New York Giants: Ryan Mundy

So right before Twitter crashed on Tuesday afternoon, New York Giants safety Stevie Brown tweeted that he had re-signed with the team.

Not a big surprise. After collecting eight interceptions in his dream 2012 season, Brown tore an ACL in the preseason and missed all of 2013. He had been slated to be one of the Giants' starting safeties last year along with Antrel Rolle, and the Giants like him a great deal. The ACL surely deprived him of the kind of market for which free agents hope, and so it was in the sides' mutual interest to get something done and offer Brown his big chance at a starter's job a year late.

Problem is, that starter's job may not be there for Brown anymore. Will Hill emerged as a very good player at safety for the Giants in 2013, and despite a $9.25 million cap number, Rolle is still on the team for 2014. So Brown would have to beat out Hill (and prove he's healthy) in order to be a starter, as he was projected to be a year ago.

Regardless, assuming Brown is healthy, safety is a real position of strength for the Giants if they have Rolle, Hill and Brown at the top of the depth chart. (I don't expect them to bring back Ryan Mundy.) If Brown makes it all the way back from his injury, as it's believed he will, he offers the Giants insurance in case Hill's off-field issues rear their head again or in case Rolle leaves following the 2014 season.

The Giants also have Cooper Taylor, the safety they drafted in the fifth round last year, who could develop into a more significant part of the secondary over the next couple of years.

Big Blue Morning: The plan at safety

February, 25, 2014
We talked Monday about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning's contract, and the fact that a higher-than-anticipated 2014 salary cap makes it less imperative for the Giants to extend Manning this offseason for cap relief. Another highly paid veteran Giant whose contract situation is impacted here is safety Antrel Rolle, who was the Giants' only Pro Bowl representative this season.

Rolle, 31, carries a $9.25 million salary cap number for 2014, which is the final year of the five-year, $37.1 million contract he signed with the Giants prior to the 2010 season. That's a whopper of a number, but the Giants seem unbothered by it. The people to whom I've spoken about this situation say the Giants would be willing to talk about an extension with Rolle because they like having him around and would be interested in keeping him beyond this year at the right price, but that they don't feel the need to extend him for 2014 cap relief. The Giants have shown a willingness to pay a premium for players they feel are worth it, and they feel Rolle's 2013 performance in his first year as a defensive captain justifies his salary. With the possibility of fellow defensive leaders Justin Tuck, Jon Beason and Terrell Thomas leaving via free agency, keeping Rolle around may be vital from a leadership standpoint.

So while I viewed Rolle as a question mark for the Giants when the offseason began due to the finances, it does not appear as though the Giants view him as one. And what the Giants think matters more here than what I think. I don't expect Rolle will be asked to take a pay cut, and I don't expect him to go anywhere.

The situation at safety around Rolle and the future of the position for the Giants are intertwined. It's a rare spot at which they believe they have some quality depth. Will Hill looked like the best player in their secondary at times last year (Rolle included). Ryan Mundy looked like a guy who can fill a valuable role off the bench or as an emergency starter. And Stevie Brown, who was slated to start alongside Rolle following his eight-interception 2012 season, is expected back from his torn ACL and should compete with Hill for a starting spot.

If Brown comes back healthy and continues to develop the way he was developing before his injury, and if Hill stays out of the kind of off-field trouble he's had since college, the Giants could be set at safety for 2015 and beyond even without Rolle. For now, though, those are two big "if"s, and even more reason the Giants are likely to pay Rolle what his contract schedules him to earn.
In his radio interview of WFAN in New York on Thursday, New York Giants owner John Mara referenced this annual study by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, which shows that the Giants led the league in games lost by starters due to injury in 2013 with 91, including 26 on the offensive line. Mara was quick to offer the usual "that's not an excuse" disclaimer, and he's right. The teams that rank second and third on this list -- the Colts and the Patriots -- are playing in a second-round playoff game Saturday night. But the figure raises the question of whether the injuries stand as a legitimate reason for what went wrong with the 2013 Giants.

[+] EnlargeChris Snee
AP Photo/Bill KostrounLosing guard Chris Snee, 76, and center David Baas, 64, to injuries early in the season exposed the Giants' lack of offensive line depth.
First off, Gosselin's figures assign 16 lost games to Stevie Brown, who was projected as a starting safety before tearing his ACL in preseason and missing the entire season. The Giants ended up fine at safety with Antrel Rolle, Will Hill and Ryan Mundy, but Hill did miss the first four games because of a drug suspension, and it's reasonable to think Brown might have helped during that time, as the Giants lost all four of those games as well as the next two.

But the Giants' biggest problem all year was that offensive line, and the losses of David Baas and Chris Snee early in the season were damaging. The line wasn't a strength to begin with, and once the starters began to go down, it exposed the lack of depth behind them. That is why I continue to insist that the line needs to be a major priority in the draft this year, even if they have already addressed it in free agency by then. This team absolutely has to develop capable replacements for the long-term at these positions, because its inability to provide them in 2013 absolutely crippled the offense. If the Giants have a center or a guard or even a tackle they like in March, by all means, they should sign him and make the 2014 line better. But they can't assume that whoever it is will stay healthy or play effectively for years to come. They need to deepen their stable of capable linemen so that injuries along the line don't destroy everything they're trying to do in future years.

The Giants were spoiled in this regard for a long time. Everybody knows about that starting offensive line that held together for years without anyone missing a game. But Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie aren't walking through that door. The days when this wasn't a worry for the Giants are long gone, and now they're dealing with the same reality with which other teams deal. They need depth on the offensive line to combat inevitable injuries, or else nothing they do is going to work.

Covering Calvin: The Giants prepare

December, 18, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- His name is recognizable league-wide, and its four basic syllables offer no impediment to punctuation. But Calvin Johnson struggled Wednesday with the names of the New York Giants defensive backs who will be trying to cover him Sunday.

On a conference call with Giants reporters, the Detroit Lions' superstar wide receiver knew Prince Amukamara's first name but asked for help pronouncing the last. And he referred to Trumaine McBride only as "No. 38" and admitted he wasn't sure on his name.

"I mean, last year I was out of the league," McBride said later in the Giants' locker room. "I haven't done much. I'm not surprised he doesn't know me."

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson and Calvin Johnson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAs they prepare to cover Calvin Johnson on Sunday, Giants defensive backs are looking at how Arizona's Patrick Peterson managed in Week 2.
Amukamara, as congenial an NFL player as you'll ever meet, offered that people still misspell and mispronounce his name around the Giants' facility and said he wasn't bothered at all by the fact that Johnson didn't know it well enough to pronounce it. He said he'd help him out if Johnson asked when they're on the field facing each other Sunday.

Both starting cornerbacks, as well as the other players in the Giants' secondary, were more concerned Wednesday with how to cover the 6-foot-5 Lion who's already got 81 catches for 1,449 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. McBride, who stands only 5-9, is dealing with the reality of giving away eight inches and still trying to stop a guy.

"I've been this small forever, so everyone I go against is bigger than me," McBride said. "I know I can't jump with him, so it doesn't make sense for me to try and jump with him. It makes sense to play his hands when he's coming down with it and knock the ball out. He's obviously very good, but everyone has weaknesses. So once I find out what that is, that's what I have to focus on to have success on game day."

It might make more sense to put the 6-foot Amukamara on Johnson throughout the game, but the Giants prefer to split the field with their cornerbacks instead of assigning one to the opponent's best receiver, and Amukamara said he believes that's the plan this week as well. In order to prepare for the times he'll face Johnson, he's been studying tape of the Lions' Week 2 loss in Arizona, in which Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson shadowed Johnson.

"It seemed he did pretty well," Amukamara said of Peterson. "He got beat on some big plays, but you would expect that given who Calvin Johnson is. But Patrick did a very good job from what I see, and I think I can take some things from that."

In that game, Johnson had six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. One of the touchdown catches covered 72 yards, which obviously skews the yardage total high. But it tells you all you need to know about who Johnson is that Amukamara's goal would be to replicate a six-catch, 116-yard, two-touchdown game.

Johnson's best game this season, as has been the case for many receivers, came against the Dallas Cowboys. In a Week 8 home victory over Dallas, Johnson had 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown, and no, that's not a misprint. The Giants' defensive backs, as of Wednesday afternoon, had not watched tape of that game. But some of them said they planned to.

"You definitely want to see how something like that transpired," safety Ryan Mundy said. "But whatever you see on tape. you know this is a big, fast, strong, physical receiver, and we have to go out there and be big, fast, strong and physical with him. We have to try and put him in some difficult spots."

Johnson is coming off a couple of disappointing games. He caught just three passes for 52 yards in the snow in Philadelphia in Week 14, and caught only six of his 14 targets for 98 yards in Monday night's loss to Baltimore. He had a couple of bad and critical drops against Baltimore as well, and he hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 13. So he could be in a slump, or he could be due to explode and destroy his next opponent. While it'd be easy to get caught up in the latter possibility, the Giants are not expecting to be intimidated.

"We're all players, all men, and we're at this level for a reason," McBride said. "He can make plays. I can make plays too. We'll line up and do what we can to try and stop him. That's all we can do."

Shifting roles in the Giants' secondary

November, 3, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As is the case elsewhere on the roster, the week-to-week changes in the New York Giants' secondary have largely been out of necessity. Cornerback Corey Webster got hurt in Week 3. Safety Will Hill was suspended for the first four games of the season. Cornerback Terrell Thomas is making his way back from a third major knee reconstruction. Because of those and other factors, the Giants have changed the ways in which they have doled out playing time among their defensive backs so far in 2013.

But what's different about this situation is that the shifting has led to solutions and to a feeling among the players and coaches that they can deploy their defensive backs in a multitude of ways depending on the week and the opponent. That has them all feeling good about things.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle, Will Hill, Terrell Thomas
AP Photo/Michael PerezThe versatility of defensive backs Antrel Rolle, left, Terrell Thomas, center, and Will Hill has helped bring a positive vibe to the Giants' defense.
"It definitely makes it tough for our opponent to know what to expect," Thomas said Monday after playing all 63 defensive snaps at the slot corner position the previous day, turning in an 11-tackle performance that included a sack and a forced fumble and earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. "We're a brotherhood, and we support each other, no matter who's playing or who's on the bench."

In the first game against the Eagles this year, Week 5 in New Jersey, Thomas played only one defensive snap. It was Hill's first game back, and the Giants used three safeties on 84 of their 85 defensive snaps. Hill, Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy basically never came off the field. But in Week 8 in Philadelphia, with Mundy apparently nursing a hip injury, Thomas played the slot as he had earlier in the season, and Rolle and Hill played every snap at safety. On the outside, mainstay Prince Amukamara played all 63 snaps. Across from him, Trumaine McBride played 50, while Webster, in his second game back after missing four games with a groin injury, played 13.

Secondary coach Dave Merritt said Tuesday that the reason this works is that Thomas is able to effectively play that third safety role, switching from the slot to the post as needed depending on the coverage the Giants call and the manner in which they attempt to disguise it.

"We have an ability right now to roll guys back and forth, whether it's Will Hill, whether it's Antrel, whether it's Terrell Thomas," Merritt said. "And you're able to confuse the quarterback."

Which is the point, and the fact that the Giants have had to play several different guys in several different roles this year gives them the flexibility to do that -- not to mention to outmaneuver injuries as they come up from week to week or even within the course of the game.

Amukamara has pretty much been an every-snap guy since the opener, though he did get hurt that night, so he only played 40 of 79 snaps in Dallas. Webster was an every-snap guy before his injury, but it's possible McBride gets to keep some of the snaps he's earned as his replacement. Rolle never comes off the field, and Mundy really hadn't either until he fell into a more even split with Hill in the Week 7 game against the Vikings. Mundy could cede snaps to Hill when the Giants use just two safeties or when Thomas is in the slot, though they'll also continue to manage Thomas' workload because of his knee. Thomas' per-game snap counts so far this year have been 39, 47, 27, 67, 1, 62, 14 and 63.

"They're always mixing and matching back there, and it helps us disguise what we want to do from play to play," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We're lucky to have guys who match up differently with different teams."

So the look the Raiders see next Sunday from the Giants in the secondary might be totally different from what they've seen on any game tape so far this year, which is the way the Giants would prefer it. They themselves might not know from week to week whom they're going to use at which defensive back spot, or who's going to be available to them. But what the first half of the season has taught them is that they have more -- and more interesting -- options than they may have realized at the start.
KANSAS CITY -- No big surprises on the New York Giants' inactives list for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Four of the seven -- cornerback Corey Webster, center David Baas, right guard Chris Snee and tight end Adrien Robinson -- had already been ruled out for the game and didn't fly here with the team.

The other three inactives are third quarterback Ryan Nassib, rookie defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (who has been inactive for all four games so far) and safety Cooper Taylor, who suffered a shoulder injury last week in Carolina. Without Taylor, the only two active safeties for the Giants this week are starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy.

It's possible that cornerback Terrell Thomas could work some at safety if they need him to. He has said he knows the plays and has some experience there. The Giants have been using Thomas as a nickel cornerback this year, but the need for that position may not be as great in this game as it was against teams like the Cowboys and Broncos, who lean hard to three-receiver sets.

The Giants announced that Jim Cordle would get his first career NFL start as he replaces Baas at center. Cordle struggled in a preseason start at center against the Jets. James Brewer, who started at left guard in the season opener when Kevin Boothe slid over to play center, will start at right guard in place of Snee.

Veteran offensive lineman David Diehl, who missed the first three games of the season following thumb surgery, is active but is not listed as a starter. It's possible they could use Diehl as a second tight end in "big" short-yardage or goal-line packages, or that he's an emergency plan in case of an injury to one of the starting tackles, but it remains unclear to what extent he can help with his thumb still not fully healed and since he missed five weeks of practice prior to last week.

A lot of people ask about Hankins, who was the team's second-round pick. I don't think there's any reason other than the depth chart that he continues to be inactive for the games. The Giants have been happy with what Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson have done at the backup defensive tackle spots, and there's no need for them to carry five at that position on gameday. Hankins is still developing his technique and his lower-body strength, and the Giants can carry a developmental player at defensive tackle right now.

One bit of potential good news for the Giants is that Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is inactive due to a knee injury, which should help the Giants' receivers get open down the field. Of course, many of you may remember that last week in Carolina, the Panthers were missing three members of their starting secondary and none of the Giants receivers had a chance to get open because Eli Manning was getting sacked immediately on every play.

Injury report: Amukamara's concussion

September, 9, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara left Sunday's season-opening game in the second quarter with a concussion and did not return. His status for next week's home game against Denver is, due to the nature of concussions and the league's policy for dealing with them, far from determined. Amukamara likely will have to undergo tests before he is cleared to practice this week, and continued testing throughout the week before he can be cleared to play.

The Giants offered no update on Amukamara's status after the game. Concussion recovery times vary greatly from case to case and player to player.

Amukamara was injured when he and Giants safety Ryan Mundy collided, head-to-head, while making a tackle. Amukamara's neck snapped backwards, and he crumpled to the ground, but he did not appear to lose consciousness and he walked off the field on his own power. Mundy did as well, and he was cleared to return to the game and did.

"I'm good," Mundy said after the game. "It's a tough situation -- a quick slant, and I'm the deep middle safety and I'm breaking to the ball. Anytime the ball is thrown over the middle, a violent collision is highly likely."

If Amukamara can't play Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the Giants likely would start Aaron Ross at cornerback opposite Corey Webster and play Terrell Thomas in the slot against Wes Welker. Thomas worked exclusively in the slot Sunday night (mainly against Miles Austin) before and after the Amukamara injury.

The Giants' secondary is already thin due to the loss of starting safety Stevie Brown for the season after he tore his ACL in the preseason. That injury elevated Mundy to a starting role and left rookie Cooper Taylor as the only backup safety on the roster.

Other injury updates:
  • Linebacker Dan Connor also left the game in the second quarter with what the team called a "burner." He did not return to the game, and his status for next week is also up in the air. His replacement at middle linebacker Mark Herzlich, had a tough time trying to handle tight end Jason Witten. And not to harp on this stuff, but the Broncos have a tight end, Julius Thomas, who had five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in their season opener Thursday.
  • On the play after Connor was hurt, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins went down as well, but this one was fishy. The Cowboys accused Jenkins, during and after the game, of faking the injury to slow down their no-huddle offense during a portion of the game at which the Giants' defense had been on the field forever and was getting tired. Dallas ended up scoring on the drive anyway, but let's just say I wouldn't fret over Jenkins' status for next week's game.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski, who missed the preseason with a knee injury, was active and started the game but did not appear to play as much as he normally does.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The bad news: It is difficult to imagine the New York Giants playing any worse than they played in the first half of their regular-season opener Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. The good news: They're only down 13-10 at halftime.

It has been a bizarre game in which neither offfense has looked consistently competent. The Giants have 174 yards of total offense, but 127 of them came on two plays -- a 57-yard pass from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks in the first quarter and a 70-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Victor Cruz in the second.

The larger issues for the Giants are the three turnovers they have committed and the stunning 21:31/8:29 time-of-possession ratio that favors the Cowboys. The latter resulted in a completely exhausted Giants defense that allowed Tony Romo the Cowboys to go down the field against them for 71 yards in nine plays and score a touchdown that put them up 13-3 with three minutes left in the half. Had Cruz not got behind confused Cowboys safety Will Allen for the 70-yard score a minute or so later, the Giants would be in far worse trouble.

As it stands, they may still be. The Giants lost two members of their secondary to injuries when cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Ryan Mundy collided face-to-face at high speed making a tackle in the final minute of the half. Both went to the locker room, and we await further word. They also lost middle linebacker Dan Connor to a "burner" (whatever that is) during the long touchdown drive, and his absence showed up as Romo picked apart backup Mark Herzlich with those passes to Jason Witten over the middle.

Romo also left the game in the final minute, but the Cowboys say he merely had the wind knocked out of him and will return.

Some other thoughts:
  • Poor David Wilson is going to end up being known as the guy who fumbles in the opener against the Cowboys every year. Of greater concern, I think, is that he blew a pass-protection assignment that resulted in a George Selvie sack of Manning. Tom Coughlin criticized Wilson in the preseason for not diversifying his pass-blocking moves. On this play, he tried to go low on Selvie and whiffed.
  • Terrell Thomas is getting a lot of time on the field as the nickel cornerback, and Romo is finding Miles Austin against him in the slot a lot. Thomas is tending to play off of Austin, and he's made some nice tackles, but Austin already has 61 yards on eight catches. Witten has 62 on six as the Cowboys are targeting that middle part of the field against Thomas and the linebackers.
  • The Giants have been shading a safety to whichever side Dez Bryant has been lining up on. Bryant only has 13 yards on two catches, but he was a second-half monster for the Cowboys last year and could still come alive, especially if Amukamara and Mundy are out.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul is active but isn't playing on every play. They seem to be using him on third downs mainly.

Injury report: Andre says he'll be back soon

August, 30, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Andre Brown doesn't think the temporary injured-reserve spot will be necessary for him.

The New York Giants running back broke his left leg for the second straight year but he says he will not require surgery for "just a little tiny, a little crack in it." Brown is set to undergo more tests Friday.

The Giants had some other injuries that could potentially affect their decision-making for depth on Saturday's final cut day.

Backup tight end Adrien Robinson injured his left foot on the opening kickoff and was on crutches and in a walking booth after the game. Robinson will undergo further tests Friday but said his foot is not broken.

"Somebody hit me from behind," Robinson said. "I don’t know if somebody stepped on it or fell on it. I got caught up on a tackle."

"I don’t think it is that serious," he added. "I will find out more tomorrow. But I know it is not broke."

Robinson was behind Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe on the depth chart. Larry Donnell saw added snaps in the game. If Robinson has to miss significant time, that will affect what the Giants will do Saturday at tight end.

Also, safety Tyler Sash suffered a concussion in the first half. The Giants have been hit hard at safety after losing Stevie Brown to a torn ACL for the season. With Will Hill having to serve a four-game suspension to start the season, the Giants have some depth concerns if Sash is sidelined for a while. Rookie Cooper Taylor would be the next man up after starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy. David Caldwell also is on the roster.

W2W4: Giants at Patriots

August, 29, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Even though the starters will play sparingly, there should be plenty to watch for when the New York Giants visit the New England Patriots for the preseason finale (7:30 p.m. ET).

What have you done for me lately? It's a meaningless final preseason game, but the real drama will be at certain position battles. Tonight is one final opportunity for some players to stake a claim for a roster spot.

I broke down the roster position-by-position and who could be on the bubble entering tonight. Keep a close eye on defensive tackle, where guys like Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson could be fighting for a roster spot. Can fan favorite Adewale Ojomo or fellow defensive end Justin Trattou make the final 53 with a sack or two in the finale? Also, will Dan Connor hold on to the starting middle linebacker job or can Mark Herzlich do enough tonight to get back in the mix there?

David Carr is expected to hold off Curtis Painter for backup quarterback while Ryan Nassib could be taking the last live snap of the season with the second team.

Get offensive: The starters may only play 12-to-15 snaps but Tom Coughlin desperately wants to see a spark from his starting offense. After struggling in the red zone repeatedly this preseason, Eli Manning would love nothing more than to punch it into the end zone on one of his two or three drives.

The new line: After the first revamped offensive line struggled against the Jets, Coughlin opted to move Kevin Boothe to center and insert James Brewer in at left guard. Justin Pugh will remain at right tackle alongside right guard Chris Snee. And Will Beatty will stay at left tackle.

We'll get to see how this line does and if the communication will be better than it was against the Jets. We fully expect this to be the offensive line moving forward until David Baas and David Diehl get healthy.

Safety dance: This will be the Giants' first game without the injured Stevie Brown. Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy are now the starters, but the Giants will need to figure out the depth behind them. Tyler Sash, Cooper Taylor and Will Hill should all get an opportunity to show what they can do against the Patriots. For Hill, this will be his last action before serving a four-game suspension when the regular season begins.

Get lucky: More than anything, the Giants just need to finish the preseason without another notable injury. So far, Baas, Victor Cruz, Diehl and Brown are among the starters who have suffered injuries during preseason games. It would be nice to leave Foxborough in one piece.

Giants Stock Watch

August, 28, 2013
A look at whose stock is rising and falling with the New York Giants on the eve of their final preseason game.


The secondary. No one was expecting another eight-interception year from Stevie Brown, but he was slated to be a starting safety and had worked hard all offseason to learn and master more of the defense than he knew when he was thrust surprisingly into a starter's role in 2012. Brown tore his ACL in Saturday night's preseason game against the Jets, leaving an already-questionable part of the Giants' roster thin. Newcomer Ryan Mundy takes over as the starter for now opposite Antrel Rolle, who's still working his way back from an ankle sprain. But the guy the Giants really like for that spot is Will Hill, who is suspended for the first four games of the season.

Eli Manning's comfort. Injuries along the offensive line have prompted three rearrangements of the starting group in the past nine days. After Jim Cordle struggled at center Saturday, the Giants moved Kevin Boothe to center and elevated James Brewer to the starting left guard spot. While Brewer has worked at guard in practice a bit this offseason, he's a natural tackle with little experience on the inside. But Boothe is the team's best option at center after the injured David Baas, and that position is more essential as Manning works to get comfortable behind all the shuffling. Manning is fine with shuttling different receivers and tight ends in and out of the lineup, but he's a little bit less fine with not being able to count on his protection to stay reliable. If Baas were able to return by Week 1, that would be a big help. One positive development: Rookie right tackle Justin Pugh seemed to hold up fine in his first game action as a starter.


The defensive line. You saw Justin Tuck's interception of Geno Smith on a play where he hid and then dropped into coverage. Tuck looks fantastic. But what's stood out to me in these preseason games so far (and in the practices I've attended) is the play of the Giants' defensive tackles. Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson, in particular, looked great Saturday night helping to collapse the pocket with interior pressure. A couple of guys like that in rotation with Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins could give the Giants something they didn't have last year as far as disruptive toughness in the interior of the defensive line.

Andre Brown. You're getting sick of me writing about this, but it's a real issue. David Wilson's 84-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage was the play of the game. But in a game in which Manning and the first-team offense took 34 snaps, Brown was on the field for 26 and Wilson was on the field for just 14. Brown has consistently been the third-down back and the goal-line back this preseason, but he was also the first-down back and the second-down back in the second quarter Saturday. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team found itself in more passing downs in the second quarter. And while he said "not necessarily" when I asked him if he trusts Brown more than he trusts Wilson in pass protection, the proof is in the pudding. When the Giants are in passing downs, Brown is the halfback and Wilson is on the bench. This is a major conundrum for the Giants, because they need Wilson for his breathtaking big-play ability but don't yet trust him to help protect Manning, which is their top priority. Meantime, more snaps for Brown, who's been great in practice even though he was so-so in Saturday's game.

Stevie injury hits Rolle hard

August, 26, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Antrel Rolle will return to the practice field Monday with his teammates.

But he won’t have good friend and fellow safety Stevie Brown on the field with him for the first time this preseason. And that's going to be hard for Rolle.

[+] EnlargeBrown/Rolle
William Perlman/USA TODAY SportsStevie Brown (left) and Antrel Rolle (right) had developed great chemistry.
In the past year Rolle and Brown have become very close, as the two worked to form the kind of bond and chemistry Rolle had with former Giant Kenny Phillips in the defensive backfield. They hung out after offseason practices, watching basketball games and playing billiards.

Brown’s season-ending torn left ACL has been hard for Rolle to digest. “It is definitely taking its toll on me,” said Rolle. “I really don’t know ... we all have to move on from the situation obviously. Like I said, it goes way deeper than football itself when you talk about Stevie Brown’s injury to me.

“That is a hard pill to swallow. You never want to see anyone go down and just to have my sidekick go down like that, it really is tough. It really is.”

The Giants will insert Ryan Mundy into the starting lineup. Mundy and Rolle have about two weeks to get on the same page before the season opener at Dallas on Sept. 8.

“I’ve already somewhat developed a chemistry with Ryan,” Rolle said. “On the field, off the field ... it is going to have to happen. We are going to find a way whether it is in the meeting room, whether it is off the field."

Mundy has experience stepping in for injured starters. He played behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in Pittsburgh and subbed in whenever one or the other got hurt. He started five games last year for the Steelers.

“You can look at last year and what Stevie did was nothing short of outstanding,” Mundy said of Brown’s team-leading eight interceptions last year. “Kenny went down and he came in, stepped in and played a major role in the defense. I’m just looking to keep it going.”

Rolle and Brown said the team is still figuring out what exactly the two safeties will do now on the field. But the Giants like to have their safeties be able to play both free and strong safety roles and be interchangeable.

Mundy and Brown are different players with different skill sets, but Rolle will adapt. It just may take a little time for Rolle to get over losing his good friend on the field for the season.

“He’s a physical presence, he’s a smart guy and he understands the game,” Rolle said of Mundy. “We’re looking for Ryan to come in and do big things in this defense. We said that before. You know, Stevie got hurt and we’re going to need (Mundy) even more now. Stevie is not with us and I’m sure Ryan will come in and do a great job.”

Rolle on Phillips: Rolle said he spoke to his good friend Phillips after the Eagles released the former Giant on Sunday.

Rolle admitted he would love to see Phillips return, but trusts whatever decision the front office makes.

“Would I like to see him? Absolutely,” Rolle said. “But it is not my call to make. We have to leave it to personnel (people) and the owners and the GM. I am more than confident they will make the right choice as far as who they want to bring in or what they want to do as far as our defensive personnel.”

Coughlin report: Safety dance

August, 26, 2013
Tom Coughlin said Sunday that he will take a look at what combinations work best for the Giants at safety after losing Stevie Brown.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerCan Ryan Mundy replace Stevie Brown? We'll soon find out.
But Ryan Mundy is the next man up, and Coughlin said the veteran safety can play both safety positions and be a physical presence.

"We’ll see about that,” Coughlin said, on whether Mundy can fill Brown's shoes. “He has played well. We just have to get the people out there and get the right combination here. Ryan has played well and he certainly has proven that he can be physical and be dominant in the box. From that standpoint, yes.”

Coughlin broke down a few of his other safeties as well. Will Hill has lots of talent, but he is also facing a four-game suspension to start the season.

“(Hill) has been playing and playing well," Coughlin said. "He’s an outstanding special teams player and he’s very physical. He’s played pretty well all the way along. The fact of the matter is, we’re not going to have him for four games. While we acknowledge what he brings to the table, we certainly can’t be lured into thinking that we’re OK in any shape or form because he’s not going to be here. That’s a shame.”

Tyler Sash will have a major opportunity to show what he can do. Sash has a safety, a fumble recovery and 10 tackles thus far this preseason.

“Certainly (Sash) is going to get a lot of playing time," Coughlin said, referring to Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. "Quite frankly, it’s really up to the production. That goes for anybody. The opportunity is certainly going to be there this Thursday night. We’ve got to take advantage of it."

Coughlin said he wants to get a good look at rookie safety Cooper Taylor as well. Taylor has been hampered by a hamstring injury.

TC on TT: Coughlin sounded more inclined to keep Terrell Thomas at cornerback rather than consider moving Thomas to safety after the Brown injury.

Thomas logged 23 snaps in his first preseason game since 2011, when he tore his right ACL for a second time in a preseason game. He is currently coming back from a third ACL surgery.

“That came up in the spring,” Coughlin said, of a possible position move for Thomas. “The No. 1 thing is to get Terrell Thomas on the field and get him to where he’s playing well and his confidence is up and that type of thing. That has been first and foremost on our minds.

"Quite frankly, we haven’t thought a lot about another spot for him other than getting him out there. Getting him confident, getting him playing again. He certainly is a talented guy and we’ll do the best we can to utilize all of the talent that we have.”

RB snaps: David Wilson had the 84-yard touchdown run. But the starter only got 13 snaps against the Jets compared to Andre Brown's 25 snaps. Brown was used quite a bit on passing downs as well.

"He’s worked a lot with our pass protection situation," Coughlin said of Brown. "You might say that happened a lot last night, even our early downs. It’s been a pretty good ratio between first/second down and then on third down, Andre’s got more of that than I think David has. Both of them are capable of first/second down, or third down. We’d like to have more production consistently and hopefully we’ll get to that."

When asked if he is more confident with Brown in pass protection than Wilson, Coughlin replied, "Not necessarily."

TC on O-line: Coughlin was asked whether he might make any changes to the already revamped offensive line, which had some communication issues against the Jets.

"We’ll see," Coughlin said. "I wouldn’t say one way or the other. I’m not about to say what we’re going to do that and you’ll just have to wait and see."

Specials impress: Coughlin may not be happy with his offense right now, but he has liked what he's seen on special teams.

“We continue to be impressed by Josh Brown and his kickoffs and his field goals as well," Coughlin said.

Brown has converted 11 of 13 field goals, with his misses coming from 38 and 53 yards out. Coughlin also praised running back Michael Cox, who had 79 yards on three kickoff returns Saturday.

Analysis: Stevie tears ACL

August, 25, 2013
As initially feared, Stevie Brown tore his left ACL on Saturday night when he fell to the turf untouched on an interception return.

It's a big blow for a veteran who was finally hoping to show what he can do as a full-time starter in a contract year. And it's going to be yet another obstacle for a Giants defense that already has major injuries to deal with.

What it means: Brown was a playmaker on a defense that needs playmakers in the secondary. Last year, he led the team with eight interceptions and had 307 yards off those interceptions. While it remained to be seen whether or not Brown could have duplicated those numbers or not, the Giants felt Brown was good enough to be their starter full time and let Kenny Phillips and his troublesome knee walk in free agency in the first place.

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
Al Bello/Getty ImagesStevie Brown suffered an ACL tear in Saturday's preseason game.
Antrel Rolle is already nursing a sprained ankle, but he should be back in practice this week and will be ready for the season opener. Rolle made a concerted effort to spend as much time as he could with Brown on and off the field to develop chemistry and rapport. Now Rolle will have two weeks to get to know Ryan Mundy, Brown's replacement, even better on the field together.

The Giants' defense was already banged up. Jason Pierre-Paul, the star of the defense, is currently making his way back from back surgery in the offseason, and the hope is he will be ready for the opener on Sept. 8 at Dallas. The linebackers are healthy, but there's a question mark since the Giants lost a lot of experience in the offseason with Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn gone. And in the secondary, Corey Webster has been nursing groin and knee injuries but could practice soon. Tom Coughlin thinks Webster will be able to play in the opener. Cornerback Terrell Thomas is still making his way back from a third ACL injury as well.

What's next: Mundy will start and has experience filling in for an injured starter. In Pittsburgh, he played behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. The Giants have been impressed with Mundy's professionalism -- something Rolle described as a "militant" approach.

The depth at safety will be tested. Will Hill has to serve a four-game suspension to start the season. Rookie Cooper Taylor has been hampered by a hamstring injury most of camp, and Coughlin said today on a conference call that he wants to see what Taylor can do. Tyler Sash will have every opportunity to continue a solid preseason and become perhaps the third safety when the season starts.

Coughlin said the team has not discussed the idea of converting Thomas to safety since early in the offseason. The head coach reiterated that the goal is to get Thomas back on the field and feeling confident in his knee. But the coach added that he wants to get through the final preseason game and did not rule out anything.

As far as the three-safety look Perry Fewell has used in the past, the Giants have been using two linebackers and an extra defensive back more during passing situations in camp. Now with Brown gone, the Giants may go more with extra defensive backs like Aaron Ross, Thomas and/or Jayron Hosley to go with Rolle and Mundy in the secondary.

Outside possibilities: Perhaps there is always the possibility that the team could look to add a veteran safety released by another team in the near future. But any safety that comes in will have to learn a whole new system with little time left before the opener.

Many Giants fans are wondering about Phillips, who was released by the Eagles according to But as Dan Graziano tweeted earlier, the Giants had concerns about Phillips' knee when they let him sign with the Eagles, and you'd have to wonder if Phillips' health is the reason why things didn't work out in Philadelphia. Perhaps the Giants will give Phillips a look soon or later down the road since he knows the system and personnel. But the Giants have typically been right when letting a veteran player walk in free agency, especially when considering somebody with a previous health concern.

Tell us what you want to see the Giants do now that Brown is out.

W2W4: Giants vs. Colts

August, 17, 2013

The second preseason game is upon us.

Ahmad Bradshaw will be in the building but won't play for the Colts.

Here's what to watch for on Sunday:

Ground game: In the preseason opener, the Giants' tandem of David Wilson and Andre Brown gained 39 yards on nine carries. But Tom Coughlin wants to see the running game be more consistent and productive. While the offensive line has yet to play at full strength with Chris Snee making his way back from offseason hip surgery, the Giants need to show some improvement in the running game before the preseason is over. And Brown needs to hang on to the ball after fumbling a pitch toss right against Pittsburgh in the preseason opener.

Run defense: The Giants' defense will want to improve on stopping the run. The Steelers racked up 81 rushing yards on 17 carries against the Giants in the first half, including 36 yards on a 13-play drive in the first quarter. Perry Fewell has a lot of options to play with up front with defensive tackles like Cullen Jenkins, Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, Johnathan Hankins, Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson.

Welcome back, Hakeem: Hakeem Nicks will make his preseason debut Sunday after missing the opener in Pittsburgh. The team has been taking a cautious approach with the receiver, who battled knee and foot injuries last season. Eli Manning worked well with Victor Cruz, connecting on a 57-yard touchdown against the Steelers. It will be nice to see how he does with Nicks. Justin Tuck is also expected to play after sitting out last Saturday with a back issue. Coughlin plans to play his starters about 20 snaps and the second team about 25 snaps.

Who will sparkle: In the opener, Damontre Moore stole the spotlight with an impressive debut that included a blocked punt. Who will step up Sunday and make a statement for either more playing time or a spot on the roster? Moore was bothered by a shoulder contusion this week. So perhaps another defensive end like Adrian Tracy or Justin Trattou could make some noise. Or will it be one of the many defensive tackles fighting for a spot? Or how about the linebackers? Coughlin said the linebackers did a good job in the opener but nobody really stood out.

Mundy Mundy: Antrel Rolle won't play after spraining his ankle. That means former Steelers safety Ryan Mundy will start alongside Stevie Brown. The Giants have been showing more formations with two nickel linebackers and an extra defensive back in practice as opposed to three-safety looks. But if Fewell goes to three safeties in games, Mundy would likely be the third safety.