- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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But because of injuries to other Giants defensive backs, Rolle has been forced to play a lot of nickel cornerback, covering speedy slot receivers.
He has also taken a physical beating while playing up in the box -- the 5-yard area behind the offensive line -- like a strong safety in order to shut down the opposition's running plays.
But with the emergence of Stevie Brown, who grabbed eight interceptions last season, Rolle should be able to play more of his natural position as the last line of defense. Secondary coach David Merritt hopes that translates into a huge year for the veteran.
"As much as Antrel can, he's going to try and put Stevie in the box, but we're going to control that," Merritt said.
"He had to come in and play the nickel and had to lose weight and try to play all the slot receivers, which is a different world," Merritt said of Rolle's challenge in previous seasons. "Being able to play the safety position for us now is a tremendous lift in his spirit because now he can play the half, he can play the third, he can play quarters, he can rotate down in the box and he doesn't necessarily have to rotate out on the receiver and go out and play man-to-man.
"So he's more of a safety this offseason and during this camp."
Merritt was asked if Rolle came into training camp heavier than last year.
"I wouldn't necessarily say heavier, but he didn't have to worry about trying to keep his weight down, so to speak, close to the 200 mark," Merritt said. "Right now, Antrel is probably weighing about 208. You guys may not think five pounds makes a difference, but it does. It does when you're playing a guy such as [Victor] Cruz or you're playing a guy such as Wes Welker in the slot. That extra five or 10 pounds that you carry will limit your ability to change directions."
Big plays were a problem for Big Blue's defense last season: The Goamts allowed 60 passes of 20 or more yards (fourth-highest in the NFL), 29 passes of at least 30 yards (most in the league) and 13 passes of 40 or more yards (second).
"The ball went outside. The ball would go deep and outside, which they kept it away from the post safety," Merritt said. "I talked to a couple of my buddies who coach on other squads ... and they say they're going to keep it out of the middle of the field, away from Kenny Phillips and Stevie Brown, and the ball started going up outside.
"But as you look at what's going on right now with our corners and how they're competing and how they're actually getting the technique down at the line of scrimmage, we're starting now to pick off those passes that were once big plays on our defense last year."