EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A one-word answer from coach Ben McAdoo was all that was necessary to explain where the New York Giants stood at safety this summer.
It was an emphatic answer to a simple question that McAdoo could’ve easily danced around. He could’ve preached competition or sidestepped the topic completely rather than provide an all-out vote of confidence for the third-round pick out of Boise State who has taken all of the first-team reps this summer.
Just last week, McAdoo said that offensive lineman Bobby Hart had an opportunity to start at right tackle. Hart has played almost exclusively with the second team. Marshall Newhouse had been the first-team right tackle during almost every drill this summer.
At safety, there appears to be no such indecision or talk of a wide-open race to start.
“[Thompson's] a young pro,” McAdoo said. “He’s a guy that goes about his business the right way. He’s done it since he walked into the building. He’s mature. He studies his game, he communicates the game and we expect him to get better with reps.”
Thompson has been playing with the Giants' first-team defense since the spring. He’s been lauded for his assertiveness and ability to pick up the defense seamlessly. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has noted on multiple occasions that Thompson is unusually vocal for a rookie.
He’s quickly made his mark.
“I’m excited to know that the coaches are trusting me,” Thompson said. “They’re talking about me as one of those guys who are going to be out there on the field and that just shows me that I’m on the right track. For me, it’s about improving, taking that next step back there as far as being a leader and making plays. I’m excited to show what I’ve got.”
He'll have his first opportunity in a game setting on Friday when the Giants host the Miami Dolphins in their preseason opener at MetLife Stadium.
Thompson, the West Coast Conference career leader in interceptions, hasn’t made a ton of plays this summer, but he also hasn’t been caught trailing receivers deep downfield. That alone is an upgrade considering what the Giants experienced last season.
With Collins and Brandon Meriweather starting at safety with the Giants devastated by injuries, they desperately struggled in coverage. They didn't have a natural free safety.
Thompson (6-foot-1, 213) appears to be their answer.
The Giants have made it abundantly clear they’re not going to be shy about throwing rookies into the mix this year. First-round pick Eli Apple is splitting first-team reps with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at left cornerback, second-round pick Sterling Shepard has been working primarily with the first-team offense, Thompson has been a fixture with the starting defense and linebacker B.J. Goodson is part of a serious middle linebacker competition.
It appears they're going to ride-or-die with their 2016 draft class.
“We’re not going to be afraid to play young players,” McAdoo said at the start of training camp.
And if the situation dictates it, he apparently won’t be shy about declaring them favorites to start either.