High Round Talent On Display
CoachesSecondary / Corners: Peter Giunta (3rd year)
Secondary / Safeties: David Merritt (3rd year)
Defensive Coordinator: Bill Sheridan (1st year)
Safeties: Kenny Phillips, Michael Johnson (Starters), C.C. Brown, Steve Cargile Cornerbacks: Corey Webster, Aaron Ross (Starters), Terrell Thomas, Kevin Dockery, DeAndre Wright, Rashad Barksdale
Others: Stoney Woodson, Vince Anderson, Bruce Johnson, Travonti Johnson, Sha'reff Rashad
The NFL is chock full of athletes that fit the defensive back prototype, that is why every team invites over a dozen players to camp each year. How many of them can play at a high level is another question. The Giants want to make sure they have sufficient talent at the position as well as fill their roster with capable athletes. Three starters in the Giants' secondary were the club's top selections in three of the last four drafts.
Pete Giunta, who was in the running for the job of defensive coordinator runs the corners while David Merritt, a former Arizona Cardinal linebacker, handles the safeties. The split responsibilities has worked very well thus far. This year, the club is hoping to see all of this young talent come to fruition and make a significant impact.
Michael Johnson was a 7th round draft pick out of Arizona in 2007. He ended up being thrust into action during the Giants' Super Bowl run. What a find this kid was. Since joining the Giants, he has played in every single game, starting 21 of them. Last season, he started every game at free safety, including the playoffs, and was second behind Antonio Pierce on the team with 77 tackles.
Kenny Phillips was the team's first round selection in last season's draft. The former Miami Hurricane came to camp with high expectations, but he was not inserted into the starting lineup until late in the season. Phillips still made major contributions as a sub with 66 tackles and an interception off the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger in the Giants' regular season victory in Pittsburgh. He is currently #1 on the depth chart at strong safety.
C.C.Brown was signed as a free agent this past winter. Brown comes over from the Houston Texans where he was a starter until he broke his forearm last season. The Giants see a lot of James Butler in Brown. The coaching staff likes his aggressiveness and his ability to call plays.
Steve Cargile is a Columbia product that failed to catch on with the 3 other clubs who signed him. The Giants may not keep him, either. They are obviously intrigued by his size (6'2", 218) and his intelligence. He may end up being unseated by a number of players: Sha'reff Rashad; Vince Anderson, a corner; Kenny Ingram, a linebacker and even Gerris Wilkerson and Michael Boley have been discussed as candidates to bolster the safety ranks.
Analysis: At some point the cream has to rise. Michael Johnson has played extraordinarily well for a 7th rounder, and its common sense he will only get better. Phillips is the key, here. He needs to step up and provide the Giants with the type of play his Miami forerunners, Ed Reed and Sean Taylor provided their teams past their rookie seasons. Now, that would be something.
The Giants waited a few seasons for 2005 top pick Corey Webster to get his sea legs. Now they are waiting for 2007 top pick Aaron Ross to get his. He better find them fast because the Giants have an army of bodies just waiting for a chance. Terrell Thomas, last year's 2nd rounder out of USC, has a ton of talent. He's got the championship pedigree and the Giants will have to find playing time for him.
Kevin Dockery has done nothing but make plays since the Giants signed him as a rookie free agent. At 5'8", 185, Dockery is on the small size, but he has the field sense of a seasoned veteran to compensate for that.
Rashad Barksdale is the first player from SUNY Albany to play for the Giants. For those of you who are unaware, that is where the club holds its training camp. Barksdale was primarily a practice squad player last season and has moved up the depth chart as a result of the team being thin at corner last season.
DeAndre Wright and Stoney Woodson, both taken by the Giants in the final rounds of this year's draft, have the inside track on making the club. Jerry Reese gives his picks a lot more latitude than he does undrafted free agents, so it remains to be seen if these guys can return dividends.
Analysis: We never get the chance to see how good these corners really are because the pass rush forces a lot of quick passes. The rush is back this year, so the key will be to wrap and tackle to prevent big plays. Webster, Ross and Thomas may end up rotating with Dockery coming in to spell them. Its hard to predict who the others will be because corners are like relief pitchers in baseball. Hot and cold.
It still is unclear who will man the middle in the nickel. Butler and Gibril Wilson had done an admiral job over the years. As stated, Phillips must step up. He is the enforcer in that secondary now. It is time for these highly regarded, talented players to begin to realize their potential. If that happens, this defense has a chance to be the league's best.