Fewell's state of the defense address

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Perry Fewell met with reporters at the end of the Giants’ minicamp and he touched on a number of important topics concerning his defense.

Fewell said his middle linebacker candidates competed in the offseason but the winner will emerge in training camp. Jonathan Goff, rookie Phillip Dillard, Gerris Wilkinson and Chase Blackburn are competing to replace Antonio Pierce. Fewell said he even tried outside linebacker Clint Sintim in the middle as he continues to see what all his players are capable of doing.

“I thought some guys stepped up,” Fewell said. “Jonathan Goff, I thought, had a very good OTA and minicamp. Phillip Dillard had a good OTA and minicamp. Gerris Wilkinson, all of those guys competed. I know I’m leaving some names out. I don’t mean to. I’m not calling in a pecking order or what have you. Guys competed and showed us that they can play the game. Now the real deal comes when you put the pads on. When the bullets fly, who is going to step up and take charge and be our leader?”

Fewell said he has tried several guys at middle linebacker and that he “was not disappointed in what I saw on the field.”

He sees his rookie, Dillard, improving after rookie minicamp.

“The game is not too big for Phillip from what I could see,” Fewell said.

The enthusiastic Fewell said he has installed at least “75-percent” of his defense and that he has tried to create an aggressive mindset.

He praised his safeties, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, for communicating and creating chemistry. Fewell also expects Kenny Phillips, who has sat out the offseason as he continues to recover from knee surgery, to enter the fray once camp begins.

“I think Kenny Phillips will be ready on August 1,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having him on August 1.”

Fewell has been impressed with outside linebacker Michael Boley’s coverage ability and Sintim’s progress.

And as for his battle at defensive end between Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, Fewell agreed with Umenyiora that the best player will start. He is trying to figure out ways to get them on the field -– the Giants used four defensive ends in some packages during minicamp.

But when asked that somebody will not be in the starting lineup, Fewell replied, “It is not how you start, it is how you finish.”