NFL Nation: Stevie Brown

By using the franchise player designation on Jason Pierre-Paul on Monday, the New York Giants made sure their top free agent would be back in blue in 2015. But of the 18 other Giants players who are eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason, only wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has so far re-signed with the team. Here's a look at what we know about where things stand with some of the biggest remaining names on the Giants' free-agent list:

Rolle
 S Antrel Rolle: This is an age-old story. Rolle wants to be back. The Giants want him back. But so far, they've been unable to agree on price, and Rolle looks likely to hit the market at 4 pm ET next Tuesday. He's a 32-year-old safety, and there generally isn't much of a market for those. But Rolle is selling himself as an unusual case -- a player who hasn't missed a game in five years and spent his time with the Giants winning a Super Bowl and emerging as a locker room leader. There are already rumblings that the Dolphins, who were a close runner-up to the Giants for Rolle's services five years ago, could be interested in bringing him home to Miami.

CB Walter Thurmond: The Giants signed him to a one-year contract last offseason and didn't even get two whole games out of him before a Week 2 injury ended his season. They have spoken with Thurmond about a return, but so far talks have gone nowhere, and he is expected to hit the market and sign elsewhere.

Patterson
Patterson
 DT Mike Patterson: He'll be 32 when the season starts, and the Giants aren't likely to have much a role for him as anything other than a rotational defensive tackle. But if he'll come back for something like what he made in 2014 ($855,000), Patterson is a guy the Giants like enough to bring back. They have had conversations this offseason about bringing back Patterson, and a deal could get done before free agency opens next week.

S Stevie Brown: Those eight interceptions from 2012 still resonate, but in truth there's been little evidence since to indicate whether Brown really is a starting NFL safety. He missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury, struggled and got benched at the start of 2014, then returned to the lineup and played just okay down the stretch. In a thin safety market, we have heard some talk that other teams could be interested in taking a look at Brown. And assuming he and his agent have heard the same, I'd expect them to check that out next week. The Giants could be in for a major overhaul at safety.

LB Jacquian Williams: The concussion issues that ended Williams' season likely will scare off outside suitors, and the Giants are in the best position to evaluate where things stand on that front. Assuming Williams is recovered, the Giants like the idea of a starting linebacker corps of Williams, Devon Kennard and either Jon Beason or Jameel McClain.

LB Mark Herzlich: He feels like a Giant-for-life kind of guy to me, and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't re-signed already.
At the present time, the only safeties under contract with the New York Giants for 2015 are Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe, their 2013 and 2014 fifth-round picks. The three safeties who started games for the Giants last season -- Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps -- are all scheduled to be free agents when the new league year begins two weeks from today.

Those facts, along with the state of the safety market in the 2015 offseason, indicate to me that Taylor or Berhe -- and possibly both -- will get a shot to start at safety for the Giants this coming season.

Rolle
Start with the list of the Giants' own free-agent safeties. It's possible that any or all of them could be back, sure. But the information I'm getting on Rolle indicates a disconnect between player and team on his value -- a disconnect similar to the one the Giants had with Justin Tuck a year ago -- that could mean the end of Rolle's time in New York. That would open up one starting spot, and even if Brown and/or Demps came back, neither played at a level in 2014 that indicates he'd be impossible to beat out for a spot.

Answers aren't likely to come via the draft, either. Alabama's Landon Collins is the top safety available this year, and the consensus at the combine seemed to be that No. 9 was too early to take him. After Collins, the safety pool drops off into mid-round options who aren't likely to be any more NFL-ready in 2015 than Taylor and Berhe would be.

There are a couple of possible free-agent safety options, though the best one, Devin McCourty, isn't likely to leave New England and hit the market. So that leaves the Giants to decide how they feel about guys like Denver's Rahim Moore or Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy. It's possible they could find Rolle's replacement in free agency, but even if they did, that would still leave open one starting spot for one of the young fifth-rounders.

"They’re going to get a chance to compete," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Saturday. "Cooper obviously has to stay healthy, but I think those guys are going to get a chance to compete for that position."

Taylor still has work to do to recover from the foot surgery that cost him the entire 2014 season. But he's making good progress and expects to be ready in time for camp. The Giants believe Taylor's uncommon size (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) makes him a high-ceiling prospect at safety if he ever gets the chance to play it regularly. Berhe (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) doesn't have the same kind of size, but the Giants like his instincts and aggressiveness and believe he could take a leap forward this season.

In the past, the Giants have shown a willingness to commit big resources (Rolle's contract, a first-round pick) on the safety position, so it's easy to imagine them doing that again. But it's tough to believe they're going to go out and bring in two new high-end, experienced starters, which means opportunity this summer for one or both of the young guys.
A closer look at the areas the New York Giants could address in the draft. We'll continue today with a look at the safeties, who are scheduled to work out Monday in Indianapolis.

Collins
Position of need: Safety. It remains possible that any or all of Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, or Quintin Demps could be back next season. But all three are free-agent eligible, and the only two safeties the Giants have right now are fifth-round picks Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor. They need bodies at the position, and they need to be thinking about who is going to take care of the position for them into the future. The five-year contract Rolle just completed, along with the fact that they used a first-round pick on Kenny Phillips in 2008, shows the Giants aren't afraid to use high-end resources to fill at least one of their safety spots.

Three players the Giants could target in the draft:

Landon Collins, S, Alabama: The only safety Mel Kiper Jr. currently projects as a first-round pick, Collins is the kind of interchangeable player who can cover up high and also move down into the box to help against the run. His high-level college experience makes him a candidate to start and contribute immediately, and he's a possibility for the Giants with the No. 9 pick overall.

Derron Smith, S, Fresno State: If they wait until the second or third round (and if they bring back Rolle), Smith could be an interesting option as a long-range solution. He has great speed and has been a team captain at Fresno State (remember last year, when they drafted all those team captains?). His height (under 5-foot-10) is a concern.

Cody Prewitt, S, Mississippi: Size isn't an issue for this guy at 6-2, 217, and his experience as a four-year starter in the SEC will appeal to teams looking for a potential immediate helper in the second or third round.
Without a doubt, the No. 1 question I get this time of year is, "Any idea which free agents the Giants will go after?" The answer, at this point, is no. I do not have access to the New York Giants' free-agent wish lists, nor am I convinced they're 100 percent assembled. I hope to come home from the scouting combine in a couple of weeks with a better idea, but as of now all I can give you is speculation.

But everyone loves names, so speculation has some value during this slow time. With only Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe on the roster at safety, the Giants will undoubtedly be looking for help at that position when the new league year opens March 10. Here's a PARTIAL list of some of the safeties who could be available in free agency.

McCourty
The Top of the Market: Devin McCourty, Patriots.

I think the Giants would make a big play for McCourty, who turns 28 in August, if he hit the market. I just don't think he will. The Patriots want him back, he wants to stay, and if they don't get a long-term deal done before free agency opens, it'll only cost them about $10 million to franchise him. They'd have no issue paying one of their best defensive players that much money in 2015 if it came to that. McCourty is likely a pipe dream for the Giants.

The Next Best Things: Da'Norris Searcy, Bills; Rahim Moore, Broncos; Sergio Brown, Colts; Jeromy Miles, Ravens.

Searcy was the Jairus Byrd replacement in Buffalo, played well in his first season as a starter and doesn't turn 27 until November. Moore is even younger -- turns 25 on Wednesday -- and another year removed from a very serious leg injury. Brown is a career special teamer who started eight games for Indianapolis in 2014 and turns 27 in May. Miles turns 28 in July and played for new Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo last season when Spagnuolo was the Ravens' defensive backs coach.

Older Vets: Mike Adams, Colts; Dawan Landry, Jets.

Adams would be a fun story as a Paterson native coming home, but he turns 34 in March and therefore doesn't fit the profile of a Giants free-agent target. Landry is a 32-year-old veteran, but the Giants have one of those they can bring back if they're looking for that (see below).

Rolle
Their Own Guys: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps

Rolle is a team captain who just finished a five-year deal in which he didn't miss a game. They'd welcome him back, but at their price, since he's 32 years old and they're looking to rebuild with younger guys on defense. Brown got benched early in the season but recovered well and doesn't turn 28 until July. They'd bring him back if he's cheap, and hope another year away from ACL surgery would do the trick. Demps was signed to return kickoffs, ended up starting some in Brown's place but didn't seem to give the Giants what they wanted. He'd come back if they'd have him, but my guess is they move on.

Restricted Free Agents: Will Hill, Ravens; Tashaun Gipson, Browns; Rodney McLeod, Rams; Jaiquawn Jarrett, Jets.

Other than Hill (been there, done that), these are all guys who could conceivably pique the Giants' interest if they hit the market. But as restricted free agents, they're unlikely to do so.
Injuries could force the New York Giants' defense to look a little bit different in the weeks that follow this week's bye. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins strained his right calf in Sunday's loss in Dallas. Middle linebacker Jon Beason might need surgery to repair the toe injury that's been limiting him since June. And injuries at cornerback could lead the Giants to bring back the three-safety look they used on their way to their most recent Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

"The game plan last week was to have Stevie Brown in the game with the three-safety package versus certain personnel groupings," safeties coach Dave Merritt said Tuesday. "That worked out for us, because Stevie went in and did his job and did what we asked him to do. The fact that we used to play the three-safety package a ton back in the day was because of the fact that we had three veterans who were able to play. I'm talking about Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Right now, we feel like we've tested the waters and we have the same right now in our camp here."

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigStevie Brown could see more playing time as the Giants adapt to injuries in their secondary.
The plan coming into this year was to play three cornerbacks most of the time. The team signed Walter Thurmond to play the nickel spot, but he suffered a season-ending injury in September, and Trumaine McBride, who took over, suffered his own season-ending injury in Week 6. So they are down to their third-string nickel cornerback, Jayron Hosley, and they don't seem comfortable leaning on him to the extent that they leaned on Thurmond or McBride.

Brown entered the season as a starting safety, but he lost his job in Week 4 after a poor start to the season and was replaced by Quintin Demps. Coaches have been pleased with the work Brown has put in since the demotion, and they believe there are situations in which it's better to have him, Demps and Rolle on the field at the same time than it is to have three cornerbacks. This arrangement could force Rolle into the nickel spot, a position he has said in the past he's willing to play but prefers not to, but Merritt said they are comfortable with Brown in there as well.

On the defensive line, Jenkins' absence for at least a few weeks leaves the Giants thin at defensive tackle. But they have had success playing defensive ends Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka at interior positions in pass-rush situations this season, and they might decide to do that more going forward to augment the defensive tackle rotation. Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley likely will be elevated to the active roster in Jenkins' absence, but there's also a chance second-year defensive end Damontre Moore could get more looks on the outside when Ayers and/or Kiwanuka move inside.

"Damontre needs to continue to improve and stay focused on what we're doing on first and second down," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He can do it. He's a lighter body, not ideal, but he can play it. He has to stay focused and continue to improve in that area, and he will get more at-bats. He's going to get more opportunities on third down, so he just has to keep coming along and improve on first and second down. If he does that, then he's going to get those opportunities in pass-rush situations."

Moore has shown exciting ability in pass-rush situations and on special teams. But he has yet to earn the complete trust of the coaching staff as a player who can stop the run (and avoid jumping offsides).

No trust issues at linebacker, though. When Beason missed time early in the season, Jameel McClain filled in for him in the middle. At the time, rookie Devon Kennard was hurt, so Mark Herzlich replaced McClain on the strong side. This time, if Beason is out a while, Kennard could be the one who sees more playing time.

"Now that he's healthy, he's contributing on special teams, and last week was able to go in the game and do some good things," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said of Kennard. "It was good to see him get out and get some game experience, because that is invaluable for a young linebacker. The other guys love him. He's got a great personality, and he wants to be great. I think we'll see some really good things out of him."

It appears Stevie Brown was benched

September, 22, 2014
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New York Giants safety Stevie Brown took a too-shallow route and got burned on the 44-yard Damaris Johnson touchdown catch that cut the Giants' lead over Houston to 17-10 in the third quarter of Sunday's game. Brown did not play again after that, replaced by fifth-round rookie Nat Berhe.

Brown
"We made a position change there, and that's all I'm going to say about that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said on a conference call Monday. "He was not hurt, no."

So that makes it pretty clear Brown was benched for performance reasons rather than injury reasons, and it leads one to wonder whether Berhe might have a chance to get the start or at least a few more snaps in Thursday night's game in Washington.

Brown missed the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in training camp last year, and Coughlin made a comment last week about Brown not being all the way back to the player he was when he had eight interceptions in 2012. So there has been some level of dissatisfaction with Brown's performance so far by the coaching staff.

It might be that they have determined he's not able, because of his physical condition, to play a whole game and be as productive as they'd like him to be, and in that case they might have to work out some kind of timeshare with Brown and Berhe and maybe Quintin Demps in the mix. Or it might be that they're upset with Brown for not playing as well as they need him to play and they sat him down Sunday to send a message after a particularly bad error. We'll explore this further Tuesday when we get to go into the locker room for interviews, I promise. Definitely something to keep an eye on this week.

Giants' secondary a mess so far

September, 16, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Aggressive enough to be called for way too many penalties; not aggressive enough to force any turnovers.

This, through two weeks, is the New York Giants' secondary. A unit that was supposed to be the strength of this team has instead been one of the main culprits for their 0-2 start.

Rolle
 You can't have both of these problems. If you're committing seven penalties on point-of-emphasis, downfield contact plays, five of which hand first downs to the opponent, then that aggressiveness needs to be paying off in the form of takeaways. The Giants are one of three teams in the league -- along with the Chiefs and Steelers -- who have yet to take the ball away from their opponent through the first two weeks of the season.

"The no takeaways is an issue now," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "This is something that every team counts on in the NFL -- getting an extra field position, bona fide field position from some type of takeaway, whether it be special teams or defense. And we have not had that."

Coughlin lamented a couple of plays from Sunday's game that he believed safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could have turned into interceptions, and he seemed to believe the issues were of technique and/or decision-making.

"You've got to be in the right position. Your eyes have got to be in the right spot. You've got to have a good feel for it," Coughlin said. I thought on a couple of occasions, the quarterback was actually staring the ball down where he was goingm and we still weren't influenced enough to go in that direction and be in position to make a play. We do have athletes. They are good athletes. A couple of years ago, we referred to Stevie Brown as kind of a ballhawking guy in center field when he had that opportunity. He's just not there yet. He's not back yet to where he was a couple of years ago, and let's hope he gets there."

In the meantime, the Giants' defensive backs need to keep their hands to themselves. They weren't called for many of those preseason-type downfield contact penalties in the opening-week loss in Detroit, but they had way too many of them on Sunday. And while fans and even some players and coaches may want to sit around and argue about the validity of the calls being made against defensive backs, they are being made, and defensive players have to adjust better than the Giants have done.

"We need to be smarter," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't hold a guy. Illegal contact, things like that are going to take place throughout the course of the game. But there are certain things we saw on film. When you're jamming a guy, and you're holding and you're looking at the quarterback, they're going to call that 100 percent of the time. So we have to be smarter."

It would be one thing if the over-aggressive play were leading to interceptions, but they don't have one yet. And while it's still early, this is a unit that needs to be setting the tone for the rest of the team. It's not going to get any easier with nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond out for the year due to a pectoral muscle injury, but the players who remain are good enough to cut down on the penalties and make some plays. At this point, though, the Giants would take just one of those things.

"Obviously, we're not as good at it as we should be," Coughlin said. "So we've got to sharpen it up."
There's no shortage of poor personnel decisions that led the New York Giants to last year's 7-9 record and their subsequent roster rebuild, but signing safety Antrel Rolle to a five-year, $37 million contract in 2010 was among the better moves in recent franchise history.

We've ranked NFL players -- a top 100 on offense and another on defense -- and we're rolling out the results 20 at a time (10 on offense, 10 on defense) per day. Today brings us players No. 81-90 on either side of the ball, and Rolle checking in at No. 83 on defense offers a chance to reflect on just what he's turned out to be for the Giants.

Rolle is the No. 13-ranked safety and the No. 25-ranked defensive back on this list, but quibbling about whether he should be ranked ahead of Donte Whitner on the former list or Johnathan Joseph on the latter doesn't interest me too much. Rolle's value to the Giants has been diverse and significant, and it rises beyond stats and on-field performance.

Rolle arrived in New York at the age of 27 and chafed under coach Tom Coughlin's rigid, old-school structure. But he grew quickly, and he and Coughlin proved wise enough to realize they could be of great benefit to each other. Over the past three seasons Rolle has developed as a team leader, captain and spokesman, and he handles the role gracefully and naturally. Sure, he says crazy things on the radio sometimes. But these days they're almost always about how great he thinks his team is, and that's a perfectly acceptable method for a leader to try to keep his teammates in a productive frame of mind.

On the field, Rolle has played opposite three different starting safeties the past three years, and all three have flourished. He teamed with Kenny Phillips (who predated and helped mentor him as a Giant) in the Super Bowl season of 2011. Stevie Brown replaced an injured Phillips in 2012 and collected eight interceptions, roaming the post safety position while Rolle played up in the box because he knew how and Brown hadn't learned it yet. Will Hill replaced an injured Brown in 2013 and became one of the best playmaking safeties in the league by season's end before smoking himself out of a job this spring.

Rolle has been a constant in a Giants secondary that's seen its share of ups and downs over the past four years. And last year, largely freed from the nickel corner responsibilities he willingly assumed so often early in his Giants career, he flourished as a playmaker in his own right and earned a Pro Bowl trip to Hawaii. His coaches say he's just coming into his own as a safety, at age 31, because this is the first time since he signed with the Giants that he's been able to focus on the position exclusively. They believe he'll get the best out of his former Cardinals teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, one of their big free-agent cornerback signings, and Rolle has a track record that backs up that belief.

One of the best 100 defensive players in the NFL? Nobody in the Giants' building would disagree. Rolle's as solid an acquisition as any they've made over the past 10 years.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There was a day Stevie Brown remembers, back in January and February, when he was catching passes from New York Giants assistant trainer Leigh Weiss in the indoor facility here. Weiss threw one high, and Brown went up to catch it and came down hard on his left leg, which is the leg in which he'd had surgery last fall to repair a torn ACL in his knee. Brown landed hard and kept running as though nothing had happened, and when he looked up, Weiss was smiling.

"So," Weiss said. "I guess you're not worried about it anymore."

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigStevie Brown appears to be back to full strength after an ACL injury cost him the 2013 season.
That's the moment to which Brown points when asked when he stopped worrying about his knee and knew he could once again be the player he used to be. The Giants' safety collected eight interceptions in a breakout 2012 season and was poised to begin 2013 as a full-time starter when he tore up his knee in a preseason game. After that, he said, he had to re-learn everything.

"You're forced to take a step back, and you have to rebuild your game as you're getting healthier," Brown said before Giants practice Thursday. "There are some things that I excelled at in the past that took a while to get back before I could just break-and-cut, break-and-cut. I had to start off with the little things -- coming downhill, addressing myself like I was going to be in the run game, just basic football patterns rather than going out right away and getting in deep thirds and breaking off. I had to start by making sure I could come to balance, breaking down in the tackling game, shifting one way, shifting the other way, things like that.

"Just a big, gradual process to get back to where I am now."

Where he is now is on the practice field, doing everything he would normally be doing to get ready for a football season if he'd never injured his knee in the first place. Brown said there's extra work that goes on off the field -- he has to do extra leg workouts to make sure to keep the muscles around his left knee strong. But once he's on the field, he said he believes he's able to do everything he used to be able to do.

"He worked really hard," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He was here every day in the summer and throughout the entire offseason. So he's worked hard to get himself back on the field, and the work has obviously paid off. But the process of making him stronger, getting him to the games is still going to be important."

With Will Hill suspended and released, the Giants are a bit thin at safety. Brown and Antrel Rolle project as the starters, with Quintin Demps behind them and a pair of fifth-round picks from the past two seasons -- Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe -- behind him. If Brown weren't able to play at full strength, the Giants would suddenly have a big problem at the position. Fortunately for them, at this point, he feels as good as ever.

"I'm able to do everything right now," Brown said. "No limitations to anything. I take all the reps that they want me to take and just go out there and do everything I need to do."
Will Hill's former New York Giants teammates aren't thrilled that the team waived Hill on Monday. While everyone no doubt understands why the organization finally decided to act after Hill's third drug suspension in as many years, Giants players will miss what the talented safety meant to their defense in 2013. Cornerback Prince Amukamara told Newsday's Tom Rock that he doesn't want the move to come back to haunt the Giants:
“I realized how many times he saved our butts and how many times he came up big,” Amukamara said of Hill, the former Giants safety who was waived on Monday after being handed a third drug-related suspension in three seasons by the NFL. “It’s going to be a tough loss. Hopefully if he goes to a team, it’s not someone in the NFC East. He’s a guy you don’t want to face.”

It's
[+] EnlargeWill Hill
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesThe Giants waived Will Hill after he got his third drug suspension in the past three years.
no certainty that another team gives Hill a chance. He wasn't drafted, and the Giants were the only team that made him an offer as an undrafted free agent. Anyone who signs him would do so knowing he can't play the first six games of this year and that his next suspension is likely to be for a year or longer. So Amukamara's fears about Hill coming back down the road to beat the Giants are far-fetched at this point.

However, the sentiment behind Amukamara's point is that Hill was a star-caliber player in the secondary for the Giants last season and that he will be difficult to replace. Stevie Brown is the obvious replacement, but he's coming off ACL surgery and will have to be monitored closely in camp. Quintin Demps started a few games at safety for the Chiefs last year and will get more looks there now, but he was signed mainly for his abilities in the return game. It's unlikely that Cooper Taylor or Nat Berhe would be ready for a major role, and no, since many of you have asked, I do not see them (or anyone else, for that matter) pursuing Ed Reed.

Hill's departure likely means that the big three-safety look defensive coordinator Perry Fewell used to like to use is not much of an option this year. That may not matter much, since they're deep enough at cornerback to leave Walter Thurmond in the slot and since they have a bona fide three-down linebacker in Jon Beason, but it does reduce their options. And if Brown has any setbacks or problems with his knee, they're suddenly quite thin at safety.

We talked Monday about the $5 million in new cap room the Giants picked up this week once the post-June 1 release of David Baas became official, and it's possible they could use some of that to bring in a safety for depth now. But there isn't much left on the market at this point. And the premise behind Amukamara's quote is that replacing Hill isn't as simple as throwing another body in there. He wasn't just a starting safety for the Giants in 2013. He was, quite often, the best and most important player on their defense. Cutting him could not have been easy, however obvious the decision may have been from the outside. Replacing him will be even tougher.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Offensive lineman John Jerry, who was implicated in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal last season and signed with the New York Giants this offseason to provide insurance at guard, recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss OTAs and minicamp. Giants coach Tom Coughlin revealed this information following the Giants' practice Thursday.

It doesn't sound as though the injury should keep Jerry out of training camp, which starts in mid-July. But all of the Giants' offensive players are learning a new system under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the lack of practice time could hurt Jerry's ability to pick up what he needs to pick up.

There also remains a possibility that Jerry could face a league-imposed suspension for part of the 2014 season as a result of his involvement in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco, though the Giants do not seem to believe he will. They signed him in case veteran offensive lineman Chris Snee couldn't make it back from his second hip surgery and because they felt they needed more experience in the backup offensive line positions than they had last year.

Some other news and observations from Thursday's OTA workout:
  • Snee was out there practicing in full at right guard with the first-team offensive line. He said a few weeks ago that he feels great and hasn't been limited in any way.
  • Left tackle Will Beatty, who broke his leg in Week 17 of the 2013 season, and wide receiver Mario Manningham, who's had all kinds of knee problems, were working off to the side during practice. Coughlin said they were both on track to be ready by fall, which I took to mean training camp but I guess could technically mean the regular season. Charles Brown took Beatty's place at left tackle with the first-team line Thursday. J.D. Walton worked as the first-team center, with Geoff Schwartz at left guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle.
  • A variety of backup wide receivers got first-team reps with Manningham out and first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missing the day to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event. Fourth-round pick Andre Williams also attended that event and was therefore absent Thursday.
  • Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown both practiced in full, Brown with the first-team defense and Hill with the second. Brown is recovering from ACL surgery that cost him the entire 2013 season, while Hill is appealing what would be his third drug suspension in as many years. Coughlin said that waiting for a resolution on Hill's status is difficult and would continue to be, but that the team has no idea when they can expect one.
  • Running back David Wilson was held out of any drills that may have resulted in contact, as he has yet to be cleared for contact following last season's neck surgery. Wilson said his next doctor's appointment is Wednesday. He says he feels no pain (and never did) and hopes to be cleared soon to practice with his team.
  • Oh, and quarterback Eli Manning, seven weeks removed from ankle surgery, practiced in full for the second day in a row.

New York Giants draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
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NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A wrap-up of the New York Giants' draft. Click here for a full list of Giants draftees.

[+] EnlargeWeston Richburg
AP Photo/G.M. AndrewsWeston Richburg, a center out of Colorado State, should be in a good position to compete for the Giants' starting job this season.
Best move: The Giants addressed an immediate and long-term need with the selection of Colorado State center Weston Richburg with the 11th pick of the second round. Richburg played multiple positions and in a variety of different offensive schemes in college, and his versatility, athleticism and intelligence make him a strong fit for the center spot in the Giants' new Ben McAdoo offense. I don't see any reason he can't beat out J.D. Walton for the job right away, and having a center who can handle a variety of responsibilities before the snap and after it should help the offensive line play on either side of him. Richburg's play can also offer the Giants a number of ways to jump-start a running game that never got going in 2013.

Riskiest move: The selection of LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th pick of the draft isn't "risky" in the traditional sense -- meaning, I don't think he's a threat to be a bust. I think Beckham is likely to be a very good player for the Giants. But passing on offensive lineman Zack Martin for a potential game-breaking receiver was a risky move. The Giants have let the offensive line decay too much in recent years, and Beckham's ability to separate from defenders isn't going to help them much if the line can't get the play blocked and Eli Manning doesn't have time to get him the ball. The Richburg selection mitigates things somewhat, but adding a first-round talent to the offensive line mix was the best move the Giants could have made in this draft, and they chose not to make it. There's a decent chance that will come back to bite them.

Most surprising move: It was surprising that Boston College running back Andre Williams was still available for the Giants in the fourth round, but it's not surprising they took him. He'll fill a role right away as a power back who can fight for tough yards in the middle of the line -- doing the dirty work while Rashad Jennings and maybe David Wilson get the highlight-reel work. The biggest surprise was the selection of Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley in the third round, with the No. 74 pick. This was a clear reach for a player who mainly had fifth- and sixth-round grades. And, although the Giants cited his 10 sacks from an interior line position in his senior season and the fact he was a team captain as support for the pick, even Bromley said he was shocked to be picked on the draft's second day.

File it away: San Diego State safety Nat Berhe was the Giants' pick in the fifth round, at No. 152. It's the second year in a row they took a safety with the No. 152 pick (Cooper Taylor in 2013). Berhe was also a reach but also a team captain/leader type, like almost everyone they picked. Scouting director Marc Ross said the Giants can envision Berhe as a hybrid safety in what Ross called a "Deon Grant role" in the defense. He wasn't necessarily talking about this year, but if Berhe develops, he could have a path to playing time. Taylor is the only Giants safety under contract beyond 2014 at this point. Antrel Rolle is in his final year; Stevie Brown is coming off ACL surgery; and Will Hill is facing a third drug suspension in as many years.
So New York Giants safety Will Hill could be suspended for the season as a result of his latest failed drug test. Or not. He could win his appeal and not be suspended at all. There's no way to know what's going to happen with Hill. That is his defining characteristic. It's why his very promising NFL career is unlikely to ever really happen.

The Giants love Hill's talent. He was the best player in their secondary for much of the 2013 season, and they were looking ahead to this fall with him penciled in as one of their starting safeties. But they also signed Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps, both of whom have starting experience, because the one thing they know for sure about Hill is that they can't count on him.

Four-game drug suspensions in 2012 and 2013 leave Hill teetering on the edge of the league's drug program, with the NFL likely to suspend him a full year for his next violation. That's a tough line for a team to walk with a player it likes but can't trust. Ideally, you'd like to make your plans around him, but you have to operate with the knowledge that you can't. Ideally, you want to support him as he deals with the difficult parts of his off-field life, but you can't follow him around every day of the year.

So Hill has failed another test, and even if his best-case scenario were to come true and he were to be exonerated and win his appeal, you have to think the Giants aren't going to put up with him much longer. Having to wonder every day whether you're going to get the call that tells you one of your starting safeties is suspended is a tough way to operate, especially when you're doing as much roster reassembly as the Giants are doing this offseason. If Brown is fully recovered from ACL surgery, they can go forward with him as the starter opposite Antrel Rolle, and address the position in the draft or next offseason for depth and for years beyond this one.

Hill is a very nice player, but there are good reasons he didn't get drafted. The Giants have always known he was a volatile commodity -- that they'd benefit greatly if he could stay out of trouble but that odds were he wouldn't. At this point, it's hard to say whether this latest bit of news is the one that pushes them to cut ties with Hill, but even if it's not, it's hard to shake the sense that the day is coming. And if it is, it would be tough to blame them.
So many things went wrong for the New York Giants in 2013 that some are easy to ignore. The offense bore the brunt of the blame for the 0-6 start and 7-9 season, and justifiably so. But the 2013 Giants were bad at many things, and the returning of kicks and punts was a significant problem that had to be addressed.

Demps
Enter Quintin Demps, who spent a good chunk of his early Sunday morning informing his Twitter followers that he'd agreed on a new contract with the Giants. Demps was a reserve safety and kickoff return man for the Chiefs in 2013. His kick-return average of 30.1 yards was third in the NFL behind Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson and Dallas' Dwayne Harris, and he did run one back for a touchdown -- the second of his career.

As a team, the 2013 Giants ranked 27th in the NFL with a kick-return average of 21.2. Obviously, more goes into it than the skills of the return man himself -- i.e., they need to block better in the return game. But Demps has blazing speed on returns and should definitely provide a boost to a unit that was a significant problem last year.

He's never returned a punt at the NFL level, so the identity of the punt returner remains in question. Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who also agreed to a Giants contract Sunday morning, was a punt returner in college but has only one punt-return attempt as a pro (and fumbled it). So that's to be sorted out yet. But they'd been looking for a high-octane return man, and after losing out on Jacoby Jones and Ted Ginn Jr. last week, they have locked up Demps for that role.

2012 first-round pick David Wilson was a tremendous kick returner for the Giants as a rookie. But Wilson is coming off of neck surgery, which means the Giants don't know whether they can count on him to play at all and likely will want to limit his exposure to danger if he does.

It's also worth noting Demps' potential value to the Giants at safety. He started six games there for the Chiefs last year, and with Stevie Brown returning from ACL surgery and Will Hill always a wild-card due to his off-field issues, depth at safety is something the Giants could use.
If the New Orleans Saints don’t re-sign safety Malcolm Jenkins, they will almost certainly need to add depth in free agency. Maybe in the draft as well.

The Saints already released veteran safety Roman Harper last month. Now they have only one safety left on their current roster: second-year pro Kenny Vaccaro. The good news is that Vaccaro looks poised to be one of their top playmakers for years to come after an outstanding rookie season. The Saints also like the potential of part-time starter Rafael Bush, whom they hope to bring back as a restricted free agent and might promote to a greater role.

The Saints need more depth, though, especially if they plan to continue the three-safety rotation that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan favored so much last season.

I doubt they will be in the market for the biggest names in free agency (the Buffalo Bills' Jairus Byrd and the Cleveland BrownsT.J. Ward). Hard-hitting San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner might also be too costly.

But there are still a handful of intriguing options in the next tier or two -- a tier that includes Jenkins, whom the Saints could still consider bringing back if the price is right.

The Saints have already brought in free-agent safety Louis Delmas for a visit after he was released last month by the Detroit Lions. But they don’t appear likely to sign Delmas, according to a league source.

Others in that same range include the Indianapolis Colts' Antoine Bethea, the Miami Dolphins' Chris Clemons and the Carolina Panthers' Mike Mitchell.

Bethea was the best of that bunch in his prime, earning two Pro Bowl invites. He turns 30 before the season starts, but he has remained productive. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007 and has six straight seasons with at least 95 tackles.

ESPN NFL Insiders Matt Williamson and Adam Caplan both suggested Clemons, 28, as a possible fit for the Saints. He is a physical safety who is also decent in coverage.

“I really like Chris Clemons from Miami,” Williamson said. “He’s more of a free safety type, fits that mold of what I think they’d be after. Still young.”

The next tier includes younger veterans with promise, such as the New York Giants’ Stevie Brown, the Chicago Bears’ Major Wright and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nate Allen. Brown and Wright played great in 2012, but Brown missed last season with a knee injury and Wright struggled along with the rest of Chicago’s defense.

James Ihedigbo is a 30-year-old strong safety who had his first 100-tackle season with the Baltimore Ravens last year after spending most of his career as a special-teams asset.

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