Giants' young safeties receive high praise

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
5:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Antrel Rolle is a three-time Pro Bowler and Stevie Brown had eight interceptions in 2012, tied for second most in the NFL.

But when asked if any of his players stood out in the Giants' first preseason game, safeties coach David Merritt selected neither Rolle nor Brown.

"Yeah, Cooper Taylor," Merritt said Tuesday. "Cooper Taylor played well. It was good to see him out there. He had a chance to get involved in about 38 plays on defense, and I only had him graded down for one out of the 38. So he did a great job."

Taylor, the team's fifth-round draft pick (No. 152 overall) in 2013 out of Richmond, saw limited action as a rookie. He played in 10 games, almost exclusively on special teams, getting just five defensive snaps. He also missed time due to shoulder and hamstring injuries.

The Giants were intrigued by Taylor's size coming out of college. At 6-foot-4 (and 228 pounds), Taylor is at least 4 inches taller than every other safety on the roster.

"The kid is a big height-weight-speed guy already," Merritt said. "He has all the intangibles there that’s needed to play the position. But I think confidence -- I think that’s the one thing that has happened with that young man, he has displayed more confidence this offseason."

Taylor led the Giants with eight tackles in the team's 17-13 win over the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame game this past Sunday and had an interception of Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel. But he also missed an assignment on punt protection, which led to a blocked punt.

He'll have to continue to perform, and perform better, on special teams in order to keep his roster spot.

"He just didn’t block the guy," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "It was a one-on-one, the player just ran around him. Now, that’s a good special-teams player he played against, he’s a good one. But still, it was one-on-one, it was a breakdown. It’s a technical thing that can be corrected."

As for the rest of the safeties, don't fret -- Merritt through Rolle and Brown played well against the Bills, too. In fact, he thinks Brown looks just as good as he did two years ago, despite missing all of last season with a torn ACL. "You can’t even tell which knee was hurt," Merritt said.

He likes rookie safety Nat Berhe, a fifth-round draft pick this past spring, as well, even giving him a nickname already. "Call him' The Missile,'" Merritt said, "'cause he is gonna go in there like a heat-seeking missile."

The Giants added several weapons to their secondary in the offseason, headlined by star cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

"[We have the] most depth I have seen since I’ve been here and I have been with Tom now going on 11 years," Merritt said, regarding the secondary as whole. "This is the most depth I have seen and I am happy to have all the toys."

Could it be the best secondary in the NFL?

"Yes, I think that is fair to say," Merritt said. "I do."
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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