EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Expectations of the New York Giants are low, and the poor performance of the first-team offense in the preseason is largely to blame.
Lost in all the panic, however, is that the Giants' defense may be among the best in the NFL, thanks in large part to the revamped secondary.
One of the additions, cornerback Walter Thurmond -- formerly of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks -- said back in April that this new group of Giants defensive backs is as good, if not better, than the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom." Well, they'll be tested right away, facing a Detroit Lions offense that ranked third in the league in passing yards per game last season (280.1), behind only the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints.
"You always want to go against the best competition out there," Thurmond said Thursday. "It really shows where we are as a defensive back group. We’re really confident in our room, in our ability and what we’re capable of doing."
Thurmond will serve as the Giants' nickelback covering the opposing team's slot receiver, and looked very good in that role for much of training camp, although he did get beat for a touchdown in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
An even bigger addition -- literally, and figuratively -- is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. At 6-foot-2, Rodgers-Cromartie is the tallest cornerback on the Giants' roster -- size that should serve him well in trying to stop the 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL.
Despite being injured last season and playing in only 14 games, Johnson still finished third in the league in receiving yards (1,492). In the past three seasons, Johnson has accumulated 5,137 receiving yards -- 1,120 more than any other receiver (via ESPN Stats & Information).
Rodgers-Cromartie is looking forward to the challenge. "From a competitive standpoint, that’s real good -- right out of the gate you get somebody that most consider the best, if not everybody," he said.
But he probably won't be the only cornerback to get a crack at Johnson on Monday night. On a conference call with New York reporters Wednesday, Johnson said he expects to line up at different spots on the field against the Giants. "I moved around pretty good the last couple years, whether it be the slot or outside," he said. "You can expect it. You’ll see me around."
The Giants could elect to move Rodgers-Cromartie wherever Johnson goes, shadowing him. But Rodgers-Cromartie indicated they'll more likely let Johnson line up and leave things as is -- giving Prince Amukamara some chances to take on "Megatron" as well.
And, Rodgers-Cromartie thinks that would play to the Giants' advantage, giving Johnson different looks. "We play two totally different ways," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "Prince is definitely a more physical, get up there and really beat you with his hands [corner]. I’m gonna play with my feet, agility work. You’re definitely gonna see both styles."
The Lions also have added a couple talented players to their already potent passing game, bringing in free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate and drafting North Carolina tight Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick.
Tate had 64 catches for 898 yards and five touchdowns with the Seahawks last season. Thurmond went up against him every day in practice, so that's an intriguing potential matchup to watch Monday night as well.
Speaking of the Seahawks, Thurmond said he planned to watch his former teammates take on the Green Bay Packers in the opening game of the regular season Thursday night. He admitted it'll be a little weird to watch the "Legion of Boom" go to work without him.
But he's even more excited to see what his new crew can do in Detroit.
"There’s gonna be a lot of opportunities, they’re gonna be throwing the ball," Thurmond said. "To be a great secondary, you have to always compete and be very attention-to-detail [oriented] and go make plays out there."
Can this Giants secondary be great? We're about to find out.