EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Late last season, a frustrated Antrel Rolle said the Giants needed to rediscover their "dog" mentality on defense.
We're only a week into training camp, but Rolle sounds pleased with what he's seen thus far in 2013 -- particularly from his fellow defensive backs.
"These guys are going out there and they've been attacking the ball," Rolle said, prior to Thursday's practice. "The ball's in the air, they've been attacking it, they've been coming down with it. Just the intensity alone in our defensive backs, it seems like night and day."
Rolle isn't just impressed by the secondary, either. He raved about his teammates up front, too -- using a familiar theme.
"Right now in practice they look like animals," he said of the Giants' defensive line. "I just can't wait to see what it's like when those guys really take the leash off them and [they] really get turned loose and see how they turn out."
The Giants, who traditionally have a stout defense, had an embarrassing finish last year. They ranked second-to-last in the NFL in yards allowed (6,134) and whimpered down the stretch, getting blown out by the Falcons (34-0) and Ravens (33-14) in Weeks 15 and 16, all but ending their hopes of a playoff berth.
The defending Super Bowl champs had just 33 sacks, a year after collecting 48. They gave up 4,068 passing yards -- fifth-most in the league. Teams generally had their way offensively against Big Blue.
"There's a lot of things you could say that pinpoint throughout different games, but for the majority of the part, we didn't play up to our standards," Rolle said.
The former All-Pro safety said the Giants need to be better playmakers in 2013.
"A lot of the corrections just have to do with, you're seeing the ball, you make a play, you break on it, you make a play -- taking full advantage when the opportunity presents itself," he said. "Just a self-challenge -- looking at the mirror understanding that you are this kind of a player, but you have to go out there and prove it on the field.
"There was some mishaps at times. There were some busted assignments at times. But for the most part it's all about going out there and competing and making that play."
The defense looked good again Thursday. On the very first play of 11-on-11 drills, cornerback Prince Amukamara came away with an interception on a deep throw by Eli Manning that was intended for Victor Cruz. Fellow cornerback Corey Webster also intercepted Manning later on, and reserve corner Laron Scott finished off practice with a red-zone pick while defending Ramses Barden.
On Monday, the Giants' D actually had five interceptions, to the delight of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Cornerback Aaron Ross -- who was with the Giants during their championship run in 2011, but played for the Jaguars last season before returning to Big Blue -- likes what he sees from his teammates, too.
"The guys are picking it up, and it seems like we're on the same page," Ross said. "Guys are doing extra film study, extra work in the weight room, at home, and the classroom -- it just seems like everybody just wants it."
It's only a week, but the Giants' defense appears to be hungry again.