Health of starting cornerbacks is paramount for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played every game of the 2014 New York Giants' season. He's proud of that. Given the rate at which Giants players got injured last year, he should be.

But Rodgers-Cromartie was not truly healthy for really any part of last season, and nagging leg and back injuries kept him from performing at a level commensurate with his five-year, $39 million contract.

"I know that's not me," Rodgers-Cromartie said earlier this week at a Giants OTA (organized team activities) practice.

He had two interceptions and was credited with 12 passes defensed, both full-season career lows. He was in and out of the lineup on game days as the team tried to get what it could out of him while also respecting how bad he felt.

This year, so far, he says he feels better and is eager to show his teammates and Giants fans what he can do. After one full year in the system, and with new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo working to energize the defense, Rodgers-Cromartie believes things will be better.

"It took a whole year just to go to battle with these guys," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "You've got to understand the Giant way of doing things, so it definitely feels better going into this season."

One of the big differences, however, is the Giants' lack of reliable depth at the position relative to last season. A year ago, they had Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara locked in as starters, Walter Thurmond signed to play the nickel corner role, veteran Zack Bowman on hand to fill in as needed and guys like Trumaine McBride and Jayron Hosley a little bit further down the bench.

Thurmond, McBride and Amukamara suffered season-ending injuries, sapping the depth. And while Amukamara is back and ready to go, Thurmond is in Philadelphia, Bowman is in Miami and all of a sudden McBride and Hosley are moving a bit further up that depth chart than feels super comfortable. Guys like Mike Harris, Chykie Brown, Chandler Fenner and Josh Gordy form the corps of backup corners.

The Giants like McBride as the nickel corner, but he's had his own health issues and isn't as accomplished or experienced with it as Thurmond was. Spagnuolo has mentioned Harris and Gordy as potential candidates for that role as well, and Brown and Fenner would have to fill in on the outside if one of the starters got hurt.

It's a bit of a different approach than the Giants took last year, when they threw free-agent money at the position in an effort to bulk up their numbers there. This year, the only proven quantities are the starters. And if one or two of them get hurt, the Giants get to the question marks a lot more quickly at this vital position.