New York Giants: walter thurmond

Time to check out this week's batch of New York Giants #nygmail on Twitter ...

@DanGrazianoESPN: After you asked me this question Thursday morning, I asked Walter Thurmond whether he'd had the opportunity to sign a longer-term deal. He said he did, and that the Giants actually offered three years, but that he preferred to take one to keep himself hungry. Now, there are plenty of good reasons he might have wanted to do this. Cornerback salaries continue to escalate, the salary cap is due to rise again next year and a season playing in the New York media market can only help Thurmond's profile. And from the Giants' standpoint, they'll have first crack at him if they decide -- either during the season or right after it -- that they want to keep him for more than just one year. As long as he doesn't get hurt, Thurmond's in a good spot. And based on what we've seen in camp, he's a heck of a player. @DanGrazianoESPN: Well, no, but they have more than three weeks still to get ready, and I think that's an important thing to remember when reading my accounts (and other people's accounts) of what we're seeing in practice. This offense is still a work in progress, and that progress isn't and wasn't supposed to be completed by now. They only just completed the installation process Tuesday, which means there are still new schemes and plays they haven't practiced more than once or twice. We're in a making-of-the-sausage era of news and sports coverage, in which every step is documented and analyzed. The Giants are by no means ready to play a real game right now. The question is whether they can get themselves ready by Sept. 8. My personal hunch is that this offense will still be a work in progress when the season starts and will be running more smoothly in November than it runs in September. But I also still think the main concern is the quality of the personnel and/or the lack of depth at wide receiver, tight end, running back and on the offensive line. I think they're thin in too many places to really have a big year. @DanGrazianoESPN: I think there are legitimate question marks at every position. Can Will Beatty bounce back? (I think so.) Can Geoff Schwartz continue the improvement he showed last year in Kansas City? (Don't see why not.) Is J.D. Walton a legitimate NFL starting center who can push defenders off the line reliably? (Have my doubts.) Who the heck is the right guard? (Brandon Mosley right now, and he's been shaky.) Can Justin Pugh build on his strong rookie season, or is a sophomore slump coming? (No idea.) No matter how you answer them, the fact that there are so many questions is alarming, and likely indicative that it's not a strength of the team. As for rookie Weston Richburg, he looks like a guy who's learning. He's had a lot of reps at guard and center, and they're trying to get him up to speed quickly. I think there's a decent chance he passes Walton this year, but I also think it's more likely they work him at right guard, since that seems to be the bigger problem. @DanGrazianoESPN: Here's how I'd rank the position groups on paper: 1. Cornerback 2. Safety 3. Quarterback 4. Running back 5. Offensive line 6. Linebackers 7. Defensive line 8. Wide receivers 9. Tight ends Could be a long year, folks. Enjoy the game tonight. 

Giants Camp Report: Day 16

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
8:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • OK, so now I think the Giants' offense is just trolling us. There was a play Thursday when Eli Manning looked right, Rueben Randle cut up the field but Manning threw short and cornerback Zack Bowman intercepted the pass and ran it back into the end zone. Which is the exact same thing that happened in the Giants' loss to the Bears in Chicago last October -- right down to Bowman, who was playing corner for the Bears that night! That had to be staged, right? Like some kind of obscure Civil War battle re-enactment? Maybe they're just messing with us and they're going to be the 2013 Eagles offense when the curtain goes up next month. Think about it.
  • Tom Coughlin said Curtis Painter would be the No. 2 quarterback behind Manning on Saturday night in Indianapolis, which is a change from the first two preseason games, in which Ryan Nassib was. And it's not a coincidence -- it's because Painter is playing better. Asked whether this was the plan all along or whether that's just where things stand right now, Coughlin said the latter.
  • Wide receiver Victor Cruz had a strong practice, beating slot cornerback Walter Thurmond for one of the few times this camp and scoring on an Eli Manning pass up the seam.
  • Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. continues to do more and more, and his hamstring is feeling better to an extent that he's able to be a bit less careful out there. He caught a pass from Nassib with Ross Weaver in coverage and fell to the ground with Weaver tumbling on top of him. He got up without issue and walked back to the sideline. Beckham won't play Saturday, but Coughlin said they believe he'll play in next week's preseason game against the Jets.
  • The Giants are lining up fullback Henry Hynoski all over the field, and had him split out wide on one play in practice Thursday, though Coughlin said the idea of lining Hynoski up at the line is far fetched. "Up position, wing position, all over the backfield," Coughlin said. Hynoski's versatility could be important for a team struggling to find answers at tight end.
  • Tight end Daniel Fells continues to miss practice with a knee injury. Return man Trindon Holliday continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder) was back at practice Thursday.
  • Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese and Eli Manning all took the ice bucket challenge for ALS after practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice in the same place and at the same times next week as they have been for the past three, Thursday was the last official day of Giants "training camp." So no more practices open to the public. The team is off Friday and will travel to Indianapolis for Saturday night's preseason game against the Colts.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Walter Thurmond says the New York Giants offered him a three-year contract, but he wanted a one-year deal instead. It's not as crazy as it sounds. NFL contracts aren't guaranteed to begin with, cornerback salaries are skyrocketing and the salary cap's going up again next year. Why not bet on yourself, have a big year in New York and really try to hit it big a year from now?

"Just kind of a prove-it situation," Thurmond said Thursday. "I don't want to say 'put pressure on myself,' because I like to think I thrive under pressure. But it's a situation where I just felt like I have stuff to prove, and it keeps me going."

Thurmond
Whatever he's doing, the Giants will take more and more of it. Thurmond is slated to be the Giants' nickel cornerback this year, with Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie starting on the outside. Anyone who watched the Seahawks last year during their Super Bowl run knows that Thurmond is an elite nickel corner. He could certainly handle outside responsibilities as well if one of the starters went down. But he enjoys mixing it up in the middle of the field.

"You're a cornerback, but you're also a linebacker and a safety," Thurmond said of the nickel role. "So you have multiple different role responsibilities that you have to accomplish while you're on the field. And that's why, sometimes, it's hard for a corner to transition from outside to going inside. But I love the job."

He's also not worried about the Giants or other potential future employers pigeonholing him as just a slot-corner type.

"Most definitely, I think I'm just an overall cornerback," he said. "I'm a person that can go outside, I can go inside, I can blitz off the edge, I can come in on run support, I can go play the half-field. We do so many coverages here. And I pride myself on that, because a lot of cornerbacks in this league can't do that. And being able to have that ability brings value to the team and also allows the defensive coordinator to be more creative."

So far in camp, Thurmond has delivered on all of that. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was raving the other day about Thurmond, telling me he's never seen a cornerback better at transitioning with his hips from a backpedal into coverage. Thurmond laughed a bit when he heard that. He guesses it makes him something of a throwback.

"That's just being a cornerback," the 5-foot-11 corner said. "That's what a cornerback has to have, is fluid hips. Now, lately there's been a trend of having big corners, but some of the bigger guys don't have the fluidness of the hips just because of their center of gravity. But I've always prided myself on great technique and being fluid in my transitions, and that helps me do the job to the best of my ability."

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
  • Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
  • Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
  • Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.

W2W4: New York Giants

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants (1-0) take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) in their second game of the preseason Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.

1. The pass rush: Damontre Moore looked good against a rookie backup tackle Sunday night in Canton, but I was expecting more than I saw from Jason Pierre-Paul in the short time the first team was on the field. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (assuming he plays) poses a tough test for a pass rush because of his mobility in and outside of the pocket. But it'll be interesting to see whether the Giants' defensive ends can get into the backfield and help dictate the action. They only had 33 sacks last year. Justin Tuck, who had 11 of them, is no longer on the team. Pierre-Paul must deliver at a high level this year, and it would help the Giants' optimism about this critical aspect of their defense to see him wreak havoc against a real opponent, even in a meaningless game.

2. The passing offense: The Giants' first-team offense only looked effective Sunday when it was running the ball -- and against a backup defensive line, at that. They definitely want to lean on the run, but they'd also like to get their short, quick passing game going at some point this preseason. They still don't have first-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) on the field, but that means more opportunity for guys like Marcus Harris, Corey Washington and Preston Parker, who are trying to earn roster spots. Can Victor Cruz get open in the slot and show an ability to turn a short pass into a long gain? His position in your next fantasy draft could depend on it.

3. The secondary: This looks like the star unit of the team on either side of the ball, but defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said this week that the question was "Can we get them to play together?" I have other questions. Is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie really a lock-down corner who can play the opposing team's No. 1 receiver every week? (And which superhero cleats will he wear?) Will Prince Amukamara's determination to increase his interception total pay off? Will Walter Thurmond continue to dominate other team's slot receivers the way he's been handling Victor Cruz in practice every day? Does Zack Bowman continue to force his way into the mix with his physical style? And speaking of physical style, will this group get called for fewer downfield penalties in this game than it did Sunday?
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hey there! What better way to spend the morning of the New York Giants' second preseason game than by reading through a mailbag produced by your use of the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter? I think it was Churchill who said that, but I'm not 100 percent sure. Anyways.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Brown looks just fine, as though nothing ever happened. The knee injury happened during a preseason game last year, so he's had just about a full year to recover, and he was at the Giants' facility throughout last season and through the winter and spring rehabbing the knee. Brown told me recently that it was January or February when he jumped to catch a ball in a rehab drill and landed hard on his left leg without even thinking about it. Since then he's felt good, and he's practicing in full as though it never happened. The Giants want to be able to switch him and Antrel Rolle off, and so we have seen Brown playing down in the box more against the run than he did when he was Mr. Interception in 2012. So far, so good with Stevie.

@DanGrazianoESPN: There's no real replacing what David Wilson would have brought to the run game had his career not ended this week because of repeated neck injuries. There's no other back on the roster who has anything resembling Wilson's uncommon speed or explosiveness. It's not as though they'll just plug Andre Williams or Michael Cox or Kendall Gaskins or Peyton Hillis into the plays that were designed for Wilson. Rashad Jennings is the clear starter at running back, and my sense from 30 days out is that they'd love it if the rookie Williams could advance to the point where he's the No. 2. If he can't, then it's Hillis (assuming he heals from a sprained ankle in time) or someone else -- maybe even someone not yet on the team. But as far as the back who goes in when Jennings needs a break, my sense is they'd love for it to be Williams, but he has to show them he's ready to handle that responsibility. He runs quite well with the ball in his hands, but he's not really a complete back in terms of being able to contribute in the passing game just yet. How quickly he develops in that area will determine how much they can use him this year.

@DanGrazianoESPN: We're doing roster projections every Monday morning throughout camp, and so far all of mine have had five wide receivers. This is because I believe the Giants want to carry four tight ends and a fullback, and even with only two quarterbacks, that really only leaves room for five wide receivers. Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan are sure things, and at this point I'd probably give the fifth spot to Marcus Harris. But the remaining weeks could obviously change things and even expand that group to six. They want to keep four tight ends, but given what they have there, it's entirely possible they could decide they don't have four worth keeping and they're better off adding an extra wideout instead. On the flip side, if their tight ends show enough in the intervening weeks, they could decide to go without a fullback and add another wideout. So as of now, I think five, but it could end up being six depending on how things shake out with the other position groups.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I think the most impressive player in Giants camp so far is cornerback Walter Thurmond, who's been making life miserable for slot receiver Victor Cruz in practice. Thurmond could be a difference-maker at that nickel corner position for the Giants this year. The most disappointing is obviously first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., who hasn't practiced since the first day because of a hamstring injury. Ditto return man Trindon Holliday, who also remains out with a hamstring injury and now looks unlikely to make the team. And while I don't think expectations for him were overly high, I haven't see Brandon Mosley do very much with his opportunity to handle the starting right guard spot. Though I guess there you'd also have to say injured John Jerry is a disappointment because he can't get on the field to challenge Mosley for that spot. Thanks for the questions. I'll chat at you from the MetLife Stadium press box in a few hours. 

Giants Camp Report: Day 12

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
8:10
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Let's get the nightly interception rundown out of the way first. Zack Bowman intercepted Curtis Painter, Charles James intercepted Eli Manning and Bowman intercepted Ryan Nassib in the end zone. Chandler Fenner almost got a pick for the second night in a row, but Corey Washington turned into a defensive back and knocked it away from him at the last second. The secondary is ahead of the offense, is the basic point here.
  • The star of the secondary is Walter Thurmond, though. He came on a corner blitz and got to Andre Williams in the backfield on one play. And while they love him as the nickel corner, Thurmond got a lot of work on the outside Thursday night as well, staying on the field with the first-team base defense while Prince Amukamara or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took a break.
  • Left guard Geoff Schwartz returned to practice, but his left knee is obviously bugging him and he didn't take many reps. Weston Richburg got most of the snaps at first-team left guard. Charles Brown took most of the first-team left tackle snaps, but not because of any fresh injury to Will Beatty. It's just that Beatty isn't playing Saturday and Brown is.
  • I watched running back pass-catching drills. The most natural pass-catchers in the group are Rashad Jennings and fullback Henry Hynoski. Rookie Andre Williams seems to be doing a bit better job catching the ball in his hands (as opposed to against his body), but it's a work in progress.
  • The tight ends still look bad catching the ball, other than Larry Donnell. Adrien Robinson had a bad drop. Kellen Davis caught a ball awkwardly near the sideline and stepped right out of bounds even though there was no one near him. Some of the players not in on that play groaned a bit.
  • Marcus Harris made two nice catches, including one jumping at the goal line to corral a touchdown pass from Nassib.
  • I'm always fascinated to see who stays after practice for extra work. Charles James, Preston Parker, Harris and Jayron Hosley stayed to work on punt returns a bit more. Cooper Taylor was off to the side with a blocking sled, presumably honing that punt-protection technique. Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie stayed late for the third night in a row so Amukamara could work on jumping for interceptions. And all three quarterbacks, including Manning, stuck around to practice taking shotgun snaps from all three centers.
  • The Jets were playing a home preseason game across the parking lot at MetLife Stadium that kicked off about an hour and 20 minutes into Giants practice. During Giants practice, some (presumably Jets) fans kept driving by on Paterson Plank Road and hollering insults at the Giants. None were printable, sorry.
  • The Giants are off Friday in advance of Saturday night's preseason game against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Reputations are funny things, and when a guy comes to you from the defensive backfield of the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, you expect ... well, you expect someone loud and maybe a little bit obnoxious. In that respect, cornerback Walter Thurmond has not been what the New York Giants expected.

Thurmond
"We call him the quiet assassin," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "So he's more quiet than I expected him to be. But he's the assassin. He loves to compete."

There's not a player in New York Giants camp who's been more consistently impressive, day after day in practice, than Thurmond. The Giants signed him to be their slot cornerback, so when they run first-team vs. first-team he covers Victor Cruz, who has not caught very many passes this camp at all.

"Our secondary is really good, and I know this because they give me fits each and every day out here," Cruz sighed when asked about the new cornerbacks Wednesday. "It's good to go up against guys that are like that, because that's what we're going to face all year long. Guys are going to try to be physical and press us and things like that, and we have to be ready."

Practicing against Thurmond should help Cruz get ready, because it's no stretch to say that Thurmond is the best slot corner in the league. The Giants believe he can play on the outside if need be, and it's important to Thurmond that they and other teams see him as someone who's versatile like that. But in the slot, he's an elite player.

"We feel like we can use him on the outside, but boy I like him in the slot," Fewell said. "Just knowledge, know-how. It's the 'it' factor. People try to describe 'it?' He's got 'it.'"

If the Giants can keep Thurmond in the slot with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara on the outside, they'll love their cornerback situation. They'll be able to keep Antrel Rolle, who always seems to have to spend part of the year in that nickel corner role, at safety full-time, which will make him happy and more effective. And as long as Thurmond is lined up against slot receivers, they'll feel they have an advantage against the opponent's passing game.

"I have the confidence in myself to believe I'm the best at what I do," Thurmond said earlier in camp. "And I think I bring that out onto the field with me every single play. To play cornerback, and to play that nickel spot, that's the way you have to look at it."

That's the way the Giants look at Thurmond, who has a chance to turn out to be their best value signing of the offseason.

Giants Camp Report: Day 4

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
8:30
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:


  • Man, the Giants' offense looks like hot garbage right now. Eli Manning threw a ball so badly to Jerrel Jernigan that Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara almost killed each other as they collided to try to intercept it. Ryan Nassib (to Charles James) and Curtis Painter (to Mark Herzlich) also threw picks. There was a play in which Manning tripped over the feet of running back Rashad Jennings and fell to the ground. (He got right up, don't worry.) Kendall Gaskins fumbled a ball and coach Tom Coughlin began screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs, wheeling on the offensive players who were standing on the sideline and not in the drill and yelling, "Hang onto the [bleep-bleep] ball!" over and over. Mario Manningham beat Walter Thurmond on a slant route for a nice catch, but Thurmond stayed with the play and knocked the ball out of his hands. I mean, ugly. Still way early, but tough to watch.
  • This was the first day they practiced in shoulder pads, and the first thing I saw when I went out to the field to watch was rookie running back Andre Williams absolutely lay out linebacker Justin Anderson in a one-on-one kick-return drill. It was as though Williams was taking out all of his frustrations about Thursday's dropped passes on poor Anderson. But everyone was feisty. At the end of one drill, linebacker Dan Fox playfully tackled GM Jerry Reese, who was watching by the goal post.
  • Things that are real that you wouldn't have expected: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is a guy the coaches and other players continue to rave about, and Brandon McManus remains a threat to take the kicker's job from Josh Brown. McManus is 8-for-8 on field goals so far, was making them easily from long distance Friday and looks more powerful on kickoffs, which ends up mattering to coaches in a big way when these decisions are made. If it's close on the field goals, they take the guy who can kick it out of the back of the end zone. Field position matters.
  • Still no Odell Beckham Jr., and no word on when his hamstring will allow him to practice. Yes, the Giants are frustrated that their first-round pick is not on the field.
  • Keep an eye on Preston Parker, a third-year wide receiver out of Florida State who had legal trouble in college and has bounced around. The Giants are using him a lot with the first-team offense and on returns.
During the week of June 30, we took a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' offense as it heads into training camp. This week, we've been doing the same with the defense -- one position group per day. Today, it's the cornerbacks' turn. And what a group it is.

McBride
Projected starters: Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Projected backups: Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, Trumaine McBride, Jayron Hosley (susp.)

Others competing for spots: Charles James, Bennett Jackson, Ross Weaver, Travis Howard

James and sixth-round pick Jackson look like strong special teams contributors, but where do they fit? With Hosley suspended for the first four games, there is a spot if the team can manage to carry six corners, but it doesn't look as though there are two spots for James and Jackson. Could one of them surpass McBride, who performed well as a starter in several spots last season? Hard to imagine, and if they carry seven corners, that leaves them short elsewhere (i.e., offensive line).

Thurmond is a sure thing, and practically a starter as the projected nickel corner. And Bowman is a special teams whiz who looked great on defense in minicamp. So those spots seem set, as do those of Rodgers-Cromartie, who is going to draw the assignment of covering the opponent's best receiver each week, and Amukamara, the 2011 first-rounder who says he is ready to make the leap as a playmaker this season. But down the depth chart live some pretty good battles for roster spots among some pretty good players. Other teams are likely to be scouting the Giants' corners in preseason in the hopes that one or two they like get cut loose.
Cornerback is the deepest and most crowded position group on the New York Giants' roster heading into training camp, and it's going to force some difficult decisions when it comes time to make roster cuts in late August. Conor Orr of NJ.com has broken it down like this:
Based on what we've seen in camp, if we had to rank the position based on how much playing time they'll get, this is what we came up with:

1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
2. Prince Amukamara
3. Walter Thurmond
4. Zack Bowman
5. Trumaine McBride
6. Charles James
7. Jayron Hosley
8. Bennett Jackson
9. Ross Weaver
10. Travis Howard

But obviously, you don't keep 10 players. The Giants finished with five cornerbacks on the active roster and two on injured reserve last year. It's safe to say at least three, but probably four of these players won't make it out of camp, especially with the need to carry four at the safety spot.

I can't quibble too much with Orr's rankings. I might put McBride ahead of Bowman based on the way he played last year, and Hosley would surely be ahead of James if Hosley weren't suspended for the first four games of the season. But that suspension makes Hosley, who was likely on the roster bubble to begin with, a tough call. Jackson is a draft pick they'd surely like to keep if possible, and he and James have shown an ability to contribute on kick coverage teams, as has Bowman.

My guess is the top five on Orr's list are safe, but that there's likely only room for one more guy, either James or Jackson until Hosley comes back. And when Hosley does come back from suspension, there's likely to be a tough choice between him and whoever made it between James and Jackson.

There's always a possibility that an injury opens up a spot, but if everyone stays healthy, the Giants are going to end up cutting a couple of players of whom they think very highly here.
The goal for New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara last year was a simple one: Stay healthy and play all 16 games. This had been a problem for Amukamara in his first two NFL seasons, so the Giants made it clear to him before 2013 started that his focus should be on durability and availability.

Amukamara
"And he did that," secondary coach Peter Guinta said last week at the end of the team's minicamp. "He played all 16 games, every game getting better. You could see him improving by being out there. He understands the defense better. He's much more comfortable here. And now he's starting to take some chances and make some plays because of that comfort. He's really starting to grow up that way, where he understands the game."

The Giants' 2011 first-round pick, Amukamara has been a solid player when healthy but only has three interceptions in his three NFL seasons. He has said he'd like to make more of an impact as a playmaker, and Giunta described a practice play from last week on which Amukamara jumped a Victor Cruz "in" route and helped Antrel Rolle intercept Eli Manning.

"Now he's starting to gamble a bit and take some chances, which you like to see because you want guys thinking, 'Hey, I'm going to make a play,'" Giunta said. "He's evolved that confidence in himself and the defense, and he knows what's coming."

Amukamara himself said last week that he feels different this year without former Giants corners Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross in the locker room. He credits those guys with helping educate him about playing -- and playing cornerback -- in the NFL and believes their absence marks a key point in his own career and development.

"I feel like those guys sharpened me. They really helped me learn and grow," Amukamara said. "Now, I feel like it's my turn to take that big step on my own and be a leader and up my game. I'm the oldest cornerback here among the guys who have been here. That feels kind of weird, but it lets you know, 'Okay, it's time to take it up a notch.'"

The Giants picked up Amukamara's option for 2015, which means they have him for about $7 million that season if they want him but can cut him without penalty prior to Week 1 of 2015. They also signed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie long-term and Walter Thurmond for one year and are very deep at the position for 2014. Amukamara knows his future with the team is uncertain, and he's eager to prove he's worth a long-term commitment from them.

Giants offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Giants' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants knew they needed help on the offensive line, so signing Geoff Schwartz was a move in the right direction.
Best move: Signed to start at left guard after a season in which the interior of the Giants' offensive line crumbled completely and decimated the offense, Geoff Schwartz will be an immediate upgrade at a key position and should help the run game as well as Eli Manning's protection in the passing game. The Giants needed to make the offensive line a priority, and signing Schwartz at the start of free agency showed that they understood that.

Riskiest move: Letting defensive tackle Linval Joseph leave for Minnesota in free agency. Joseph is still just 25 years old -- younger than any free agent the Giants signed. He and Justin Tuck (who left and signed with the Raiders) were the Giants' two best defensive linemen in 2013. The Giants are hoping 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins can fill Joseph's shoes, but letting him go risked leaving the Giants too thin on the defensive line -- a position of renowned strength during their last two Super Bowls.

Most surprising move: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and in general the amount of free-agent attention the Giants paid to cornerback. They spent big to acquire Rodgers-Cromartie and also signed Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman at Trumaine McBride. They obviously needed to replace Corey Webster (who they should have replaced last offseason), but the extent to which they beefed up at the position was surprising for a team that appeared to need more help on offense than on defense.

Draft pick impact: First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to make a rookie-year contribution as Hakeem Nicks' replacement at wide receiver if he can learn the offense quickly. Ditto second-round pick Weston Richburg, who has a chance to beat out J.D. Walton for the starting center job. And fourth-round pick Andre Williams, who led all of college football in rushing yards last year at Boston College, could get into the mix early at running back. The Giants are counting on their draft picks to help fill holes on the offensive side.
Cornerback wasn't projected as a major New York Giants need when this offseason began, but man did they attack it like one. The Giants spent big money to sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and added Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman while also re-signing Trumaine McBride.

Amukamara
This flurry of activity did not escape the attention of Prince Amukamara, who was the team's No. 1 cornerback last year and admitted Tuesday that the moves led him to wonder about his role and his future with the team.

"A little bit," the always-honest Amukamara said. "I think it's natural for someone to think that, especially if you feel threatened by the guys and the guys are good. And there are two sides to that. You can look at it and say, 'This guy can help the team,' or you can say, 'This guy might take my spot.' But it's not my job to worry about that."

Amukamara still projects as a starter on the outside opposite Rodgers-Cromartie, with Thurmond likely playing the slot. But Thurmond can absolutely play on the outside if necessary, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin said last month that Rodgers-Cromartie would be asked to cover the opponent's top receiver every week -- an assignment Amukamara had toward the end of last year and was hoping to get again.

Add in the fact the Giants haven't yet decided whether to pick up the 2015 contract option on their 2011 first-round pick, and Amukamara has reason to wonder whether he's in the team's long-term plans.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it, but I can't really worry about that," Amukamara said. "I've just been living by, 'Only focus on the things I can control.' I could have controlled whether the Giants did or not by my play the last three years, but right now I can't worry about that. If they do it, that's great. If they don't, that's great too. But I would be very excited if they did, of course."

The option likely would be around $7 million for 2015 (it's the average of the salaries of the No. 3 through No. 25 highest paid cornerbacks in the league), and it wouldn't be fully guaranteed until the first day of the 2015 season. But the Giants have to decide by May 3 whether to pick it up, or else Amukamara would be a free agent following the 2014 season. Rodgers-Cromartie carries a cap hit in excess of $7 million for 2015, so it's possible the Giants wouldn't want to pay two cornerbacks that much. But it's a premium position in today's NFL, and the Giants treat it as one, so it's not out of the question either.

"It shows that the team wants you," Amukamara said. "And who wouldn't want to feel wanted?"

After the Giants' cornerback signing spree, it sounds as though Amukamara would like to know whether he is.
In the NFL news lately, you've no doubt seen a lot about fifth-year options for players drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. This is a new phenomenon, because it's part of the CBA that went into effect in 2011 and governs players drafted that year. The rule in question states that every player selected in the first round of the NFL draft, starting in 2011, has an automatic fifth-year option added to his contract. The team has to decide by May 3 of the fourth year whether to exercise the option. At the time it's exercised, the option becomes guaranteed only against injury until the first day of the option-year season, at which point it becomes fully guaranteed.

So the reason you're seeing news about guys like J.J. Watt and Tyron Smith getting their options picked up (and about whether the 49ers will do the same for Aldon Smith) is because May 3 of this year (a little over two weeks from now) is the deadline for the decision on guys picked in the first round of that 2011 draft. The Texans picked up Watt's option for 2015. They can still work on a long-term deal with him in the meantime, but they at least know they have him under their control for a fifth year if they want him, which they surely do.

Amukamara
The New York Giants player to whom this applies is cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was selected with the No. 19 pick in that 2011 draft. To this point, the Giants have not made a decision about Amukamara's option, and it's not a slam-dunk decision.

For players drafted after the top 10, the option-year salary is the average of the third through the 25th highest-paid players at that player's position from the prior year. Working off of 2014 salary numbers, I estimate that figure to be about $7.13 million for cornerbacks. So if the Giants wanted to, by May 3 of this year, they could exercise an approximately $7.13 million option on Amukamara for 2015.

Tough call. That number is slightly higher than the average annual salary on the contract of fellow Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whom Tom Coughlin described last month in no uncertain terms as the team's new No. 1 cornerback. Amukamara is a good player, but if he were on the market this offseason it's hard to imagine he'd have been paid according to that option number. So the Giants have to make a decision about a player they like at a price that's likely too high for him.

What helps them is the nature of the option-year guarantee at this point. It's guaranteed only against injury. So if they pick up the option and Amukamara has a healthy but otherwise not-so-great season, they could still cut him prior to 2015 and not be on the hook for the money. They also could continue to talk to him about a long-term deal in the meantime, especially if they get into the 2014 season and like what they see.

The Giants like Amukamara. He plays hard, is a sound technician, keeps himself in shape and pays attention to detail. But they also brought in a bunch of new cornerbacks this year. Walter Thurmond, for instance, is in on a one-year deal, but it's not out of the question that they could get to the end of 2014 believing Thurmond is a better choice than Amukamara is going forward.

Players such as Watt and Tyron Smith are easy calls -- Pro Bowl caliber guys who are delivering big returns on their teams' first-round investments. Players such as Christian Ponder and Danny Watkins are easy calls the other way -- no chance those options get picked up. But Amukamara falls into a gray area as a player who's played well but hasn't necessarily cemented himself as a must-keep, franchise-cornerstone player. My guess is they pick up the option and hope he does that this year, while all along keeping open discussions about an extension at a more reasonable rate.

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