Of all the Giants’ preseason injuries last year, perhaps none was more damning than Terrell Thomas’ torn ACL. Without Thomas, Aaron Ross was inserted into the starting lineup, a significant downgrade that struck a huge blow to Big Blue’s pass defense. Before the injury, the argument could be made that Thomas was the Giants’ best corner. In 2010, he recorded 101 tackles and five interceptions, both team highs. Many believed he deserved a Pro-Bowl bid for his efforts, and 2011 provided the perfect opportunity for him to earn that distinction.
To say the Giants survived without Thomas would be grossly understating the truth. Ross made some key plays, Webster played at a Pro-Bwo level and the secondary elevated its play substantially towards the end of the season, flummoxing Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith and Tom Brady in succession, all en route to a SuperBowl championship. Even without Thomas, the secondary proved to be one of the league’s best when it mattered most.
Alas, Thomas is back, and while unable to fully participate in OTAs and minicamp, is expected to be at full strength for training camp in late July. While addressing the media on the final day of last week’s three-day minicamp, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell assessed Thomas’ role in the upcoming season. In essence, Fewell wants Thomas, barring any injury setbacks, to be one of his starting cornerbacks this season.
"We have a backup plan in case he is not ready," Fewell said. "But he is heavily in our plans. Again, we have to wait until Albany to see which plan we go with. Like anything that we try to do, we have a Plan A and a Plan B and he is in the Plan A."It only makes sense for Fewell to feel this way. Again, we’re talking about a game-changing, big-impact player here. Thomas was an elite corner in 2010, and--if his rehabilitation process is a seamless one--there’s no reason to think he can’t return to that level this season, or at least get close to it. His prowess as a lockdown cover corner speaks for itself, but where Thomas truly elevates the Giants’ defense is against the run, especially as a blitzer, a stealthy, lighting-quick edge rusher that blows up plays in the backfield before they can develop.
The good news is that the Giants can survive without Thomas. Prince Amukamara is the frontrunner for the third corner spot, but has the physical tools to play Thomas’ position. And Michael Coe, Justin Tryon and Jayron Hosley provide depth at both positions. All of which boils down to Big Blue being in really good shape at cornerback this season, irrespective of Thomas’ ability to play coming off major knee surgery.
While he may never be the player he once was, even a slightly-downgraded 2010 version of Thomas casts a positive light on the Giants’ 2012 DB picture.