From Terrell Thomas and his multiple ACL injuries, Prince Amukamara with a concussion earlier this season; to the loss of Aaron Ross for the season due to a back injury earlier this month and Corey Webster, who lately, has been fighting off a groin injury.
It has been a rare occurrence when all of the Giants cornerbacks have been at a fully-healthy state, but they have managed well.
Again, even though the team has given up an ample amount of points, their offense has left them in tough spots with poor possessions and costly turnovers. A lot of the talk in the locker room is that the defense has finally turned things around for the better, as they look to continue their winning streak after the bye.
"I think the group every week has made progress. I don’t think it’s just the last three weeks. Hopefully as things go on every week, we’ll get better and better," said cornerback coach Peter Giunta. "We’ve tried to listen to their needs and their concerns and Perry has done a great job in tailoring things to this group that we have now. Different guys have stepped up and played, different guys have been hurt, so you have to adjust. You’re playing based on who you have available on the field and he’s done a great job with that for us."
One thing that the cornerbacks have done well all season, is limit the big plays of high caliber receivers such as Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and the rest.
Only once in the first half of the season, have the Giants secondary allowed a receiver to rack up more than 100+ yards and that was DeSean Jackson in week 5 when he tallied 132 yards receiving. Other than that, Big Blue's down field coverage has been excellent.
"Communication has been very, very good this year. We put a big emphasis on it last year, to make sure that we’re all on the same page and everybody’s playing the same coverage and everybody knows exactly what the other guy is doing," said Giunta. "Those guys have done a great job of communicating this year. They know when they’re supposed to stay on top of the route, when they can be aggressive and undercut routes and the safeties have done a great job in staying on top and helping us."
In terms of individual play, Trumaine McBride has stepped up big with all of the injuries lingering around the cornerback unit and everyone has taken notice of his talent.
"Trumaine has done a great job right through OTAs, minicamp. He’s played in the league and has experience, so that’s a huge plus," said Giunta. "He does a great job getting up and pressing guys. It fits his skill set and he’s able to go up and match their quickness. He’s a little undersized but he competes, he’s a great competitor, he has good ball skills, especially with the ball in front of him. So he’s been a great surprise for us this year."
With injuries taking their toll of different players, the Giants have had to change up their defensive scheme and called in Antrel Rolle to take some snaps at cornerback when they needed him to.
"He has done it for the last couple of years for us. We hated to move him back because he was doing such a great job at safety but out of necessity we had to move him back," said Giunta. "Terrell’s knee was swollen up so bad because he played so much against Kansas City and we lost Aaron (Ross) and Jayron (Hosley), so we had three corners go out in that game and Corey was already out, so we were down to two guys. We had to make the move and Will Hill was back so it worked out great for us that way because of all of his experience he has had at the nickel spot."
Much emphasis has been on the exceptional play of Amukamara who is slowly becoming the Giants number one cornerback and has been lockdown on most snaps this season.
"Thank God all eight games he’s been healthy and he’s been able to play all eight games except for that one time where he got hit and missed a few plays in the game, but other than that he’s been back and playing. Every game he is getting better and better," said Giunta. "His experience has been huge. He understands what people are trying to do to him. His awareness and anticipation of things that are about to happen are so much better because he got to play a little bit last year and now he’s played eight straight. When you go out there and you have some continuity and you’re playing and you’re communicating with the guys, you get a great feel for the game."
Coaches have praised Prince and are holding their breath when it comes to injury not only for him, but also for T2 who has been defined by problems with his knee.
"He took a huge step this past week going back and playing the nickel spot. He had great communication with the other two guys and he was tremendous for us," said Giunta on Thomas. "
If the Giants secondary can continue to provide tight coverage as they have done over the past eight games and limit big plays, they will keep their team in the game and provide some momentum for an offense that has struggled so far.
But you have to consider some statistics when looking at the passing defense and more specifically the cornerbacks.
Passing Yards Allowed: 1936 yards (25th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per Game: 242 yards (18th in the NFL)
While all of this cannot be blamed solely on the cornerback position, you have to look at the numbers and understand that although they are not giving up the big plays, the Giants secondary is having a tough time stopping the opposition through the air.