NFL Nation: Ryan Mundy

CHICAGO -- Washington State safety Deone Bucannon made a pre-draft visit to the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, according to a league source.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay rates Bucannon as the third best safety in the 2014 draft class. Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Bucannon fifth on his list of the top-10 safeties in the draft.

Bucannon earned First-Team All-American honors in 2013 when he recorded 78 tackles, three forced fumbles and a career-high six interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 215 pound safety finished his career at WSU with 15 picks and contributed on defense all four years in college.

Bucannon has the reputation of being a nasty, physical player that delivers big hits from the safety spot. He reportedly had a strong week of practice leading up the Senior Bowl in January.

The Bears are expected to draft a safety next month despite signing several players at the position in free agency.

But only Ryan Mundy appears to be in the driver’s seat to winning a start job in training camp. The rest of the veteran players under contract will be forced to win their roster spots, meaning that a rookie could theoretically step in and start Week 1 if the club feels he can be a difference-maker.

The Bears are likely to take a closer look at several of the top safeties in the draft class in the coming weeks.

Teams are allowed 30 pre-draft visits to their facilities.
Lamarr Houston's five-year, $35 million contract was a start, but the Bears had been sending out clear signals the organization intended to further address defensive end via free agency.

Twenty-eight-year-old Willie Young fit the mold of what the Bears were searching for.

While the Bears never had serious interest in former Minnesota Vikings star pass-rusher Jared Allen, Young’s three-year, $9 million signing allows general manager Phil Emery to continue his mission of getting younger on defense, while at the same time stealing a productive player from the division rival Detroit Lions.

[+] EnlargeWillie Young
AP Photo/Richard LipskiWillie Young posted 47 tackles and three sacks last season for the Detroit Lions.
Young started 15 games for the Lions last year and recorded 47 tackles and three sacks. But the 6-foot-4, 251-pound edge rusher has a reputation for being extremely disruptive when asked to pressure the opposing quarterback.

Young also has ties to Bears coach Marc Trestman from their time spent together at NC State.

To add some perspective, Julius Peppers was scheduled to earn $14 million in 2014 and eat up $18,183,333 worth of cap space. Young lands in Chicago at a fraction of the cost, and at six years younger than Peppers, figures to have a much greater impact on the Bears’ defense for the next several seasons.

Young probably isn’t a household name in the NFL, but the deal looks solid on the surface.

For all the criticism directed toward the Bears’ secondary in 2013, notably the safeties, the front four needed the most work in the offseason. Houston and Young represent a significant upgrade over what the Bears lined up last year at defensive end when the club barely managed to muster a pass rush or effectively stop the run.

The Bears simply weren’t in a position to wait and see when Corey Wootton recovered from offseason hip surgery to make their second move at defensive end in free agency. Maybe Wootton is back in the mix when healthy (June or July), but with a thin crop of defensive ends expected to be available in May’s NFL draft, the Bears knew they had to be aggressive in free agency in regards to the position.

The respective contracts of Houston and Young speaks to the dire situation the Bears found themselves in on the defensive line. In total, the Bears awarded deals totaling eight years, $44 million to defensive ends, while safeties Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings, linebackers D.J. Williams and Jordan Senn and wide receiver Domenik Hixon all received modest deals by comparison.

Instead of rolling the dice on older and somewhat more established defensive ends on the market, the Bears secured the bookends of their defensive line for the future.

In free agency, it isn’t always about reeling in the biggest names. It’s about making the moves that make the most sense for the health of the franchise.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Boldly promising the "Monsters of the Midway are back," while evoking the names and nicknames of Bears legends Walter Payton, Gayle Sayers and Dick Butkus, Lamarr Houston welcomed himself to Chicago on Wednesday in a big way.

[+] EnlargeLamarr Houston
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNew Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston will wear No. 99 which previously belonged to Shea McClellin, who will now wear No. 50.
Now Bears fans are just hoping for a big impact from the 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive end signed to a five-year, $35 million contract after spending the first four years of his pro career with the Oakland Raiders.

With the release of Julius Peppers and the Bears' last-place league standing in sacks last season, general manager Phil Emery addressed that concern quickly when talking about Houston, who had a career-high six sacks last season.

"He's a good pass-rusher," Emery said. "When I looked at him versus the players that we have on our team, his two-year combined total disruptions is higher than anybody on our team. And I know I've used that word disruption and there are a lot of variations of what that means ...

"The research from 2008 on [shows] when a pass play is performed without pressure, without a knockdown, hit or sack, the percentage of completion is about 64 percent. When there's a sack, obviously it goes to 0. But with a hit or a pressure, it goes to 38.5. So those are significant when you talk about disruptions of a passer. And he certainly has had those."

And Houston, Emery emphasized, was targeted by the Bears because of his versatility, his tackle totals (tops in the NFL for defensive ends playing in the 4-3 over the past two seasons combined) and his ability to play against the run or the pass, both standing up or with his hand on the ground.

"I think that's very important," Houston said of being an all-around end. "Sack totals are important in this league and mine haven't been the highest, but I know that I will prove to everybody that there's a reason I'm here and in the future, it will tell you how good of a player I can be with this group of men and how good of a group we can be together."

What does it say that the Bears put such faith in the 26-year-old former second-round draft choice out of Texas?

"That they believe in me," Houston said. "They believe in what I can do, they have a use for my skill set, and I think doing that is only going to help me get better and improve my game."

Also introduced to the media Wednesday, safety Ryan Mundy vowed to compete for a starting spot with a physical approach to the game.

"That's been my M.O. for as long as I can remember, since I started playing football," said Mundy, who signed a two-year deal. "I'm not a guy who's going to shy away from contact. I like to get down there, mix it up with tight ends, running backs, might even run into a few linemen here and there.

"I think that's the No. 1 attribute I bring to the game. I like to use my size and strength and combine that with my athletic ability to get guys on the ground and get some third-down stops for our defense."

The 6-1, 209-pounder started just 14 of 80 games over five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants, but appeared in all of them, and started one of four postseason games he played, finishing with four tackles and two forced fumbles.

Emery said the Bears will continue to "look at safety extensively" in free agency, the draft and post-draft.

"I feel like I'm coming in here to compete for a starting opportunity, and that's all I can ask for," Mundy said. "I don't shy away from competition. I look forward to getting started with workouts and practices and everything like that. Nothing's set in stone, and I don't take anything for granted, I'm just excited about the opportunity and I'm ready to get to work."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a two-year contract with safety Ryan Mundy, the club announced.

Mundy appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the New York Giants last season, where he recorded a career-high 70 tackles, one sack and one interception. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound safety played four years (2009-12) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting five combined games during that stretch.

Mundy was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft out of West Virginia.

With Major Wright expect to depart via free agency, Mundy should fill one of the Bears’ safety spots in 2014.

Although Chris Conte struggled last season, the Bears will allow the former third-round draft choice to compete for a starting job in the preseason.

Safeties Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters (restricted) are also free agents.
Disappointment over a potential deal that never materialized with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett on Monday didn’t prevent the Chicago Bears from making a couple of cap-saving moves, in addition to shopping Julius Peppers around the league in advance of Tuesday’s start to free agency.

The Bears whiffed -- but not for lack of trying hard -- on Plan A with Bennett, offering more money than the Seahawks, who eventually retained Bennett with somewhat of a hometown discount. But the Bears under the direction of general manager Phil Emery typically devise alternate strategies for adding the players they want in free agency. So while Plan B, C and the other options aren’t fully known at this point, it’s likely Chicago expects to make a flurry of moves in the first wave of free agency and be active all the way through the process.

That’s why the team cut running back Michael Bush -- freeing up $1.85 million in cap space -- released tight end Dante Rosario, and put out calls around the league, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, for a potential trade for Peppers, which likely won’t ever take place. With Peppers counting $18.183 million against Chicago’s cap in 2014, no team wants to take in that salary via a trade. So when a team starts shopping a player, it often results in the club eventually cutting him.

Cutting Peppers with the post-June 1 designation would result in $4.183 million worth of dead money in 2014 and $4.183 million in 2015, but given his astronomical cap figures over the next two years, that would still represent respective savings of $14 million and $16.5 million.

But at this point cutting Peppers doesn’t appear to be imminent.

What does seem to be on the way is the re-signing of middle linebacker D.J. Williams. The sides had been in discussion since last week, and negotiations were expected to continue through the weekend. As of Monday evening, the sides -- although still talking -- hadn't come to an agreement, according to a league source who expected a deal to take place late Monday night or early Tuesday.

Chicago also remains interested in re-signing other free agents such as cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive tackle Henry Melton and backup quarterback Josh McCown. Little information has emerged regarding Tillman’s situation, although he’s been linked to Tampa Bay because of his history with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The Bears have worked diligently to bring back Tillman, and it’s likely the effort will continue as the cornerback’s prospects with other teams could be limited by his age.

Melton, meanwhile, has generated interest from multiple teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, according to a league source, which would make sense given the defensive tackle’s familiarity with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. That doesn’t mean the Bears won’t be able to re-sign Melton. After all, the Cowboys are tight against their cap, and it’s unknown what kind of money another team might offer Melton, whose value could be diminished since he is coming off an ACL surgery.

As for McCown, as of right now, the Buccaneers appear to be the front-runner to land the quarterback, according to multiple sources, unless another one of the interested teams steps up with a more enticing offer, as the career backup may receive an opportunity to compete for a starting job. According to ESPNChicago’s Jeff Dickerson, McCown’s camp has been in contact with the Bucs, Bears, New York Jets and Houston Texans.

Dickerson also reported the Bears reached out to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson on Saturday, ostensibly as a secondary option to Bennett, when the negotiation window for unrestricted free agents opened around the league. Although the sides engaged in preliminary talks, as of Monday evening it was believed the Bears weren’t at the top of the list for Johnson, who is widely considered the best available defensive end remaining on the market.

The Bears are also targeting defensive end Lamarr Houston of the Raiders according to a report on the NFL Network.

It’s unknown at this point where that leaves the Bears in terms of addressing needs along the defensive line, but several potential lower-priced options exist, and the salary demands could drop depending on how the first wave of free agency goes.

Safety is another area of need the Bears hope to address in free agency. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Chicago has expressed interest in San Francisco’s Donte Whitner, who would give the Bears an intimidating presence on the back end. A source also confirmed the club’s interest in New York Giants safety Ryan Mundy, who finds Chicago an intriguing opportunity because he’d receive a chance to compete for a starting job.

The Bears ended the day Monday with nearly $10.2 million in cap space, and it’s worth noting the club spent $5.775 million during free agency for the 2013 season on three starters in Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and Martellus Bennett.

So as the initial sting of losing out on Bennett wears off, Emery said back in January the Bears will still be plenty competitive in terms of putting together a solid team once free agency opens on Tuesday.

We all just have to wait and see.
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
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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
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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. Safety 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
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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
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.

Giants Stock Watch

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
9:33
AM ET
A look at whose stock is rising and falling with the New York Giants on the eve of their final preseason game.

FALLING

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.

Manning
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.

RISING

Tuck
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
Hosley
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
8/14/13
1:10
PM ET
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.

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