And one theme was apparent throughout the whole 10-minute interview: The only thing that matters is when the pads come on.
But Fewell did say he likes where the unit is right now.
“Together we’ve done a nice job in preparing in the separates and the OTAs and the minicamp, and I just like the togetherness of this unit and how we’ve performed in practice,” he said.
Fewell said he couldn’t tell at this point if this year’s group is better than last year’s. Again, that will be decided once the pads come on.
But certainly, the goal is to be much better than last year’s unit, which wound up being the main factor in the Giants’ missing the playoffs. However, Fewell does not want to dwell too much on last year’s inconsistencies.
“There’s no time to cry over spilled milk,” he said. “I’ve just tried to make sure that I get myself together and make sure that we get a good plan for our defensive football team and just evaluate us each and every day to the best of my ability in order for us to improve.”
Part of that inconsistency last year was related to a number of injuries that the Giants’ suffered on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re trying to become a consistent football team,” Fewell said. “So to become a consistent football team you have to consistently practice and be on the field.”
Individually, many question marks remain for Big Blue’s defensive personnel. Fewell will monitor Terrell Thomas’ progress closely to see if him playing safety will be a legitimate option.
“We do have plans, but I don’t think he’s (Thomas) an unknown because he’s been with us; he’s been in our program,” Fewell said. “We understand what his skill set was. Now when he comes back what will his skill set be?”
While Fewell said that Prince Amukamara is beaming with confidence, Corey Webster is really the guy that could use that confidence after an inconsistent season. Fewell was asked about Webster’s mindset heading into next season.
“When you’re out in OTAs and minicamp you’re trying to see your overall team improve and individuals are working on certain things for improvement,” Fewell said. “I do know that he’s (Webster) coming back with a purpose and so it will be fun to see him come back in the fall.”
At linebacker, a familiar face – Chase Blackburn – is now a Carolina Panther, so it will be up to Mark Herzlich to take over as a leader in the middle. Fewell said that Herzlich has adopted this role well so far and has earned the respect of his teammates with his new, commanding attitude.
“Chase was really a seasoned veteran, and Mark is a veteran,” Fewell said. “Not as seasoned, but I do think that Chase did a nice job in training him and he did a nice job in their communication with calls and the nuances of the defense.”
Fewell continued that he’s looking forward to having a few big-bodied defensive tackles – mainly Cullen Jenkins and second-round draft pick Johnathan Hankins – to stop the run, which was a weakness last year.
“The big bodies with Johnathan and Jenkins… I think that’s good for us,” Fewell said. “They have really good movement. I’m very impressed with Jenkins. He is a seasoned veteran, a proven veteran, and I just see that for him to come to our football team and bring the type of energy that he displayed down at his previous team and then bring that to us, I think that’s a positive for our defense.”
No matter what topic of his defense he addressed, Fewell kept stressing the importance of not over-evaluating until he gets his guys in full pads. Once that happens, he’ll be able to better understand the skill level of especially his newer players. Fewell will take some time to decompress but is eager to start back up in a few weeks.
“I always have something to prove,” he said. “I think we as a football team have something to prove. That’s why we love this game. Football is a challenge.”
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.