NFC East: ryan mundy

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.
PHILADELPHIA – Nick Foles can move. The perception that the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback is as immobile as the Rocky statue probably stems from two understandable factors.

One, Foles just doesn’t look like a great athlete. He’s 6-foot-6 with a solid build. He’s neither lean and rangy nor big-shouldered and muscular.

Two, Foles is generally being contrasted with a guy named Michael Vick, who may be the fastest man ever to play quarterback in the NFL. Not many guys are going to compare favorably to Vick when it comes to athleticism.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesThe Eagles will not have to tone down their offense if Nick Foles starts on Sunday.
But Foles can move. For proof, let’s look at perhaps the single best play he made against the New York Giants Sunday after coming into the game in relief of the injured Vick.

It was right after Mychal Kendricks' interception gave the Eagles the ball at the Giants’25-yard line. Foles lined up under center, which is unusual enough in Chip Kelly’s offense to take notice.

Foles took the snap, faked a handoff to LeSean McCoy. The play fake froze Giants safety Ryan Mundy for just a beat, long enough for tight end Brent Celek (who lined up on the left) to cut across and get a slight head start on his route. Mundy turned and ran with Celek.

Meanwhile, Foles carried out the bootleg, looping back to his left, turning and setting up. He threw a perfect ball without hesitation. But for all the talk about Vick holding the ball too long and Foles’ quicker release, it took 3.9 seconds from snap to release on that play.

“It depends on what you're calling,” Kelly said. “I've said that all along. I don't think you can put a clock on a quarterback the entire game and say it's out, it's not out. If you're calling a seven step drop with max protection and trying to throw a post route 35 yards down the field, it's not going to come out as quick as a quick slant.”

Celek caught the pass near the back of the end zone, more than 40 yards from where Foles released it.

Foles’ second touchdown pass was an entirely different matter. Lined up at the 5, with DeSean Jackson to his right, Foles took a shotgun snap and flipped another perfect pass. The ball was out in 1.25 seconds. In this case, Jackson’s stop-and-start fake on the route made the play.

Right before that, Foles ran a read-option play that led to him keeping the ball. The defensive end stayed with McCoy, making the quarterback run the right read. But linebacker Jon Beason was hiding behind the end and stayed with Foles. Vick might have a shot at beating Beason to the corner. Foles doesn’t, but he still picked up 3 yards to help set up the touchdown.

Finally, I looked back on Foles' first drive after replacing Vick. He took over on second-and-10 at the Eagles' 6-yard line with 1:25 left in the half. It was a strange drive. Foles kept throwing checkdowns and little screens. By the time the Eagles got to midfield, the clock was down to 25 seconds.

An offside penalty on Jason Pierre-Paul gave the Eagles a first down at the New York 39. Foles threw the ball away on first down, so there were just 9 seconds left on second-and-10 at the 39. Not much time. But Foles found Jackson sprinting toward the right sideline and fired the ball (2.30 on release). Jackson made a terrific adjustment, turning his body, catching the pass and getting out of bounds with :04 left. The Eagles kicked a field goal there.

So Foles was able to squeeze three points out of a situation -- backed up, starting quarterback hurt -- that could easily have led the Eagles running out the clock and getting to the locker room to regroup. In a small way, that shows that expectations for the offense remain high when Foles is in for Vick.
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.

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.

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.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants couldn't make it out of the first quarter of their preseason game against the Jets here Saturday night without two more potentially significant injuries. Nickel cornerback Jayron Hosley left the game early in the first quarter with a sprained ankle, and starting safety Stevie Brown appeared to seriously injure his left knee while returning a Geno Smith interception late in the quarter.

Brown was playing deep, and Smith, under pressure from Mathias Kiwanuka, threw it right to him. While running with the ball, just before getting hit, Brown appeared to fall to the turf on his own and clutch at his left knee. He had to be helped up and off the field by team trainers. The team announced that he was out for the game with a knee sprain.

An injury to Brown, who was a revelation last season with his eight interceptions, would be tough for the Giants to handle. Their other starting safety, Antrel Rolle, is working his way back from a sprained ankle, and his status for the Sept. 8 opener in Dallas remains in doubt. Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash are the backups, with Will Hill set to miss the first four games of the season due to a drug suspension.

It's possible that cornerback Terrell Thomas, who's still working his way back from two years off due to major knee reconstructions, could play some safety. He said last week that he'd been studying the position and has some experience there. But the Giants don't even know yet whether Thomas can help them at all, let alone at what position. He's been playing the slot corner position tonight in his first game action since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the preseason two years ago, and he might be needed there if Hosley is out.

Speaking of which, the Giants aren't super healthy at cornerback, either. Starter Corey Webster has been missing practice time with groin and knee issues. Aaron Ross has been playing in his place. But Hosley was filling a role on defense as well as on punt returns.

Obviously, we'll have more updates on these injury issues as the night goes on. But after they lost two starting offensive linemen to injury in Sunday night's game, this is a poor start to preseason Week 3 for the Giants.

A look at the Giants' secondary

August, 14, 2013
This one's by request, after Twitter follower @justinwillfail asked for an analysis of the New York Giants' secondary situation. Yes, of course I take requests. Why wouldn't I? Hope you enjoy it, Justin.

The Giants' secondary was clearly an issue in 2012. Although only two teams in the league had more interceptions than the Giants' 21, no team allowed more yards per pass than the Giants' 8.1. Only five teams allowed a higher opponents' completion percentage than the Giants' 63.9. Only three teams allowed more than the Giants' 60 pass plays of 20 yards or longer. Only one allowed more than their 13 pass plays of 40 yards or longer.

To address their issues on the back end in the offseason, the Giants did ... well, they did very little, actually. They let the chronically injured Kenny Phillips leave via free agency and elevated Stevie Brown, who had eight interceptions last year, to Phillips' starting safety role alongside Antrel Rolle. They return both starting cornerbacks, Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara, as well as promising nickel corner Jayron Hosley. For depth at safety, they brought in former Steeler Ryan Mundy. For depth at corner, they brought back old friend Aaron Ross. And Terrell Thomas is in camp as well, looking good as he attempts his recovery from a third ACL surgery.

If everybody stays healthy and plays to his pedigree (including Thomas, who was a starting corner for the Giants three years ago), there is surprising depth at both positions. Here's a bit of a breakdown of each:

[+] EnlargeCorey Webster
Jason Bridge/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants are expecting cornerback Corey Webster to have a bounce-back season.
Cornerback: Webster had a big year in 2011, and the Giants won the NFC East and the Super Bowl. Webster struggled badly in 2012 (Pro Football Focus ranked him 111th in coverage out of the 113 cornerbacks who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps) and the Giants missed the playoffs. While it bears mentioning that they had the same 9-7 regular-season record in both of those seasons, the point is that a big play here or there can be enough to swing your season the right or wrong way. Had Webster been burned less, perhaps the Giants win a 10th or 11th game and get into the playoffs for a second straight year. Webster had to take a pay cut in order to stay, and the team does not believe he's washed up at age 31.

"We expect Corey to have a bounce-back year," GM Jerry Reese said during a recent training camp practice.

But the guy about whom Reese really raved was Amukamara, who was the team's best corner in 2012 and has looked strong in camp this year. The 2011 first-round pick struggled with injuries in his first two seasons but is healthy now and has big plans for the way in which he's used going forward.

"I just want the coaches to either let me and Corey just play right/left, or 'OK, Prince, you go in and get that assignment to shadow this receiver or whatever,'" Amukamara said. "I think when you get that assignment, it just shows that the coaches trust you enough to be on that island, quote/unquote, with that receiver. I'm just trying to build that trust in them. I know they're confident in Corey, but just that they're confident enough in me that they would say, 'Prince and Corey, you guys can just play right/left regardless of where the receivers line up.'"

Amukamara wants to be good enough to be considered a No. 1 cornerback, and he believes the best-case scenario for the Giants would be that he and Webster could both be trusted to be that. Amukamara's trajectory is encouraging, but much depends on Webster's ability to play the way he did in 2011.

Hosley is a physical second-year corner whom they like in the slot. Ross was a disappointment in Jacksonville last year, and if they needed him to start as they did in 2011 there would likely be some drop-off, but the Giants believe there are certain packages in which he can help them. He's good in blitz packages, and not bad in run support, so there's likely a role of some sort for Ross. Thomas is the wild card, because they can't possibly know whether he'll actually make it back from his latest knee surgery. So far, so good on that, but there's no way to know whether he'll be able to contribute, or at what position if he is. Reese spoke early in the offseason about possibly using him at safety. Speaking of which...

Safety: The key player is Rolle, who's entering his fourth year with the Giants and is the only safety they have with significant experience playing the dual roles the Giants need their safeties to play in this defense. Last season, after Phillips went down, Brown played the post safety position almost exclusively while Rolle moved up and played in the box. But the defense works best when the two safeties can switch off, as Rolle and Phillips did so well before Phillips' knee problems started keeping him off the field. Rolle said Brown has been working in camp to develop into a better-rounded safety who can handle all of the responsibilities required of him.

"We already know that he's a ballhawk and he can go get the ball and do something with it once he gets it," Rolle said. "Now he's showing us that he can play in the box and definitely be a versatile safety."

The ankle injury Rolle suffered in practice Monday is alarming because it would be nearly impossible for the Giants to replace him. No other safety on their roster approaches him in terms of experience or leadership ability. But even in terms of bodies, they're a bit light here. Mundy is a serviceable player with some NFL experience, but he struggles in run support. Will Hill is suspended for the first four games of the season. Tyler Sash hasn't shown much, and Cooper Taylor is a rookie whose long-term position isn't even clear.

The Giants need Brown to develop, Amukamara to stay healthy and Webster to rediscover his 2011 magic. But the most important thing they need in the secondary is a healthy Rolle organizing it all on the back end. And quite frankly, the Giants believe that whatever problems they had in the secondary last year can be fixed by improving further up toward the line.

"We've got some talent back there, and it has to jell, but it really doesn't matter what the secondary does if we don't rush the passer," Reese said. "We've got to rush the passer better."

That's an organizational philosophy, right there. The Giants' 2012 sack total of 33 was unacceptably low. If it comes back up into the high 40s, the secondary's going to have a much better chance to look good this time around.
New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle was carted off the practice field Monday with a sprained right ankle, and the team isn't sure yet how much time he'll have to miss. It almost goes without saying that the Giants' secondary could ill afford to be without one of its starting safeties for regular-season games, but in the case of Rolle I think the potential trouble goes deeper than that.

With the chronically injured Kenny Phillips now in Philadelphia, the Giants are counting on Rolle to be the leader of the secondary this year. He's been a versatile veteran for them, willingly moving around the field to play some nickel cornerback two years ago when they had injuries and playing up in the box last year while Stevie Brown racked up interceptions in the post. And Rolle has been a unique but effective locker-room voice at some critical times. But his role is supposed to expand this year as he's now clearly the elder statesman of that secondary, and his experience and knowledge of so many facets of the Giants' defense keeps this from being as simple as just designating Ryan Mundy as the "next man up." Will Hill's four-game drug suspension also compounds things and leaves the Giants thinner at safety. There's been some talk about cornerback Terrell Thomas switching to safety, but the Giants first have to find out whether Thomas can play at all as he works his way back from a third major knee reconstruction.

So the Giants will hope for good news on Rolle's ankle. If he has to miss much preseason time, that will hurt the defense's development because he and Brown are learning to work off of each other and switch responsibilities the way Rolle and Phillips used to. But the Giants would happily trade in some preparation time if it means Rolle is healthy and ready to go for Week 1.
We have an Insider piece from Gary HortonInsider on the Giants' secondary and whether we can expect it to improve in 2013 over its disappointing 2012 performance. Gary's not the only one who thinks this way, but his chief concern about the Giants' secondary is the ability of the pass rush to rebound from its 33-sack season:
Jason Pierre-Paul must develop more counter moves and not just rely on his natural ability in order to build back up from the 6.5 sacks he recorded last season. Hybrid OLB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka probably will play a lot more snaps with his hand in the dirt, and both his edge rush quickness and athletic ability are excellent. This gives the Giants a potentially good three-man rotation at DE -- along with veteran Justin Tuck -- but there is no margin for error.

We know the Giants love their "NASCAR" package -- where they line up four athletic pass-rushers to get good blocking matchups -- but where is that fourth DE that they need to run it? For the first time in recent memory there are concerns about this unit.

When you talk to people around the Giants about the defense, and even about the secondary, they bring it back to the pass rush as well. The Giants' defensive schemes all rest on the ability to generate quarterback pressure with the front four and drop seven players into coverage. As Gary details, there's good depth at the cornerback spot, and newcomer Ryan Mundy could well fill the third safety role when the Giants go to "big nickel." If Terrell Thomas can recover from his latest knee surgery and stay healthy, the depth in the secondary only gets better. A healthy Thomas is a starter-quality player in a backup role.

But Thomas is an "if," and there are other questions on the back end, including the starting safety tandem of Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown. Were Brown's eight interceptions last season an anomaly, or is he going to deliver on that playmaking promise again this year? And regardless, are he and Rolle going to be able to switch off as seamlessly as Rolle and Kenny Phillips used to? Brown was almost exclusively the post safety in the Giants' defense in the second half of last season, with Rolle playing mainly up in the box. But they'd prefer to be able to switch off, and they're working in camp to get Brown more comfortable with both roles. No guarantee it'll work, nor is there any that cornerback Corey Webster will get burned less in coverage this season or that Prince Amukamara will take the steps he needs to take in terms of aggressiveness.

So yeah, I'm with Gary. The Giants need Pierre-Paul healthy, Tuck to bounce back and someone from the backup group of pass-rushers (Adrian Tracy? Damontre Moore?) to step forward and fill Osi Umenyiora's shoes in the rotation. Because all of those questions on the back end of the defense are going to feel a lot easier to answer if this is a 48-sack defense than they were last season when it was a 33-sack defense.

Camp preview: Defensive backs

July, 24, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Defensive backs.

Projected starters: CB Corey Webster, CB Prince Amukamara, S Antrel Rolle, S Stevie Brown.

Projected reserves: CB Aaron Ross, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Terrell Thomas, S Ryan Mundy, S Will Hill, S Cooper Taylor, S Tyler Sash, CB Terrence Frederick, DB Laron Scott, CB Antonio Dennard, DB Trumaine McBride, DB Charles James, DB Junior Mertile, DB Alonzo Tweedy, DB David Caldwell.

New faces: Ross, Mundy, Taylor, Dennard, McBride, James, Mertile, Tweedy, Caldwell.

Going, going, gone: Kenny Phillips, Justin Tryon, Brian Witherspoon.

Player to watch: Webster. The Giants need a big-time bounce-back season from Webster. According to, Webster allowed eight touchdown receptions, tied for second-most among cornerbacks. The website also had Webster ranked last against the run with one tackle for a loss among the 26 cornerbacks on the field for 75 percent of run plays. Webster, who broke his hand early in the season but kept playing, is still considered the Giants’ top corner and has to play like it for Perry Fewell’s defense to improve upon last year’s 31st ranking in total defense.

[+] EnlargeCorey Webster
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsCan Corey Webster bounce back in the Giants' secondary? Big Blue needs him to rebound.
Potential strength: The Giants have the ability to create turnovers in the secondary. Brown had eight interceptions and 307 return yards last season, and Webster added four picks. Rolle hopes to roam and be more of a playmaker and cover less in the slot. If Webster plays closer to his normal form, Prince and Hosley continue to improve and Thomas can come back healthy, the Giants’ secondary has the potential to be much better. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said the Giants might use a defensive back to play the third safety role but added that Mundy impressed in OTAs and minicamp.

Potential weakness: Health and depth at corner. Without knowing how Thomas’ comeback will play out, the Giants basically have four cornerbacks with experience in Webster, Amukamara, Ross and Hosley. One or two injuries to that group will seriously hurt the Giants' secondary. Losing Phillips’ experience at safety also could have an impact, especially with the chemistry in the back of the defense. Hill will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season. And if Webster is on the decline and doesn't rebound from last year, the Giants' secondary could be in for a long season.

Wild card: Thomas. If Thomas’ third comeback from an ACL injury is a successful one, the Giants’ secondary will greatly benefit. Thomas can help at corner, in the slot and even perhaps as a third safety. Before getting injured, Thomas was one of the Giants’ best tacklers. Thomas could be the difference between a solid secondary and a good one. "The Giants have a great plan for me this upcoming season," Thomas blogged on his website. "We are going to start off slow like counting my reps and going in that direction. I am excited about camp starting this week, I feel like a big question mark on defense and I love it... I feel like I am the X factor for the defense, I think I can be a big key for our defense this year as far as my physical play combined with my knowledge, communication and leadership skills."

Tell us what you think of the secondary going into camp.
Morning. Last night, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that the Giants and wide receiver Victor Cruz will have a long-term contract worked out prior to the start of the season. Mort says "parameters are in place," but details need to be worked out. Now, part of me thought that this represented no real change from the status quo, as the Giants have long been of the opinion that they'd get a Cruz deal worked out before the start of this season and the issue to this point has been Cruz's refusal to accept their offer. But if a reporter like Mort is reporting something like this, there must have been some sort of change from Cruz's end to advance the story. If the Giants' offer is as has been reported ($8 million per year range), then it's entirely possible Cruz has decided to sign it and is just waiting to see if something else happens between now and the start of training camp to improve his leverage. We'll know more in 24 days, when Giants training camp begins and we see whether Cruz holds out. But in the meantime, this is news for which Giants fans have been waiting a while.

Other links for today:

New York Giants

Newcomer Ryan Mundy says the Giants "aren't dwelling on" last year's struggles in the secondary but are learning from them.

Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly has sought advice from former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil about coaching in Philadelphia and the challenges of moving from college coaching to the NFL level.

The Eagles' new starting cornerbacks have plenty of confidence and are going to need it as they assume the pressures of playing this high-stress position in Philadelphia.

Washington Redskins

It's possible that the Redskins would place quarterback Robert Griffin III on the PUP list to start training camp. But as Mike Jones explains, this would simply be a procedural move and would not be cause of alarm among Redskins fans.

Salary-cap problems limited the Redskins' ability to make upgrades at any position, leading Rich Tandler to ask: Are you happy with the offensive line?

Dallas Cowboys's Cowboys position series looks today at defensive tackle, where the keys are the health of Jay Ratliff and the ability of Jason Hatcher to play both spots, as he did during OTAs and minicamp.

And I'm not sure how I missed this yesterday, but apparently Cowboys offensive lineman Phil Costa is now engaged to Hulk Hogan's daughter.