Fewell optimistic about Giants' D, naturally

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
5:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was the main attraction at Giants camp Thursday, but defensive coordinator Perry Fewell took questions from the media as well.

Fewell is entering his fourth season on the job, but had several new players to incorporate this spring, including at least a couple starters.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play cornerback opposite Prince Amukamara, with Walter Thurmond seeing plenty of action as well as the team's nickel corner. Jameel McClain will almost certainly start at linebacker -- in the middle until Jon Beason is healthy, and then alongside Beason after that. Then there are the other free-agent acquisitions, plus the team's draft class.

Fewell likes the new "tools" at his disposal. "I definitely think those tools allow us to do a lot more different things than we've done in the past," he said. "I was very excited about what we were able to install [this spring], some of the things we were able to do, the information they retained, and executed at a high level."

The most attention-grabbing additions the Giants made this offseason, defensively, were in the secondary. But the team lost 50 percent of its starting D-line with the departures of Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck, both of whom played well in 2013.

The Giants do have veteran replacements for each in Mike Patterson and Mathias Kiwanuka, to plug in with Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul. But both Fewell and defensive line coach Robert Nunn singled out young defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn in particular on Thursday.

"I've been extremely impressed with both those guys," Fewell said. "Technique-wise they have accomplished a lot in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the offseason program. And then just their knowledge of the game -- I think they've done a really, really nice job."

Hankins, a second-round draft pick in 2013, played in 11 games last season, with 16 tackles. Kuhn, a seventh-round pick in 2012, tore an ACL late in his rookie year, but was able to play in five games late last season.

"We've got a very healthy situation there at defensive tackle," Nunn said. "We've got two veterans (Jenkins and Patterson) that have had an outstanding offseason. And we've got two young players that have come in here -- it was every day that one of those two, Hankins or Kuhn, either myself or Perry was pointing out positive things that they did, every single day."

So the Giants feel good about what they have up front. They're expecting Beason to return from his injured foot early in the season, if not by Week 1, and aren't too concerned about his absence in the meantime.

"We install, we go as we need to go, and we go with it with the intent that Jon will be ready when he's ready," Fewell said. "Just him being in the meeting room, being there, hearing his voice is enough for us. So we proceed as follows."

Fewell also spoke very highly of rookie linebacker Devon Kennard, a fifth-round pick who got some reps with the first team during minicamp this week. "He blew us away," Fewell said, of the USC product's football knowledge.

And regarding the secondary, beyond the new additions, Fewell sounds very pleased to have safety Stevie Brown back, after Brown missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

"He looked pretty good this spring," Fewell said. "Obviously he hasn't tackled, he hasn't hit anyone, but Stevie is -- we'll use the term, on point. He's on point to returning to that form where he was when he left off."

It's easy to be optimistic in mid-June, with the regular-season opener nearly three months away. We'll learn a lot more starting July 21, when the Giants reconvene here for training camp.

This was Fewell's answer when asked about second-year defensive end Damontre Moore's progress, but it applies across the board:

"I would really like to give you a set answer. [But] I think preseason games will be the measuring stick," Fewell said. "We all look pretty good when we're running around in underwear, shorts. But when you get hit in the mouth and that person reacts, that's when you can measure and find out where you really are."
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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