Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross stand on the sidelines during camp.
Corey Webster just can't hang anymore. Prince Amukamara will never stay healthy.
Those were the two main criticisms we heard as the New York Giants' 28th-ranked pass defense allowed 4,068 yards through the air in 2012. The Giants' starting cornerbacks were the scapegoats of a defense that was just as inept in run defense and pass rushing as it was in coverage.
But where was their help?
Webster and Amukamara didn't find much support in rookie Jayron Hosley, who played sparingly in only 12 games. Michael Coe and Justin Tryon were the only other corners on the roster to record a tackle. Coe was released midseason, and Tryon played almost exclusively on special teams.
As starters, Webster and Amukamara were, of course, expected to hold their own against the league's top talent. It is not fair to blame the bystander backups for the insane passing yards surrendered a season ago, but some depth could have provided the Giants' secondary with some much needed flexibility.
Barring injury, depth is a commodity New York will be endowed with in 2013.
The quality of that depth, on paper, is astounding. Behind former first-round selection Amukamara and former second-round selection Webster is another former first-rounder in Aaron Ross and another former second-rounder in Terrell Thomas. Hosley, a third-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2012, has shed his rookie tag.
All five players were drafted by the Giants, and the quintet of corners has combined for nearly two decades of experience with Big Blue. It will be the addition of Ross and Thomas, however, that will prove to be most valuable to New York's defensive backfield this season.
Both players are glad to be back after a recent hiatus.
Ross, who was a starter during the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl seasons, became a free agent in the spring of 2012. He signed a three-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a mistake he later referred to as "a nice paid vacation to Florida" on NFL AM (via Pro Football Talk). Upon his return to New York, Ross was happy to submerge himself in a championship atmosphere once again.
"It feels like I'm refreshed," Ross told Tom Rock of Newsday at the outset of training camp. "I'm happier. It just feels like a huge load is off my back."
Ross will attempt to atone for a one-year hiccup in which he strayed from the city he has always called his NFL home.
Thomas, on the other hand, has always been in New York; we just haven't seen much of him lately. After back-to-back season-ending knee injuries, Thomas is making a strong comeback for the 2013 season. Taking a cautious approach, he was able to make a long overdue return to practice last week.
"The biggest thing I've been preaching is getting back on that horse," Thomas told the press on the day of his return. "I've attacked my rehab…and I'm excited for the challenge."
Thomas will attempt to prove he can be as productive as he was in 2010, when he was arguably the Giants' best all-around cornerback.
In addition to the excitement generated by their respective returns, both Ross and Thomas are willing to try new things in order to make the most of the opportunities before them.
Ross came into the league with intentions of becoming a star. The University of Texas standout saw himself as a purebred outside cornerback with top-end speed. When asked to play in the slot as a young player, he scoffed at the idea. A year away from New York, however, has changed his tune when it comes to playing in the nickel package.
"I like playing nickel," Ross told Tom Rock of Newsday. "I like getting dirty a little bit."
The change is out of his own necessity, as it's potentially the only way he sees the field. Thomas takes his open-mindedness to a whole new level, though. He is willing to contribute in any capacity he can, and he even offered up his talents to be utilized as the "X factor" of the Giants' defense.
Which CB will have a bigger impact in 2013?
"I truly don't care if I play corner, nickel or safety," Thomas wrote on his blog (via The Star-Ledger). "As long as I am on the field; I feel I can be very productive."
Whatever egos these high-profile draft picks may have possessed at the start of their NFL careers have certainly been shed.
Webster and Amukamara must manifest themselves as a sound starting duo, something they were unable to accomplish in 2012 due, in part, to the lack of a strong supporting cast. But this year will be different; in Ross and Thomas, they will have a couple convenient cornerback-ups waiting in the wings.