Friday, June 22, 2012
Spotlight: Replacing Deon Grant
By Ohm Youngmisuk
Now that minicamp is over, we're going to take a look at a Giants player or specific unit or issue each day this week.
SPOTLIGHT: Replacing safety Deon Grant.
THE 411: Grant remains unsigned and the Giants appear content to see what they have at safety on the roster for now. Grant is extremely popular in the locker room and not only brought veteran leadership but he had a calming presence on guys like Antrel Rolle.
He also brought some versatility on the field. He was a staple in Perry Fewell's defense as the third safety on the field. He could help cover tight ends or some receivers as Fewell trusted his three safeties.
But this season, Fewell has more options at linebacker. Chase Blackburn's knowledge of the defense and on-field leadership and the addition of Keith Rivers allows Fewell the option of playing more three-linebacker looks whether they are anticipating run or pass. On running downs, Fewell can go with Blackburn, Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley. And on passing downs, instead of trotting out three safeties, he can perhaps use Boley, Jacquian Williams and Rivers.
And he still could have the option of going with three safeties with Rolle, Kenny Phillips and whoever emerges as the Giants' third safety.
THE COMPETITION: Second-year safety Tyler Sash is considered the leading candidate to replace Grant. Sash, though, battled a hamstring injury in OTAs and minicamp.
The Giants signed Stevie Brown and Chris Horton during free agency and added Will Hill, Jojo Nicholas and Janzen Jackson as undrafted free agents.
The Giants like Sash's ability and he's a valuable contributor on special teams. The 5-11 Brown has impressed the coaching staff in minicamp. The 6-1 Horton will likely have to make an impact on special teams. Hill, a New Jersey prep legend, has also impressed coaches as he tries to stick in the NFL. He left Florida early in hopes of being drafted, but off-the-field issues have overshadowed his talent and potential. Jackson also is an intriguing talent who has had to deal with off-the-field controversy that may have scared teams from drafting him. The Giants have used Jackson some as a cornerback in practices.
WHAT THE COACHES ARE SAYING: Fewell said Brown and Hill stood out as backup safeties who impressed him in minicamp.
"Brown really showed me some things that I did not see in his workout," Fewell said. "Steve did a really good job of covering some ground from the post position, from the half position. I thought he had some blitz ability when we worked on the blitzes. He was a guy that I thought, 'hey, we can do some multiple things with.' I didn't think that initially but after OTAs and minicamp, I thought he did some nice things for us."
"I still like Will Hill," Fewell continued. "I think he is a talented young man. The volume of things that we do, you could see taxed him a little bit. Again, we will try to put him in a position where he can have some success and not have so much to think about."
CAMP PREDICTION: This could shape up to be a two-man competition between Sash and Brown for the third safety spot. The Giants like Hill's potential and athleticism but he might not be ready yet and could be a practice squad candidate depending on how he continues to progress in camp.
No matter who wins the job, my guess is the Giants play in fewer three-safety looks this season with Grant gone and the addition of Rivers and more options at linebacker. Fewell said he still could use the look and wants to have the flexibility to do so. It sounds like Brown has done enough to impress Fewell to be utilized in certain packages. Fewell could also use an additional cornerback on the field as well.
And, I suppose we can't completely discount the notion of Grant returning. After all, the Giants re-signed Grant in the middle of training camp last year and there's always a chance they could do so again if there are injuries or the Giants don't like what they see at safety behind Rolle and Phillips.
Tell us what you think the Giants should do with their third safety spot and what you think of the candidates below.