The NFL doesn't care how young you are, how little time you've had to get ready for it or how much time you need to learn to play the game at its speed or with its ferocity. That's why opposing teams have been picking out New York Giants rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara and throwing his way with great success over the past few weeks. The No. 19 pick in this past year's draft, Amukamara broke his foot early in training camp and missed the entire preseason and the first nine games of the regular season. He is still working his way back from the injury and learning the NFL game the way his fellow rookies were learning it back in August and September. So the fact that he's struggling comes as little surprise to his veteran teammates. Per Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger:
"I told him, 'you got every physical attribute to play this game and go against any receiver,'" [Deon] Grant said at a holiday food drive event in Brooklyn today. "I said, 'but right now, you're just not ready for that.' Not saying that he won't be ready, it's not taking anything from him, but me being in the game for a minute, physically he made plays through the stretch since he's been back, but I've just been seeing him struggle.
"I've been having conversations with him on a weekly basis. He's just a tough kid so even though he knows in his mind he might not be ready, he's not going to tell anybody."
These are the facts of the case, folks, and we saw it coming with Amukamara. As Giants fans waited with anticipation for their first-round pick to be ready to play this year, I repeatedly counseled them not to expect too much too soon. He's still a 22-year-old kid who had no mini-camps, no OTAs, no training camp, no preseason and is playing with a screw in his surgically repaired foot. It would have been borderline ridiculous to expect him not to struggle in his first five or six games, and if he helps at all this year, I believe the Giants will have to consider it a bonus.
The problem is that the sorry state of the Giants' defense requires Amukamara to log significant minutes and exposes him to being picked on by opposing quarterbacks and receivers. The only thing that's going to make that better is time, and if the Giants can't find a way to win their final two games of the season, they're likely to find themselves out of time for 2011 and figuring out how to help Amukamara make the improvements he needs to make before next season. Everybody agreed that this was an extremely talented player, and there's little doubt he'll help the Giants at some point. But right now, as his veteran teammate Grant points out, he's just not ready.