There’s been no bigger storyline – or worry – this summer than the Giants’ secondary, and for good reason.
Big Blue has been decimated by injuries in training camp, but no group was hit as hard as the cornerback and safety positions. New York has already lost safeties Bennett Jackson (ACL), Josh Gordy (hip), and rookie Mykkele Thompson (Achilles) for the year, while also waiving/injured safety Justin Currie. That’s not even including maladies to safeties Nat Berhe (calf), Taylor Cooper (foot), and Landon Collins (knee), and cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (groin) and Chykie Brown (knee). The rate the Giants depth chart is heading, they’ll be forced to win games in shootouts due to the lack of healthy bodies to cover the opposition.
It says a lot about this particular unit when the Giants turn to a former rival in safety Brandon Meriweather and former castoff Stevie Brown for help, but such is the team’s plight. The Giants also brought back Steve Spagnuolo to run its defense, but as talented a game-planner he is, if the defensive coordinator doesn’t have the necessary personnel to execute his schemes, it’s all moot.
The most telling part of the Giants’ offseason is that the reunion with Spagnuolo and Brown may be the summer’s bright spots. That may not be saying much, but with so much adversity going around, this upcoming season may be hard on the eyes.
Brown, who was recently released by the Houston Texans, said he doesn’t expect to be a savior, nor do the Giants anticipate him being one.
“They’re just talking about coming in and competing and being able to fit in where I can,” Brown said. “It’s definitely a great opportunity, though.”
Opportunity is to be had by whichever healthy bodies are available, because on paper, New York has the makings of being one of the worst overall defenses in the entire league – even if or when star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returns.
New York’s offseason moves were mostly cosmetic, as general manager Jerry Reese merely patched holes as they went along. The only real star-attraction addition was the drafting of the former Alabama star Collins, who was essentially penciled in as a starter the minute Big Blue traded up to nab him at the top of the second round.
Collins, who’s had an up-and-down camp, mostly due to nagging injury, said it’s been a great learning curve as a rookie, especially since this is a new scheme for the players, adding everyone’s been leaning on each other just to get through all the obstacles before them.
“We just gotta continue to keep doing what we’re doing, relying on each other, Coach Spags, and trusting the guys who are out there. We need to keep playing fast and playing hard and to come out without injuries,” Collins said, noting the injury bug has been particularly harsh on his secondary mates. “It’s a worry, it’s always a worry. You can’t afford [losing more guys]. Especially when you have a lot of expectations out of the guys … you don’t want stuff like that to keep happening.”
Amukamara is arguably the best defensive back on the roster. But he’s even been slowed by injuries this summer. The budding star has had a stressful time, as he’s trying to work his way back to 100 percent, trying to get the newcomers ingratiated into the “Giants way,” while still trying to gel with the rotating bodies in the lineup.
The veteran remains optimistic, though, that the secondary will be in sync by the time they open in Dallas.
“We have enough vets in our room to get this working quickly. A guy like Meriweather, he’s for sure a true vet, and definitely beginning to take over the defense. And so does [safety Jeromy] Miles, and Collins does, too, when he’s in there,” said Amukamara. “There’s still time to see how well we’ll play together. We’re still building that chemistry and that communication.”
There won’t be much time during Thursday night’s preseason finale in New England to build that on-field chemistry, as head coach Tom Coughlin noted that the starters won’t see much time. But the week of practice leading up to the team’s Sept. 13 primetime opener should hopefully serve as adequate time to get the secondary on the right page – with whatever healthy bodies that remain.
Automatics: Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Landon Collins, Stevie Brown, Brandon Meriweather, Chykie Brown, Trumaine McBride, Jayron Hosley.
On the bubble: Jeromy Miles, Nat Berhe, Trevin Wade, Taylor Cooper.
The others: C.J. Conway, Chandler Fenner, Mike Harris.