Why the New York Giants' Secondary is Stealing the Show at Training Camp
Through the first five days of Giants' training camp, there have been a lot of little stories—Steve Smith getting behind people, Eli Manning getting paid—and one big story: the secondary.
Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Kenny Phillips have been making the Giants' offense look downright silly all week, and there is a secret to their success.
Meet Peter Giunta
Peter Giunta, the New York Giants' secondary coach, has been with the team for five seasons.
In that time, he's rebuilt with the secondary from scratch, turning three rookies—Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, and Terrell Thomas—into Pro Bowl caliber players.
Though all three players were highly regarded coming out of college, this is no small feat. But to people who have followed Giunta's career, this is also no surprise.
A Part of History
In 1991, Giunta began his NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
After the team lost Randall Cunningham for the season in week one, many outsiders declared the Eagles' season to be over.
But the team narrowly missed the playoffs that season, thanks to a historic performance by the defense, which became one of only five defenses since 1975 to lead the league in rushing, passing, and total defense. No team has accomplished that feat since.
More Than One Super Bowl Ring At Home
That Eagles team was the last memorable defensive team Giunta would coach for the next decade, but it was not the last team that would terrorize opponents' passing games.
After an unevent stint with the New York Jets, Giunta served as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams from 1998-2000.
Though those teams are remembered for their offense, the Greatest Show on Turf often performed on a shortened field. During their Super-Bowl-winning 1999 season, Giunta's charges led the NFC in interceptions (they were second overall) and led the league in total defense.
In the four seasons that Giunta coached the Rams' secondary, including his 1997 stint as defensive backs coach, the team never finished lower than third in interceptions.
Making the Most of What's Available
Throughout his career, Giunta hasn't always had top-tier talent at his disposal.
After his successful run in St. Louis, Giunta took over the defensive backs at Kansas City, a unit arguably even less talented than the unspectacular Rams squad he'd led to a championship.
The Chiefs never managed to achieve the same successes, but in 2003, Giunta's third with the team, a totally nondescript group that included players like Jerome Woods, Dexter McCleon and Greg Wesley ranked third in the NFL in interceptions, with 25.
Woods, a former first round draft pick selected by the Chiefs in 1996, made the only Pro Bowl of his career that season.
Playing With a Stacked Deck
Going into the 2009 season, Giunta is presiding over arguably the most talented and experienced unit of his coaching career.
In Aaron Ross, Giunta has a former Thorpe Award winner who can play both the run and the pass effectively.
In Corey Webster, he has a former second round pick that his college coach, Nick Saban, called "top five talent," a player who provided critical interceptions in the Giants' 2007 Super Bowl run.
And if training camp's early sessions are any indication, second round players Terrell Thomas and Kenny Phillips are going to be aggressive and opportunistic forces all year.
Dressed For Success
It's possible to make the case that Peter Giunta's coaching life has been charmed.
That 1991 Eagles defense was led by the incomparable Reggie White, one of the best defensive players of all time.
In St. Louis and Kansas City, Kurt Warner and Trent Green often put opponents behind early, giving Giunta the opportunity to employ aggressive, ball-hawking tactics.
But for good or ill, Giunta preaches those tactics, and he preaches them effectively. And this season, with the best defensive line in football in front of him and a top ten offense on the other side of the ball, it should come as no surprise that the Giants have close to 20 interceptions through just five days of camp.
It should also lead to a lot of smiles for Giunta and the Giants' secondary this season.