By Ernie Palladino
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The beauty of Terrell Thomas came not necessarily in his coverage skills, which were solid, but in his physicality.
The guy would knock his mother’s head off if she ever ventured into his area.
The way things are looking now, the Giants won’t have that for a second straight season, and possibly never again in Thomas. Tearing the same ACL twice in a row and three times in seven years tends to take a bite out of one’s football future. Even Tom Coughlin displayed a realistic, pessimistic outlook Wednesday before he even got the official report from Thomas’ California consult.
“I always have hope,” the Super Bowl champion coach said before adding that even in a best-case scenario, the Giants would have to go without Thomas for a significant length of time while he rehabs the right knee. “But I have enough information to counter some of that hope.”
There’s nothing good about that statement. Coughlin’s team once again finds itself short in the secondary, and faced with a lot of juggling to overcome it. And for those with glittery memories of the Super Bowl victory, remember that the pass defense, as well as the defense as a whole during the 9-7 regular season last year, operated at something less than championship quality.
Certainly, one would be hard-pressed to blame the No. 29 regular-season pass defense ranking on Thomas’ absence. But it surely didn’t help. Antrel Rolle often had to come down to play the nickel slot position that the physical Thomas would have taken, and they went through seemingly countless machinations with the linebackers as they struggled to cover receivers.
The good news is that those same linebackers — Mathias Kiwanuka, Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, Jacquian Williams — have a little more experience now, and could potentially provide needed flexibility on passing downs. Blackburn’s confidence, for one, should forever be bolstered by his Super Bowl interception that entailed him chasing down Rob Gronkowski at the Giants’ seven-yard-line, turning, and leaping for the game-changing grab.
The staff even thinks newcomer Keith Rivers could run down a receiver or two.
So will the sometimes flighty Rolle. He’d prefer to stay at safety, and probably had every intention of doing so before young, hard-hitting safety Tyler Sash tested positive for PED’s, specifically Adderall. Sash lost his appeal of the four-game suspension, so Rolle would not be able to move back to his normal position until October, at the earliest.
At least Rolle has been there before. And he’s willing. Safeties coach David Merritt said Wednesday that when he told Rolle about his newest adjustment, Rolle complied with no complaints.
“He said, ‘Whatever it takes,’” Merritt said.
It’s going to take more than that, which brings us to Prince Amukamara. At least he didn’t break his foot in his first workout, as he did last year. Now healthy, the first-round pick will be expected to play like a first-round pick as a starting cornerback, though minus the benefit of most of the offseason training program.
And if he gets hurt?
Jayron Hosley? Maybe. The third-round rookie is having a good camp, give or take a few knee lacerations.
Antwaun Molden? He’s experienced, and physical, which also makes him a possibility for the slot, as is Dante Hughes.
Whoever lands where, flexibility must become a buzzword in the secondary. It didn’t work out as well as the Giants hoped in the regular season. With the target of a Super Bowl champ planted firmly on their backs — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already taken an early aim — it has to work better this time around.
Will the Giants’ secondary be better than it was last season? Sound off in the comments section below…