The safety position may be the last line of defense, but for the Giants, it’s at the forefront of their concern.
Last year, general manager Jerry Reese appeared to hit it big with Landon Collins in the second round, but there’s been a glaring hole opposite the budding star since.
The race to be Collins’s wingman has been a competitive one, as there are at least five candidates fighting for that one spot. The leader in the clubhouse is seemingly second-year safety Nat Berhe. The fifth-rounder out of San Diego State has been receiving the lion’s share of reps in the organized team activities [OTAs], which is a good sign considering he had mostly all of his rookie campaign marred by a calf injury. He’s likely the most versatile of the entrants with his ability to play in the box (the area around the line of scrimmage) and as a deep centerfielder in pass coverage.
He noted the crowded safety room, but said it’s been a fun and friendly competition and that everyone is helpful towards one another, despite the cutthroat nature of NFL camps.
“For me, I’m cool with everybody. I feel no certain way towards anybody in that room,” Berhe said. “We all understand this is a business and we all understand this is a competition. Each day is a new day and each day you get better. We just come out here and we compete, but you compete against yourself. The competition is between you.”
Cooper Taylor is one of those competitors. He’s also another holdover that has seen his chances dimmed due to injuries. Highly talented and a physical specimen (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), Taylor just can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to be properly evaluated – and his cause continues to be hurt due to a sports hernia that he’s currently rehabbing.
The theme of recovering safeties is a tiring one around the Giants’ facilities, as two other names – Mykkele Thompson and Bennett Jackson – are also coming off season-ending injuries. The former is a second-year player who had his rookie season ruined by a torn Achilles during offseason workouts, while the latter is a converted cornerback who tore his knee during the preseason and was never able to capitalize on his strong spring performances.
Of all the candidates, however, perhaps the best shot to start alongside Collins is a rookie, Darian Thompson. Scouts during the pre-draft process, the Giants’ coaching staff, and his own teammates have raved about the third-rounder out of Boise State.
He’s quickly caught the attention of all around him for his playmaking abilities and assertiveness on the field and in the huddle. If Berhe is receiving a majority of the first-team reps in OTAs, Thompson has gotten the rest.
He’s performed so well that new head coach Ben McAdoo went out of his way to heap some praise on the rookie’s performance on Monday. The final team drill was a two-minute offense session, and McAdoo was taken aback by the neophyte’s headiness and ability to know time and situation without being told.
“He [Thompson] picked the ball off and then took a knee. He had enough awareness to know that the game was over at that point in time with the offense only having one timeout and under 50 seconds,” McAdoo said. “I believe that was what was on the clock at that point on the tipped ball, so he showed good awareness there … [Thompson] is a guy who looks like he is comfortable in his skin. He can communicate well and we know he has good balls skills. He is making the most of his opportunities.”
Thompson, although the greenest of the safeties, just may be the one to take those opportunities and propel himself right into the starting spot.
Big Blue notes:
- Per usual, wideout Victor Cruz wasn’t a full-participant, as he was primarily seen running with a trainer, who was holding a resistance band behind him.
- Jason Pierre-Paul said he will be out of the country on the one-year anniversary of his fireworks accident: “Where I’m going they don’t celebrate the Fourth of July.”
- Pierre-Paul also noted that his once heavily-bandaged right hand will no longer possess a giant club on game days, adding he’ll simply wear a custom-fitted glove. The former Pro Bowler said the club was the primary reason for many of his missed tackles and why he only registered one sack in his eight games.
- The change in attire will be a break in the norm for the man who will forever have to get used to being digitally-limited.
- “It [his right hand] will never be completely back to normal,” he said. “I won’t say it’s normal, but it’s normal for me.”