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Giants Position Preview: Defensive Backs

Posted Jun 5, 2016

Giants.com take a closer look at the depth in the defensive backfield:

A general manager has a limited number of resources to spend each year, and Jerry Reese used much of his on the secondary this offseason.

From the free-agent signing of Janoris Jenkins to the Giants using two of their top three picks on defensive backs, the back four underwent a major influx of talent. This came during an offseason when the team knew it had to upgrade the defense after allowing the most yards in the NFL.

READ: 3 STANDOUT PLAYERS

“It was like Christmas,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said at the time. “Jerry and his staff, [director of pro personnel] Ken Sternfeld, they did a great job of identifying the guys, then being real aggressive and getting what we think are some pretty good football players. It’s exciting.”

With that in mind, Giants.com continues the “Inside the Huddle” series today with the secondary:

CORNERBACKS

Arrivals: Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, Donte Deayon, Michael Hunter, Matt Smalley
Departures: Prince Amukamara
Returning: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trevin Wade, Tramain Jacobs, Leon McFadden

In a passing league, you can never have enough cornerbacks. Offenses use three wide receivers more often than not these days, and the Giants think they have the players to cover them, beginning with Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins. They are two of the biggest playmakers in the NFL at their position.

>> WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM PRACTICE

No player has broken up more passes (123) than DRC since he entered the league in 2008. He’s also coming off a season in which he had three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, in addition to scoring another TD on a fumble recovery. Jenkins has six return touchdowns (five on interceptions and one on a fumble), the NFL’s highest total since 2012. Add in Eli Apple, the 10th overall pick out of Ohio State, and the Giants have a formidable trio.

“When you have two corners in this league, you’re short one because the offensive teams throw the ball so much and you’ve got to have three quality corners to really get out there and function at a high level, I think,” Reese said. “This guy gives us three quality guys that we think we can play with anybody around the league with these three kind of guys.”

Meanwhile, Trevin Wade returns after playing in all 16 games last year and starting three times primarily in the slot. Departing, however, was former first-round draft choice Prince Amukamara, who signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

SAFETIES

Arrivals: Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams
Returning: Landon Collins, Bennett Jackson, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, Nat Berhe, Justin Currie

Collins, the first pick in the second round of last year’s draft, became the first rookie safety in Giants’ history to start an entire 16-game season. Now the competition is back on to find his partner. The Giants entered last spring in a similar position, looking for another one of the young safeties to step up. But Berhe, Jackson and Mykkele Thompson suffered season-ending injuries before the team kicked off Week 1.

>> INSIDE THE HUDDLE: O-LINE

“It’s essentially their first year all over again,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “The difference is they have a year in the system, so they were able to get their hands around it mentally last year and now they have a chance to go out and perform.”

They all return to a room that now includes Darian Thompson, this year’s third-round choice out of Boise State who holds the Mountain West’s career interceptions record. He, as well as Berhe and Mykkele Thompson, have rotated in and out of the top tandem during OTAs.

“He hasn’t backed down from the communication part of things,” McAdoo said of Darian Thompson. “You see that and it’s evident. He also has a nose for the football, whether it’s picking a ball off or being able to scoop and score and he showed that today. That part of the game comes natural for him.”