New York Giants: Who Can Replace Terrell Thomas?
Though nobody knows for certain what the future holds for injured starting cornerback Terrell Thomas, one thing is for sure: the Giants cannot count on having him back any time soon. While reports from ESPN seem optimistic, many others believe that those holding out hope for a return sometime in 2012 are wishful thinkers.
Until the coaching staff hears otherwise, they will have to move on without Thomas, who was slated to be the Giants starting cornerback after they re-signed him this offseason.
This will cause a lot of shuffling in the Giants defensive backfield. It will put inexperienced youngsters in the spotlight, and may result in the reappearance of a familiar face in the Big Blue's locker room.
Prince Amukamara Moves to Starting CB
A year removed from a disastrous rookie season, Prince Amukamara was looking forward to a fresh start in 2012. After breaking his foot a year ago, the rookie missed significant time and struggled to keep up with the speed of the NFL game once he did see the playing field.
He was slated to see action as a nickelback covering slot receivers, but now that Thomas is out, all eyes have turned to Amukamara to step into the starting cornerback role.
Although the Giants leave everything up to competition, Amukamara is fully expected to excel in camp.
"I expect Prince to play like a first-round draft pick," general manager Jerry Reese said (via The Star Ledger) when training camp opened this past weekend. "That’s pretty cut and dry for me."
The fate of the Big Blue's secondary is in the hands of Amukamara. If he succeeds, the Giants won't have to worry about a very important position. If he struggles, they will be in big trouble, as there is no obvious candidate besides Amukamara that is ready to step into a full-time cornerback roll.
Antrel Rolle Finds Himself in a Familiar Situation
With Amukamara shifting from nickelback to starting corner, it looks like the outspoken Antrel Rolle will be filling a role that made him uncomfortable in 2011.
But while Rolle and the Giants secondary struggled to adapt to injuries last year, fans might be in for a surprise in 2012. Rolle certainly experienced growing pains at his new position, and his unfamiliarity contributed to a pass defense that ranked 29th in the NFL.
However, Rolle admittedly grew more comfortable late last season, and played well at the nickelback position in the playoffs. As a result, the Giants gave up an average of 221 passing yards per game in the playoffs, compared to 255 per game during the regular season.
Although Rolle is clearly a better safety than cornerback, expect him to fit into this new roll more smoothly than last year.
Increased Opportunity for Hosley
Consider Jayron Hosley the wild card in the Giants defensive backfield. The third-round pick out of Virginia Tech roomed with Giants rookie running back David Wilson and displays similar athleticism.
Jerry Reese notably compared Hosley to athletically gifted cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones upon drafting him, and everyone in the Giants organization knows that the ceiling for Hosley is sky high.
Given his small size yet boundless athleticism, Hosley could be a perfect fit for covering the small, quick receivers who often line up in the slot in the NFL. He has looked good in nickel duties early in camp.
Hosley, though, even by his own admission, is not quite "ripe" for impact. He will have to perform exceedingly well in camp and preseason, but if he does, he could claim the nickel spot and allow Rolle to move back into his natural position of free safety.
Deon Grant May Rejoin the Giants
Because Antrel Rolle may have to play more nickelback than expected, it leaves a gap in the safety rotation of the Giants defense.
Safeties Rolle and Kenny Phillips were slated as comfortable starters, with Tyler Sash expected to assume duty as the third safety, as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell uses many three-safety schemes.
However, with the up-and-coming Sash suspended for four games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, the Giants may be looking to bring a safety into camp to compete for the vacancies.
That safety will almost certainly be recently departed free-agent Deon Grant, who has already told ESPN that he expects to join the Giants sometime in August. Grant received significant playing time as the third safety in 2011, and came through the long season aged, yet unscathed.
Grant is a solid veteran who was a well-respected voice in the locker room last season, and because nobody below Sash on the depth charts has distinguished themselves yet, the sooner the Giants pick him up the better.