EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants went through the entire 2015 offseason without finding their answer at free safety. To this point, the 2016 offseason hasn't made things any clearer. They went into the draft hoping someone would emerge from a group of young players that includes Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson -- three youngsters who missed the entire 2015 season due to injuries. They came out with another young name to add to the mix.
Darian Thompson, the Giants' third-round pick out of Boise State, may seem like a long shot to start as a rookie. But (A) he has exactly as much NFL game experience as Jackson and Thompson have, and (B) they started rookie Landon Collins at safety all year in 2015, so they're not opposed to it. If Thompson can pick up the defense and show he can handle the calls, why shouldn't he have a chance to start?
"Thompson, I thought, was barking things out," Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Friday, on the first day of the team's rookie minicamp. "That's the first thing I look for in a safety. Will you be loud? Are you not afraid to make a mistake? I think that's huge, and that stuck out a little bit. We've got a long way to go, though."
They do indeed, and there's no real way to handicap how it'll play out in a competition this wide open. But Thompson made a strong impression in the limited practice work the Giants did over the weekend, and he doesn't lack confidence.
"It's very important for a safety to be able to command in the secondary, because they can see everything most of the time," Thompson said. "You can be a leader back there and a quarterback of the defense. That's something I've been doing throughout the college level, and it comes natural for me. It's something I've been doing before I got here. In college, it was my job to communicate back there and make sure everything was running smoothly. It's something I did there, and it's stayed with me."
The pre-draft scouting reports on Thompson said he struggled in coverage but had a nose for the ball. His 19 career college interceptions attest to the latter. He'll have to show a lot throughout training camp to win the job, but if he can be the leader Spagnuolo seeks on the back end, that gives him a chance at the outset.