The Giants lost their preseason opener to Cincinnati, 23-10, on Friday night, but that wasn’t nearly as important as the outcome of the secondary’s health.
Big Blue has endured an injury epidemic this summer, as no less than seven defensive backs have either missed practice or game time due to injuries.
Head coach Tom Coughlin seemingly goes through an injury rash to a particular unit every training camp, but this summer has seen the injury bug hit a defensive backfield that was already undergoing a face-lift.
The Giants were in the midst of identifying the right combination at safety, since the three players who started at the position last year are no longer with the team (Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, and Quintin Demps). Second-year pro Nat Berhe was expected to contend for a starting job, but he has been sidelined for long stretches with a calf injury. Cooper Taylor, who missed all of last season with an injury, was also supposed to contend for a starting spot, but he’s been just another guy back there. And now rookie Mykkele Thompson is out for the year with an Achilles tendon injury.
The safety position was so dire that converted cornerback Bennett Jackson has been penciled in as a starter, alongside rookie Landon Collins – who is now out for at least a week with a sprained MCL.
X-rays on Collins’s knee were negative, and Coughlin doesn’t think the injury is too severe, but that’s still one more able body that will miss important reps – and likely Saturday’s preseason tilt against Jacksonville.
Coughlin said there’s reason to be worried about the plight of his secondary.
“The level of concern has been there since day one because of the nature of where we are. We obviously drafted two young players [Collins and Thompson] that we know were going to be able to help. But now we’ve lost one of those guys,” said Coughlin, adding they’ll need to get the others up to speed quickly. “We’ve brought him [Jackson] down from safety to play the nickel position [fifth defensive back], and we’d like to still be able to do that … but he’s certainly going to have to play more safety now.”
The Giants have very little experienced players at safety, but Coughlin reasoned that veteran Jeromy Miles can help fill some of the void, due to his familiarity with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. Miles played in Baltimore last season under Spagnuolo, who was then the Ravens’ secondary coach.
“Miles knows the defense and he’s been around Steve Spagnuolo. There’s a guy who we're fortunate that we have here because of all that,” noted Coughlin, reasoning that Cooper is improving. “He’s learning, after having had all that time off. He’s started to come back and hopefully he’ll keep growing and learning … Those are the guys that we have and we will work hard to get those guys ready to play.”
The Giants also have free agents Justin Currie and Justin Halley for added depth, but that might not be enough to instill confidence.
The cornerback group isn’t in much better shape. Both Trumaine McBride (hamstring) and Jayron Hosley (neck/head) exited the game with injuries – and that was difficult to bear for a unit that’s already been without the services of starter Prince Amukamara (groin) and reserve Chykie Brown (knee). Amukamara is hopeful that he’ll return to practice this week, while Coughlin noted Brown likely won’t return this week.
Regardless if guys like Amukamara, Hosley, McBride, and Berhe return this week, the Giants will undoubtedly scour the waiver wire and kick the tires on a few street free agents, just to have enough bodies for 7-on-7 passing drills.
“You can never have enough of those guys anyways,” Coughlin said when asked about his desire to add defensive backs. “Even if Prince comes back and even if we get some short-term notice on when some of these other guys will be back, we will keep aware [because] we’ll be down in numbers.”
If there’s supposed to be strength in numbers, that means Big Blue is rather weak in the secondary right now.
Big Blue notes:
-Not all was doom and gloom in the Giants’ secondary, as there were a few bright spots for those that actually played. Coughlin noted that Hosley was playing well before the injury. And camp star Trevin Wade looked good, particularly after he was beat by Greg Little for a 42-yard completion early and also misplayed a sure interception. He finished with three passes defended, two tackles, and a 61-yard return off an interception late in the game. The free-agent pickup said there were ups and downs to his night, but added he was proud of how he played, especially being thrown into the fire due to the lack of healthy defensive backs: “We were running low on bodies and there was nobody else behind me, so you might as well just play. I’ve just got to play, especially in my circumstance. I’m just trying to make the team. I don’t have anything to lose, so when I’m out there, I’m going to try and make the most of it and try and make plays for the team.”
-The Giants held a workout for free-agent safeties on Saturday.