The Giants officially have a competition at safety

The Giants had high hopes for Darian Thompson but a foot injury sidelined much of his rookie season. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the biggest competitions for a starting job with the New York Giants this summer will be at the last level of their defense. The free safety position is up for grabs, and second-year players Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams are both in the mix.

Thompson was slated to start last season before injuries ruined his rookie year. Adams was an undrafted free agent who did enough in 13 games and this offseason to garner serious consideration for a starting spot come September.

"Yes, that is the thing," secondary coach/safeties David Merritt said. "That is what I'm saying about him and Darian Thompson. To sit up here and say that Darian Thompson is going to be the starter with Landon ... Andrew Adams has proven that he at least has a chance to compete for that job. And that is what he is doing every day. I'm excited."

The Giants have always had high hopes for Thompson, taking him in the third round of last year's draft and expecting him to contribute immediately before a foot injury spoiled his rookie season. Merritt raved about the way he plays and take notes.

If Thompson's performance this offseason mirrors that of last spring and summer, it's hard to imagine he won't be opposite Landon Collins in the starting lineup come Week 1.

Thompson's skills complement Collins well: The former is known as a natural center fielder, while the latter plays all over the field and thrives in the box and near the line of scrimmage.

"Darian's skillset is suited really for the pass," Merritt said. "But he has come so far in understanding run fits and understanding gap schemes. But I think he's more suited for the pass. So that kid understands route concepts, he understands a leverage position, so he does a very nice job with that."

Thompson's chances at starting hinge on his ability to stay healthy. While he's been practicing pain-free at OTAs this spring, he has to last through the summer, because Adams' skillset extends well beyond his Herculean softball talents. The Giants coaches believe he went to work this offseason and added quickness.

"That is one thing I've seen already, his transitional skills," Merritt said. "His ability to stick his foot in the ground and transition from a break. He actually has worked on that and gotten better."

The Giants spent several years searching for safeties. Now it appears they have several starting-caliber players. Nat Berhe, when healthy, has also shown flashes of brlliance over the past few years.

But Collins is the secondary's centerpiece. He's coming off an All-Pro season where Merritt believes he played at a 9-9.5 out of 10. The Giants are hoping for something similar this year.

Finding the right complementary piece to patrol the secondary alongside Collins will be a goal for the Giants' coaching staff this summer. Thompson and Adams both have their upsides.

"Any guy out there with Landon right now will be an asset," Merritt said. "Landon's skillset, we're going to always constantly make sure that Landon is in a position where it is going to be best suited for him. Is it suited for Darian Thompson to go down and play as a linebacker in the box? Maybe or maybe not. We have to see him on the field and see what he can do.

"Right now, Landon's skillset will, no matter who the safety is, it's going to be a complement to his ability to roam around where the other guy can play a little more deeper, a little more centerfield."

Thompson is the more natural center fielder. Regardless, the Giants feel they are in a no-lose situation with the Thompson-Adams competition.

"Either guy back there," Merritt said, "is going to be an added bonus for our defense."