I recently gave my report card for the Giants 2011 season position-by-position. But because there was only so much space to discuss each position, I wanted to go more in-depth on each position and spin it forward to next season.
Today we look at the secondary. Tomorrow: Special teams.
It was a rough start to the season for Perry Fewell’s secondary. The defensive coordinator lost his most productive cornerback Terrell Thomas and corners Bruce Johnson and Brian Witherspoon to season-ending injuries.
First-round pick Prince Amukamara also broke his foot in his second practice of camp, costing him most of his rookie season as he missed pretty much all of camp and the first nine games.
Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, though, managed to stay healthy and combined for 10 interceptions.
But injuries weren’t the only problems the Giants secondary faced. They had miscommunication issues and mental lapses which led to serious breakdowns. The Giants allowed seven passing plays of 40 yards or longer. But the Giants managed to clean up those breakdowns just in time to save the season.
Fewell relied heavily on his three-safety package of Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant. The safeties helped the Giants deal with some of the best tight ends in the game. Rolle became the team’s nickel back covering slot receivers and he led the team in tackles. Phillips still isn’t completely back to where he was before knee surgery but he’s getting closer with four interceptions. Grant provided invaluable leadership and helped relay calls into the huddle at times.
Webster led the team with six picks and played well against some of the best receivers in the game. Ross had his moments and was solid at the end of the season when the Giants made their run.
Amukamara showed early glimpses of his potential but needs a full offseason and training camp with the coaching staff and the Giants are excited about their first-round pick.
Even though the secondary was shaky during the middle of the season with breakdowns and lapses, it came together and got the job done –- with help from the pass rush –- against explosive offenses like Green Bay, Atlanta and New England. That is why I gave the secondary a B grade because of how it finished the season.
Cornerbacks Ross, Thomas, Will Blackmon, Michael Coe and Justin Tryon are free agents. Safeties Grant and Derrick Martin are also free agents. And Johnson is a restricted free agent corner.
The Giants want Thomas, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL, back. But with cap issues, the Giants may not be able to afford keeping Ross as well. They’ll need more corners for depth purposes. Grant is popular in the locker room and provided leadership but the Giants also have Tyler Sash, who filled in at certain moments in games, waiting in the wings.
Also, Chad Jones plans to make a comeback this year. He is making a long comeback after a life-threatening car crash in the summer of 2010 mangled one of his legs. It remains to be seen what Jones can do but he has worked incredibly hard to get back.
It’s possible that the starting secondary next season could be Webster and Thomas, if re-signed and recovered, at corner with Amukamara as the third cornerback. Rolle and Phillips will be at safety and if Fewell wants to go with a third safety he can use Sash or Grant, if re-signed.
It would be nice to see the Giants draft another corner and safety for depth and preferably a speedy defensive back who can return. The Giants need to address their return issues on special teams.
What do you think the Giants should do in the secondary? Tell us below.